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US eases mask rules for fully vaccinated people, but not for air travel & public transport

US eases mask rules for fully vaccinated people, but not for air travel and public transport

The Biden administration's requirements that people wear masks on U.S. airplanes, public transport, airports and ride-hailing vehicles are not expected to be lifted anytime soon, despite an easing in the rules for mask-wearing elsewhere, according to a Reuters report.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on Thursday that it was easing its guidance for fully vaccinated people, saying they do not need to wear masks outdoors and can avoid wearing them indoors in most places.

But it said workers and travelers should still follow federal requirements to wear masks in transit and in airports and train stations.

There are no requirements that passengers get vaccinated to use transit systems and the Biden administration has opposed the idea of making vaccine passports mandatory.

Biden upbeat

President Joe Biden said it was a "great day for America" as US officials said vaccinated people can go mask-less in most indoor and outdoor settings.

The president removed his mask in the Oval Office with Republican lawmakers as the guidance was being announced.

The advice still calls for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings like buses, planes and hospitals.

The Biden administration has faced pressure to ease restrictions on fully vaccinated people. The latest rules come with about 35% of Americans now fully vaccinated, though the roll-out has been losing momentum.

Airlines wary

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) on April 30 extended face mask requirements across U.S. transportation networks through Sept. 13 to address the spread of COVID-19. TSA says transportation system operators have reported almost 2,000 passengers for refusing to wear a face mask since requirements took effect Feb 1.

A TSA spokeswoman said Thursday "we will continue to work closely with the CDC to evaluate the need for these directives."

Airlines for America, a trade group, said U.S. airlines "will enforce the requirement on flights as long as the federal mandate is in place."

The FAA said Thursday its "zero-tolerance policy toward unruly passengers will remain in effect at least as long as the TSA/CDC face mask mandate is in effect."

Association of Flight Attendants-CWA International President Sara Nelson, representing nearly 50,000 flight attendants at 17 airlines, noted aircraft cabins are "an enclosed, pressurized, and increasingly crowded space as people return to the sky in fewer and smaller airplanes."

"Rules for aviation safety are harmonized around the world, and we must have credibility in the safety of flight if the U.S. aviation industry is to regain access to the rest of the world and fully recover," she added.