CDC extends transit masking after scrapping Title 42 for migrants

Is the COVID-19 pandemic over or not?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Wednesday that it plans to extend the mask mandate on public transportation another 15 days — despite scrapping the Title 42 public health authority over illegal immigrants earlier this month due to the wide availability of coronavirus treatments.

The order to cover up had been set to expire April 18, but will now go away no earlier than May 3.

“Since early April, there have been increases in the 7-day moving average of cases in the U.S.,” the CDC said in a statement shared on social media. “In order to assess the potential impact of the rise of hospitalizations and deaths, and health care system capacity, the CDC Order will remain in place at this time.”

No such concerns were present on April 1, however, when the agency announced it was winding down Title 42 — which permitted Border Patrol officials to expel migrants without hearing asylum claims due to the ongoing pandemic — on May 23.

At that time, the CDC cited “current public health conditions and an increased availability of tools to fight COVID-19 (such as highly effective vaccines and therapeutics)” as its reasoning for ending the policy.

It was not immediately clear if the CDC would reverse that policy — as lawmakers from both political parties have demanded — due to the increase in cases due to the more contagious BA.2 subvariant of the Omicron strain, which the agency said makes up more than 85% of cases in the US.

According to a statement, the CDC decided to extend the mask mandate due to  increases in the 7-day moving average of cases in the US.
According to a statement, the CDC decided to extend the mask mandate due to increases in the 7-day moving average of cases in the US.
Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

“What they’re trying to do is give a little bit more time to assess [BA.2’s] potential impact, [that] the rise of the cases have, on severe disease, including hospitalizations and deaths and the healthcare system capacity,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said with a straight face Wednesday. “And their assessment from a medical standpoint, the data gathering standpoint is that two weeks would give them some additional time to do that. Now, at the end of that two weeks, they can determine what’s next after that, but that is that assessment they made so that they could gather more data on the rise of this subvariant.”

Republican lawmakers took to social media Wednesday to blast the CDC’s decision, with Sen. Rand Paul saying it came as “no surprise.”

“No surprise — Biden continues to mandate wearing ineffective masks on planes — time to vote out these petty tyrants,” the Kentucky Republican tweeted.

“This is insane,” Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) wrote.

The mask mandate extensions comes after the CDC decided to lift the Title 42 public health authority on illegal immigration.
The mask mandate extension comes after the CDC decided to lift the Title 42 public health authority on illegal immigration.
James Keivom

“Biden can’t tell us that he is following the science when Americans are forced to wear masks on airplanes, but he is dropping the only tool we have to expel illegal migrants with COVID,” Rep. Pat Fallon (R-Texas) posted.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee labeled the move a “stupid decision,” saying “Stupid decision & opposed by airlines, flight attendants and travelers. Stop this madness! Masks can be voluntary. CDC extending travel mask mandate 15 more days.”

Multiple members of Congress accused the administration of following “political science,” pointing out the hypocrisy of lifting some pandemic restrictions and not others.

“And the POLITICAL science continues,” Rep. Tom Tiffany (R-Wis.) wrote. “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?”

“President Biden is extending the mask mandate on public transportation but ending Title 42 COVID restrictions at our southern border,” tweeted Rep. Jake LaTurner (R-Kan.). “The only science Democrats are following is political science. It’s time to END all mask mandates!”

“The Biden administration will scrap Title 42 at the southern border but eliminating the public transportation mask mandate apparently is a step too far,” Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-Va.) posted. “FoLlOw tHe ScIeNcE.”

Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.) echoed that sentiment, saying the administration’s policies “make no sense.”

“Biden is repealing Title 42 to flood the border with illegal immigrants because he says COVID is no longer a threat – but continues to force Americans to wear masks on planes, trains, and buses because of COVID,” he tweeted. “Nothing from this Administration makes an ounce of sense.”

Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Texas) appeared to accuse the entire Democratic Party of hypocrisy, sharing an image of President Biden giving House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) a kiss on the cheek.

“Democrats: ‘We are forcing you to wear masks on airplanes to keep you safe’. Also Democrats:” he wrote, attaching the image.

“The Biden Admin needs to stop talking out both sides of its mouth on COVID. They have no problem saying the COVID emergency is over to lift Title 42 & worsen the border crisis but still using COVID as an excuse to keep unscientific mandates on Americans. Too much hypocritical BS,” Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) tweeted.

Statewide mask mandates at restaurants and other businesses have been largely lifted across the country without any impact on case spread.