The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now mandating that anyone on public transportation must wear a mask.
The order, which was issued Friday, takes effect Monday, and declares that “a person must wear a mask while boarding, disembarking, and traveling on any conveyance into or within the United States. A person must also wear a mask at any transportation hub that provides transportation within the United States.”
“Requiring masks on our transportation systems will protect Americans and provide confidence that we can once again travel safely even during this pandemic,” the order, signed by Dr. Martin Cetron, director of the CDC’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine, said. “Therefore, requiring masks will help us control this pandemic and aid in reopening America’s economy.”
The order explains the reason for masks on buses, planes and trains.
“Traveling on multi-person conveyances increases a person’s risk of getting and spreading COVID-19 by bringing persons in close contact with others, often for prolonged periods, and exposing them to frequently touched surfaces,” it said.
“Air travel often requires spending time in security lines and crowded airport terminals. Social distancing may be difficult if not impossible on flights. People may not be able to distance themselves by the recommended 6 feet from individuals seated nearby or those standing in or passing through the aircraft’s aisles. Travel by bus, train, vessel, and other conveyances used for international, interstate, or intrastate transportation pose similar challenges.”
The CDC order said operators of planes, trains and buses “may transport only persons wearing masks and must use best efforts to ensure that masks are worn when embarking, disembarking, and throughout the duration of travel.”
“Operators of transportation hubs must use best efforts to ensure that any person entering or on the premises of the transportation hub wears a mask,” it added.
The order offers a very precise definition of a mask, which would appear to rule out wearing a bandana or gaiter. Face shields are specifically ruled out in the order.
The order says that it covers any public transportation, such as an airplane or ship, that arrives as a U.S. port of entry.
The order also urges transit operators to use their best efforts “monitoring persons onboard the conveyance for anyone who is not wearing a mask and seeking compliance from such persons; at the earliest opportunity, disembarking any person who refuses to comply.”
The federal order said it will be in effect only in places where localities, states or Native American tribes do not already have similar laws in place.
The order scolds those states that have not acted to the CDC’s satisfaction.
“Any state or territory without sufficient mask-wearing requirements for transportation systems within its jurisdiction has not taken adequate measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 from such state or territory to any other state or territory,” the order said.
Masks need not be worn “while eating, drinking, or taking medication, for brief periods,” according to the order. Children under two are not covered by the CDC order. Private vehicles are not covered by the order, when used for non-commercial activities, nor are trucks hauling goods.
The CDC said no one will be arrested for violating the order.
“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,” it wrote.
The CDC order, which will remain in effect until the federal government declares the COVID-19 public health emergency over, operationalizes President Joe Biden’s Jan. 21 executive order.
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