The White House’s new COVID-19 Response Coordinator, Ashish Jha, stated Monday that the mandate could “absolutely” be extended.
“I know the CDC is working on developing a scientific framework for how to answer that. We’re going to see that framework come out in the next few days,” Jha said, adding extending the mandate “is absolutely on the table.”
The White House is being pressured by industry groups and Republican politicians to repeal the 14-month-old mask mandate.
However, this comes at a time when Covid-19 cases are on the rise. In fact, a number of U.S. officials who attended a recent event in Washington tested positive for Covid afterward.
The new wave of Covid-19 cases, which also affected House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) could complicate the decision.
In a letter to Jha sent Monday, airlines, tourism associations and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce reiterated their pleas for repeal of the mask rule.
“The science clearly supports lifting the mask mandate, particularly in the context of recent CDC guidance, which found that the overwhelming majority of the U.S. population no longer needs to wear masks indoors,” the letter reads.
Last month, both the American Bus Association and Airlines for America wrote a letter to Biden calling for the mandate to be lifted, claiming it would enable the industry to recover.
Some Democrats spoke in favor of keeping the mask but others joined Republicans last month in passing a largely symbolic resolution (S. J. Res. 37) to repeal them.
Last Monday, Sen. Edward Markey (D-Massachusetts) petitioned the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Transportation Security Administration to extend the mandate once again.
“The emergence of a new and even more transmissible variant only confirms that COVID remains a serious, ongoing danger,” Markey wrote.