New CDC requirement mandates wearing masks on planes, public transit

Jan 30, 2021

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on Jan. 29 that all passengers must wear a face mask while on public transportation, which includes airplanes, trains, buses, taxis and rideshares starting Feb. 2. Reuters first reported the news.

The CDC said that scientific evidence shows that “consistent and universal use of masks” on public transit will help reduce the spread of COVID-19, as over 430,000 Americans have died from the novel coronavirus.

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Airlines and many forms of public transportation already required face masks. But the new order gives more power to frontline workers like flight attendants who, at times, have struggled to get travelers to comply with mask-wearing.

The order says that public transportation operators (which includes crew, drivers, conductors, and ticket takers) can only let people who wear a mask board and must remove customers who don’t comply. Not wearing a mask is now a violation of federal law.

Children under 2 and people with disabilities who can’t wear a mask or cannot safely wear a mask for reasons related to the disability are exempt from the mandate.

Masks may be removed for “brief periods of time” while eating, drinking or taking medication, in addition to communicating with a person who is hearing impaired. Masks may also be removed to verify identities during Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screening or when asked to do so by the ticket or gate agent or a law enforcement official.

Related: Mask mandate, mandatory quarantine: What Biden’s newest executive order means for you

U.S. airlines and unions have long supported a federal mask mandate on public transit during the pandemic, which the Trump administration opposed.

One of President Joe Biden’s first actions as president was to make wearing a mask mandatory while traveling domestically. President Biden signed an executive order on Jan. 21 requiring that masks be worn on “many” airplanes, trains, buses and during all interstate travel, calling mask-wearing a “patriotic duty.”

That order followed an executive order signed on Biden’s first day in office that required masks to be worn in all federal buildings and on federal land.

Featured photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

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