Republicans demand TSA allow COVID mask mandate to expire

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FIRST ON FOX: Republicans are demanding the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to end its COVID-19 mask mandate on March 18 — the date its mandate was set to expire when it was initially extended in August 2021.

TSA extended the mandate last summer until March 18 across all transportation networks in the United States, including airports, airplanes, buses and trains.

“Given strong declines in COVID-19 cases and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) latest guidance eliminating indoor mask requirements for much of the population, we believe TSA’s mask mandate should be allowed to expire later this month,” Republican Reps. Guy Reschenthaler of Pennsylvania and Doug LaMalfa of California wrote in a letter to TSA Administrator David Pekoske exclusively obtained by Fox News Digital.

Ninety-two Republicans signed the letter in total, including House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, GOP Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana and House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik of New York.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) workers screen passengers at O’Hare International Airport on November 08, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The lawmakers added that since the agency extended its mandate in August 2021, “the rolling average of new COVID-19 cases has declined by nearly two-thirds.”

TSA has not given any indication that it will further extend mandates by March 18.

As of last week, more than 90% of Americans live in low or moderate COVID-19-transmission areas, meaning they can stop wearing masks indoors and social distancing in line with CDC guidance.

Travelers wearing face masks as a preventive measure against the spread of covid-19 walk by a sign advising of the requirements for social distancing and the wearing of face coverings at Orlando International Airport. (Photo by Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has recorded 535 unruly passenger reports related to face masks, which represents 65% of the total 814 unruly passenger reports the FAA recorded as of March 1.

“No airline employee should have to deal with unruly passengers, and we support the FAA continuing to take a hard stance against these passengers. We believe that eliminating the mask mandate will provide a safer travel experience for everyone involved. It is past time that we follow the science and allow Americans to return to normalcy,” the Republicans wrote.

A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent screens a traveler at a checkpoint in terminal 2 at Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) in Morrisville, North Carolina, U.S., on Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022. Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg

In late February, various travel groups including the U.S. Travel Association, the American Hotel and Lodging Association, Airlines for America and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeffrey Zients, asking the administration to repeal mask requirements, pre-departure COVID-19 testing, the use of travel bans and other regulations in the coming months.

“Given travel’s slow economic recovery, and in light of the improved public health metrics in the U.S. and medical advancements to prevent the worst outcomes of COVID-19, we encourage the Administration to immediately remove travel requirements that no longer fit with the current environment and to set clear timelines and metrics for when others will be lifted,” the letter stated.

Currently, not wearing a mask in airports is a federal offense that can result in fines up to $3,000.

Fox News’ Kelly Laco contributed to this report.

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