You can now be removed from your plane or train for not wearing a mask

Jul 23, 2020

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As states begin to reopen and travelers begin to take to the skies (and roads) again, the travel industry is starting to make changes to existing policies to avoid a surge in cases of the novel coronavirus.

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Amtrak on Thursday announced that face masks or face coverings were mandatory on trains or thruway buses. Amtrak says that it can “remove customers or ban them” from future travel if passengers don’t comply. This policy — and how it will be enforced — is similar to what airlines have announced in recent days.

Related: Delta already banned 100 customers

Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines have also made updates to face-covering policies. Delta this week introduced a new virtual screening process for those who maintain that they cannot wear a mask. If the airline’s doctors conclude you don’t have a valid health reason not to wear a mask, you’ll be denied boarding. If they find you do have a legitimate reason, then you can fly without a face covering.

Related: Disney requires masks even when walking and eating

Southwest and American went a step further. They said that customers who refused to wear a face-covering – even for documented medical reasons – would be barred from flying. Southwest also announced that it would test thermal cameras at its hub, Dallas Love Field (DAL), that would spot feverish passengers before boarding, according to the Associated Press.

Related: Hotels requiring masks

Nearly four million people in the U.S. alone have been infected with the virus, and at least 143,000 have died. States that reopened early, like Texas, are now seeing cases surge. Florida and California have seen positive cases spike in recent days and deaths are increasing in those states, too.

But even amid rising positive cases, people are beginning to travel again. And with strict mask policies in place, enforcement will fall on flight attendants or Amtrak conductors. As we’ve seen with the explosive growth of emotional support animals, it will prove hard for an airline to determine what’s legitimate and what’s not. But judging from what we’ve seen from Amtrak and the airlines so far, it appears that the industry will double down on mask policies to try to prevent travelers from abusing exception policies.

While the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination based on a medical condition, the U.S. Department of Justice has made its position on travelers attempting to skirt the rules.

Related: This is what’s it like to travel with a disability

“The ADA does not provide a blanket exemption to people with disabilities from complying with legitimate safety requirements necessary for safe operations,” the DOJ said in a statement last month.

Featured photo by Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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