A union representing flight attendants says it believes the federal government will extend a mandate requiring masks on airplanes and in airports to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
In a statement on Tuesday, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA said that despite decreased case rates, it thinks the TSA will keep the rule in place beyond March 18.
"We have every expectation that the mask mandate will be extended for the near term," the statement read, according to Insider. "The conditions in aviation are the same. Our youngest passengers do not yet have access to the vaccine."
The company's statement comes as new COVID-19 infections have plummeted in recent weeks following record spread caused by the highly infectious omicron variant. States across the country are relaxing rules that require mask use in public buildings.
But the Association of Flight Attendants, which represents 50,000 workers across the country, says flight attendants and passengers who are medically vulnerable are still at risk of severe illness. In addition, vaccinations have not yet been approved for children younger than 5, providing more opportunities for the virus to spread.
Despite the union's statement, a TSA spokesperson told The New York Times that the order was still on track to expire on March 18.
"If there is a change to halt or extend the mask requirement, we will make an announcement," the spokesperson said in an email. "As of now, nothing new to share."
President Joe Biden imposed the federal mask mandate on airplanes upon taking office in 2021. Since then, the TSA has reported a disturbing spike in unruly passenger incidents, many of them linked to travelers' refusal to wear masks.
Editor's note: The headline and body of this story have been updated to clarify the union's position. Previous versions of this story said the union had called on the TSA to extend the mandate.