The federal government is extending its mask mandate for all public transportation through May 3 as Covid case counts in Hawaii and across America inch higher.

The Transportation Security Administration announced the security directive Wednesday. The mandate was originally slated to end Monday but was extended another two weeks on the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as omicron subvariant BA.2 become dominant across the country.

Passengers board TheBus route 20 with luggage on its way to the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport from Waikiki.
Masks must be worn on buses and planes through at least early May. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

“Since early April 2022, there have been increases in the 7-day moving average of COVID-19 cases in the United States,” TSA said in a statement. “During the 15-day extension period, CDC will assess the potential impact the recent rise of COVID-19 cases has on severe disease, including hospitalizations, deaths, and health care system capacity.”

The omicron subvariant accounts for 86% of new cases in America, according to CDC numbers updated Tuesday. BA.2 made up 40% of new infections in Hawaii, according to the latest Hawaii Department of Health variant report published in late March.

Hawaii recorded a seven-day average of 164 cases Wednesday, slightly higher than the daily average 136 infections two weeks ago, according to the state’s latest numbers. There were 29 people currently hospitalized with Covid.

Buses, planes and airports are among the few places Hawaii residents are still required to mask indoors after the state’s final Covid restrictions expired last month.

While Philadelphia on Monday became the first major city to reinstate its mask mandate, since levels of the original omicron variant subsided in Hawaii, Gov. David Ige said Monday he was not considering restoring Hawaii’s indoor mask mandate at this time.

“I didn’t want to be in that situation where we have the mask mandate on and off and on and off,” Ige said in an interview with the Honolulu Star Advertiser’s “Spotlight” program. “We did anticipate a slight increase in the number of cases due to spring break, and we have seen that in the last week or so, but we are not seeing the kind of surges that they’re seeing on the mainland.”

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