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Federal officials are expected to make a formal announcement regarding an extension through March 18 on Thursday, Reuters reported, citing sources familiar with the matter. In addition, President Biden is expected to discuss the extension during an event detailing his administration’s broader effort to combat the COVID-19 pandemic this winter.
The current mask requirement was slated to expire on Jan. 18 following an extension last August. The Transportation Security Administration, which has issued guidance on previous extensions, and the White House declined Reuters’ requests for comment.
President Biden speaks about the COVID-19 variant named omicron, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Monday, Nov. 29, 2021, in Washington. as Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases listens. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Public health officials have expressed concern about the omicron variant, the latest mutant strain of COVID-19. A California resident who was vaccinated against COVID-19 was confirmed as the first U.S. case of the omicron variant, which was first identified in South Africa.
FILE PHOTO: Passengers wait in line inside the terminal at Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, New Jersey, U.S., November 24, 2021. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
The mask requirement applies to trains, planes, buses, cruise ships and other forms of transportation, as well as public transportation hubs. The TSA implemented its first security directive for the mask requirement in February 2021.
The Biden administration has barred entry for most travelers from eight South African countries in response to the omicron variant.
FILE PHOTO: Air travelers make their way past a sign mandating face masks for all during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at Phoenix international airport in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S. September 24, 2021. REUTERS/Mike Blake
The mask requirement has contributed to a spike in altercations on flight and other forms of public transportation. Last month, Attorney General Merrick Garland ordered the Justice Department to enhance its efforts to prosecute unruly passengers.