The Biden administration said Wednesday that it would extend the federal mask mandate for planes, airports, and trains to May 3.
The Biden administration had initially extended the mandate to April 18 before announcing this additional extension.
Critics quickly pointed out the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is lifting Title 42 enforcement next month. Title 42 is a Trump-era immigration policy that allowed border agents to expel immigrants at the border to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the United States.
“And the POLITICAL science continues,” Rep. Tom Tiffany (R-Wis.), wrote on Twitter. “The Biden administration is planning to extend the mask mandate on planes, but they are lifting pandemic restrictions on illegal aliens. Will they ever stop putting the American people LAST?”
That message quickly became a talking point for Republicans Wednesday.
“Joe Biden is dropping COVID restrictions for illegal immigrants at the border,” said Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.). “But he’s extending the mask mandate for Americans on planes. Talk about putting Americans last.”
The Biden administration has taken fire for extending the mandate since nearly all other mask mandates around the country have been lifted.
The industry group Airlines for America sent a letter to the White House in late March calling for an end to the mandate. The letter was signed by the heads of leading airlines, namely Alaska Air Group, American Airlines, Atlas Air Worldwide, Delta Air Lines, FedEx Express, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines Holdings, and UPS Airlines.
“Our industry has leaned into science at every turn. At the outset, we voluntarily implemented policies and procedures—mandating face coverings; requiring passenger health acknowledgements and contact tracing information; and enhancing cleaning protocols—to form a multi-layered approach to mitigate risk and prioritize the wellbeing of passengers and employees,” the letter said. “However, much has changed since these measures were imposed and they no longer make sense in the current public health context.”
By Casey Harper