New orders from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will require members of the public to wear face masks while riding on public transportation and while in transportation hubs around the country beginning shortly before midnight on Monday.
“Requiring masks on our transportation systems will protect Americans and provide confidence that we can once again travel safely even during the pandemic,” reads the 11-page order issued on Friday and signed by Dr. Martin Cetron, director of the division of global migration and quarantine at the CDC. “Therefore, requiring masks will help us control this pandemic and aid in re-opening America’s economy.”
Under the CDC’s order, all “conveyance operators,” defined as operators of airplanes, trains, road vehicles (including vehicles operated by ride-share drivers) or vessels must require passengers to wear face masks while traveling into or within the United States.
Furthermore, operators must “use best efforts” to ensure compliance, such as refusing to board passengers not wearing masks, informing passengers that federal law requires mask-wearing, monitoring passengers for non-compliance, booting passengers who refuse to comply, and providing advanced notice of mask requirements when possible. Transportation hub operators, such as airports, have to meet similar requirements.
The order exempts children under the age of 2, anyone who cannot wear a mask or wear one safely due to a disability, and anyone who would be risking workplace safety or health by wearing a mask. All masks must cover both the mouth and nose of the wearer.
A footnote toward the end of the order reads: “While this Order may be enforced and CDC reserves the right to enforce through criminal penalties, CDC does not intend to rely primarily on these criminal penalties but instead strongly encourages and anticipates widespread voluntary compliance as well as support from other federal agencies in implementing additional civil measures enforcing the provisions of this order, to the extent permitted by law and consistent with President Biden’s executive order of January 21, 2021 (Promoting COVID-19 Safety In Domestic and International Travel).”
The CDC’s order takes an even stronger stance than Biden did earlier this month when he signed an executive order requiring travelers to wear face masks. Before that order was signed, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain had circulated a memo saying Biden planned to mandate masks while on federal property and when traveling between states, reported The Associated Press.
The CDC reportedly proposed an order similar to the one that will take affect on Monday during the Trump administration, but the White House coronavirus task force decided against discussing it as a potential option, according to The New York Times, which cited two federal health officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
“The approach the task force has taken with any mask mandate is, the response in New York City is different than Montana, or Tuscaloosa, Alabama,” one official told the news agency at the time. “Local and state authorities need to determine the best approach for their responsive effort depending on how the coronavirus is impacting their area.”
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