Republicans go for kill shot on COVID transportation mask mandates: ‘About time’

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Most Americans no longer need to wear masks in schools or public places, and Senate Republicans Tuesday pushed for an end to one of the most far-reaching COVID-19 mask mandates left – transportation.

«I’ve got a crazy idea. The American people should have the same mask rules that members of Congress had at the State of the Union address,» Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said.

«Just two weeks ago, we saw 535 members of Congress sitting on the floor of the House. I don’t think there were five masks among them,» Cruz continued. «Joe Biden didn’t have a mask. Kamala Harris didn’t have a mask. Nancy Pelosi didn’t have a mask.»

State and local governments lifted nearly all kinds of mask mandates in the past month as the winter omicron wave of the virus receded. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also loosened its mask recommendations – a move some Republicans alleged had more to do with the upcoming midterms than any change in the science. 

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But President Biden last week nevertheless extended the federal transportation mask mandate. This affected Americans riding in airplanes, commuter trains, and in buildings connected to such forms of transportation as train stations and airports. 

Cruz and a handful of other Senate Republicans attacked that extension Tuesday as unnecessary and not supported by the science. 

«The current mandate was set to expire on March 18,» Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., said. «We were satisfied with that… Unfortunately for whatever reason, it certainly was not a scientific reason, the Biden administration chose not to listen to the science and decided to extend the mask mandate for another month.»

«When the mask mandate was set to expire on public transportation on the 18th of March, we were all saying it’s about time,» Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., said. «And then the administration announces, ‘No just kidding. We’re going to move that to now the 18th of April and then we’ll reevaluate it again.'» 

«The American people want the freedom to choose,» he added. «Why don’t we let Americans be Americans in to be able to choose in this process. The entire country is setting aside the mask mandates.»

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If the Biden administration rolls back the federal transportation mask mandate, for many Americans it would effectively remove the last mask or COVID-related mandate they’re forced to comply with as part of their daily lives. 

At the recommendation of the CDC, the Biden administration announced last week the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) mask mandate will extend through at least April 18. It was set to expire on Friday of this week. 

A sign greets travelers checking in for their Delta Airlines flight at the Miami International Airport on Feb. 1, 2021, in Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

A sign greets travelers checking in for their Delta Airlines flight at the Miami International Airport on Feb. 1, 2021, in Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

«During that time, CDC will work with government agencies to help inform a revised policy framework for when, and under what circumstances, masks should be required in the public transportation corridor,» an administration official told Fox News. «This revised framework will be based on the COVID-19 community levels, risk of new variants, national data, and the latest science.»

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The pandemic just passed its two-year anniversary – the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the virus a pandemic on March 11, 2020. More than 965,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, compared to nearly 80 million confirmed cases of the virus. 

But the proliferation of available vaccines for the past year, plus an increasing number of Americans with a previous infection after the omicron wave, appear to be reducing case counts and hospitalizations significantly since the winter. 

«I wonder why they want to control peoples’ lives, in airports and in airplanes,» Wicker said of the mask mandates. «Just because the government’s powerful, they can do it if they’d like to? Listen, for months, these rules have been nonsense.» 

Fox News’ Mark Meredith contributed to this report. 


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