Dr. Jha: Extending TSA Mask Mandate ‘Absolutely’ Possible

Dr. Jha: Extending TSA Mask Mandate 'Absolutely' Possible Ashish Jha Dr. Ashish Jha. (AP/Elise Amendola)

By Charlie McCarthy | Monday, 11 April 2022 11:52 AM

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is considering an extension of the mask mandate for transportation networks, a top White House COVID-19 adviser said Monday.

Dr. Ashish Jha, while appearing on NBC's "Today," was asked about the mask mandate set to expire April 19.

"This is a CDC decision and I think [extending the mandate is] absolutely on the table," Jha said told "Today."

The Transportation Security Administration's mask mandate for travel on airplanes, in airports, on buses, and on rail systems went into effect with an expiration date of May 2021. It has been extended several times, with the current mandate running through April 18.

With a new variant, BA.2, now dominant in at least 68 countries, including the U.S., Jha said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky will decide on whether to extend the mask mandate for transportation networks based on a scientific framework that the agency is developing.

Jha told NBC he was "not overly concerned right now" about BA.2, despite several high-profile COVID-19 cases in the last week.

"We've got to watch this very carefully," Jha said on NBC. "Obviously I never like to see infections rising. I think we've got to be careful, but I don't think this is a moment where we have to be excessively concerned."

The World Health Organization said Monday it is tracking a few dozen cases of two new subvariants — BA.4 and BA.5 — of the highly transmissible omicron strain of the coronavirus to assess whether they are more infectious or dangerous.

Attorney General Merrick Garland has tested positive for COVID-19 and will quarantine at home for five days, the Justice Department said Wednesday. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo also tested positive for the virus using an at-home antigen test.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tested positive for COVID-19 and was asymptomatic, her spokesman said Thursday.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday, according to a spokesperson.

President Joe Biden last month announced that Jha would be the new White House coronavirus response coordinator. Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health and a practicing internist, replaced Jeffrey Zients, who left his post to return to private life.

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