The mask mandate was due to expire on April 18.
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The federal government has extended the transportation mask mandate another two weeks due to rising COVID-19 case numbers across the country.

The mask mandate, which requires face coverings on public transportation including planes and trains and in airports, was initially put in place in January 2021 and set to expire on April 18. The mandate will be extended to May 3 as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to assess "the potential impact of the rise of cases on severe disease, including hospitalizations and deaths, and healthcare system capacity," according to the agency.

The last time the mask mandate was extended, the Transportation Security Administration said it was done at the recommendation of the CDC. Since then, several airline CEOs and travel groups have urged the Biden administration to lift pandemic-era restrictions, including mask requirements along with pre-arrival testing for international travelers.

While the United States has seen a significant decrease since COVID-19 cases peaked in January, there has been a slight uptick in cases in recent weeks, according to the CDC's data. Currently, the overwhelming majority of cases in the U.S. — more than 85% — are due to a new omicron subvariant, also known as BA.2, according to the agency. In the past, hospitalizations and deaths have tended to lag weeks behind case increases.

Masks in airport
Credit: ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

Masks will remain a requirement in airports and on planes, trains, buses, and other modes of transportation, despite many cities and states across the country having waived their own mask-wearing rules, including Nevada and California. Several international countries have also eliminated COVID-19-related rules altogether like Iceland and the United Kingdom, which in turn has paved the way for international airlines to drop their own onboard mask-wearing rules.

However, the city of Philadelphia has gone the other way, reinstating mandatory indoor face coverings next week amid a rise in cases there.

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," the city wrote in its decision. "By implementing the mask mandate sooner rather than later, the Health Department hopes to keep the number of cases from skyrocketing, like we saw in December and January from the omicron variant."

Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.