WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — A letter sent to the U.S. Department of Transportation requesting President Joe Biden's Administration end the mask mandate on public transportation was signed by Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson and Idaho Republican First District Congressman Russ Fulcher.
The mask mandate was scheduled to end March 18, but the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) extended the requirement on March 10 for masks on planes and public transportation through April 18.
Members of the U.S. Congress asked for the Biden Administration to reverse the decision to extend the mandate, citing COVID-19 community levels across the country.
The requirement is one of the last nationwide pandemic rules, as more states relax their indoor mask mandates and the Centers for Disease Control's (CDC) recommendations surrounding COVID-19 slightly ease.
When the mandate was extended, TSA said it would give the CDC additional time to evaluate case numbers in U.S. communities and prepare for possible new variants of COVID-19. The mask rule for planes, buses, trains and transit hubs is enforced by TSA.
“The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has recently announced that more than 98% of the country is in a low or medium COVID-19 Community Level,” Simpson said in an email news release. “This Administration has constantly told us to ‘follow the science,’ which makes the extension of the public transportation mask mandate absurd. It is time to allow Americans to get back to normal life while case rates are low, and it is clearly safe to do so.”
According to Simpson's news release, the letter also said operators of U.S. transportation modes are "looking to return to normal operations and capacity levels."
The mask mandate has been extended multiple times since it was announced in January of 2021. Airlines started requiring passengers to wear masks midway through 2020 as the pandemic increased in severity, but the desire of travelers to fly continued.
Thursday's letter signed by Simpson and Fulcher cited the change in mask mandates indoors for many states -- including those with Democratic governors in the west -- but also attacked the Biden Administration for an array of topics.
"Commercial airlines, for instance, are clawing their way towards a full recovery, but your Administration’s policies, from doubling down on the mask mandate to a failure to rein in record inflation and sky-high fuel prices, continue to stymie their rate of recovery at a time when they are trying to welcome back an eager traveling public," the letter wrote.
The fine for individuals who refuse to wear masks on public transportation systems was doubled by TSA in September of 2021, from $500 to $1,000 for first-time offenders. The TSA fine is $3,000 for repeat offenders.
“Americans are tired of conflicting and hyperbolic public health recommendations,” Simpson said. “This Administration loses credibility when it continues to push regulations that are not in line with reality or science. I hope the Administration reverses course on this senseless overstep.”
The full letter sent to the Biden Administration and a full list of signees -- including Simpson and Fulcher -- can be read by clicking this link.
At KTVB, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: www.ktvb.com/coronavirus.
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