The announcement is expected as early as Wednesday afternoon from the CDC. The mandate is now set to expire on May 3. The Associated Press was first to report the extension.
The administration official told CNN the goal of the extension was to gather more information and understanding of the BA.2 variant of the coronavirus.

“Since early April, there have been increases in the 7-day moving average of cases in the US. In order to assess the potential impact, the rise of cases has on severe disease, including hospitalizations and deaths, and health care system capacity, CDC is recommending that (the Transportation Security Administration) extend the security directive to enforce mask use on public transportation and transportation hubs for 15 days, through May 3, 2022,” the official said.

The official said the extension “will give additional time for the CDC to learn more about BA.2 and make a best-informed decision.”

According to the latest estimates from the CDC, BA.2 caused 86% of new Covid-19 cases nationwide last week.

The United States is now averaging 38,345 new Covid-19 cases per day, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Cases are trending up in more than half of states — including all but one state in the Northeast, Delaware. But the daily rate is still one of the lowest since mid-July.

With the BA.2 subvariant on the rise, what's safe and what's not? A medical expert explainsWith the BA.2 subvariant on the rise, what's safe and what's not? A medical expert explains

According to the CDC’s latest ensemble forecast, there could be just over 11,000 additional deaths over the next four weeks, one of the lowest numbers of additional deaths predicted in 2022.

The number of new global Covid-19 cases and deaths also continued to decline by 24% and 18%, respectively, during the week of April 4 to April 10 compared with the week before, the World Health Organization said in its weekly epidemiological update, published Tuesday.

But WHO and its International Health Regulations Emergency Committee (IHR) said on Wednesday that the Covid-19 pandemic remains a Public Health Emergency of International Concern — a designation originally made in January 2020.

In many places within the US, broad requirements that individuals wear masks in public places have been lifted. The transportation mandate applies to mass transportation including planes, trains, buses and hubs like airports.

The mandate had been set to expire on April 18. White House Covid-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha told CNN on Monday that the CDC planned to share a scientific framework this week for the federal transportation mask mandate.

Asked by CNN’s John Berman what he personally thinks about lifting mask mandates on transportation, Jha said, “I think these decisions should always be guided by science and evidence and a framework, a scientific framework, that helps us make smart decisions about these.

Is Covid-19 endemic yet? Experts aren't so sureIs Covid-19 endemic yet? Experts aren't so sure

“We’re going to see what they come up with. And based on that, I think we’re going to want to make a decision based on kind of the facts on the ground and the science and the scientific framework that we have.”

The White House moved last month to extend the transportation mask mandate, initially established at the beginning of Biden’s presidency, until April 18. The White House has said government agencies would consult with the CDC about the circumstances in which a mandate could be brought back.

Flight crew unions initially applauded the measure for protecting staff unable to avoid close contact with passengers, but some in the airline industry have recently called for an end to the mandate.

A group of major airline CEOs has said they want it to end. The union representing Southwest Airlines flight attendants asked the Biden administration in March to “lift the federal mask mandate as soon as is practicable.” And a group of 21 states, as well as groups of pilots and flight attendants, asked federal courts in March to permanently end the mandate.

The mandate has also led to incidences of conflict with passengers in the skies.

The Federal Aviation Administration says that since the beginning of 2022, there have been some 744 incidents of unruly passengers related to face masks reported to the agency by airline crews.

This story has been updated with additional reporting.

CNN’s Jamie Gumbrecht and Naomi Thomas contributed to this report.

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