The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Biden administration are extending the mask requirement for passengers on domestic flights, public transportation, ships, taxis and trains through mid-March, citing the new omicron coronavirus variant.
President Joe Biden is expected to formally announce the extension on Thursday.
According to a White House fact sheet, Biden and the TSA will be extending the mask mandate through March 18.
In August, the TSA had extended the mask mandate through January 2022. Those who do not comply will face a minimum fine of $500 and “repeat offenders” receiving fines up to $3,000.
According to a report from CNBC, The Federal Aviation Administration said on Tuesday that since Jan. 1, it had received reports from airlines of 3,923 passengers refusing to wear masks.
New rules for international travel are also expected to be announced on Thursday, including stricter requirements for pre-travel testing.
“Under the new rules, international travelers coming into the U.S. will need to present a negative COVID-19 test within one day of the flight regardless of vaccination status or nationality, rather than the current policy of three days,” The Hill reports.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had announced on Tuesday that they were working to impose stricter guidelines over the omicron variant. Currently, almost all foreign nationals are required to be vaccinated if they want to enter the United States. Unvaccinated travelers must present a negative Covid-19 test within 24 hours of arrival.
On Sunday, the TSA screened more than 2.4 million people — the most travelers in a single day since the start of the pandemic.
For the last 10 days, including Nov. 28, checkpoint volume nationwide notched 20.9 million, which is 89% of pre-pandemic levels, TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein told Fox Business.
The first case of omicron was confirmed in the United States on Wednesday in a fully vaccinated California resident.
They had returned to the United States from South Africa on Nov. 22 and tested positive a week later.