Mask requirements on planes and trains have been extended again. Find out where else you have to cover up.
The federal mandate requiring masks on planes, trains, subways and other forms of public transportation has been extended two weeks. The directive, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was originally scheduled to expire April 18.
The order was instituted Feb. 1, 2021, but has been extended multiple times.
The CDC said it was extending the mandate to assess the potential impact of increased cases of COVID driven by the new BA.2 subvariant of the Omicron mutation, now making up almost 90% of all infections in the US.
And to address the rise in local infections, Philadelphia is reinstating its indoor mask mandate, starting April 18. The state of Pennsylvania sunsetted its universal masking requirement on June 28, 2021. But the daily COVID count in the City of Brotherly Love has jumped more than 50% in the last 10 days, averaging 142 reported infections a day.
Read on to find out where else masks are still required and what public health bodies like the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say about masking up.
Currently, there are no states with blanket mask requirements in indoor venues like restaurants, theaters and sports arenas. Many still require them in hospitals, nursing homes, homeless shelters, prisons and other specific areas.
In almost all states, individual businesses can make their own policies for customers and staff, although Florida health guidance from February states that "[b]usinesses are advised to no longer require facial coverings for employees."
As of April 18, Philadelphia will be the first major US entity to restore indoor masking requirements. Proper face coverings will be required in all indoor public venues, including stores, restaurants, government offices and schools.
Statewide school mask mandates have expired in almost all states, with decisions about requiring face coverings typically being made on the local level.
Hawaii is the only state still requiring masks in public schools to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, with no projected timeline for the mandate's expiration. On April 6, the most recent date for which data was available, the Hawaii Health Department recorded a two-week total of 1,952 cases.
Because of a spike in infections, Philadelphia has restored mask requirements for students, teachers and school staff.
Across the nation, individual school districts and universities have the authority to reinstate mask mandates: Columbia University, Georgetown University and Johns Hopkins University have all begun asking students and faculty to mask up again in the face of growing COVID rates on campus. Johns Hopkins reinstated its mask mandate on April 7 after approximately 100 students tested positive in under a week.
The federal mandate requires travelers to wear masks in airports and on airplanes, buses, subways, trains, ferries and other forms of public transit. After being scheduled to expire on April 18, it's been extended to May 3.
Delta, American, and other airlines have called for an end to the requirement, but President Joe Biden has promised to veto any legislation overturning it.
Supporters of the mandate say it protects immunocompromised passengers, people with underlying health conditions and those who aren't eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, such as children age 5 and younger.
The CDC updated its mask recommendations in early March: While it still recommends people in areas with high levels of COVID-19 transmission wear masks indoors, it's taking a more "holistic" approach that evaluates new infections and hospitalizations, as well as ICU bed occupancy rates.
You can look up your own county's community COVID level with the CDC's COVID-19 County Check tool.
The CDC has said that people outdoors generally do not need to wear masks, regardless of community COVID level, unless they are in extended close contact with other people.
WHO's current guidance recommends wearing a well-fitting mask that covers the nose and mouth when you are indoors in areas with poor ventilation or where social distancing cannot be maintained, "irrespective of vaccination status or history of prior infection."