Face masks will now be required for travelers on public transportation following an Executive Order issued by President Joe Biden, and federal agents have the power to enforce it.
Effective February 1 at 11:59 p.m., the order will remain in effect until changed or rescinded. The United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced the new rule on Friday as part of an ongoing effort to stop the spread of COVID-19, adding that it “strongly encourages and anticipates widespread voluntary compliance.”
The order states that individuals must wear a mask over the mouth and nose, and makes failure to comply a violation of federal law, to be enforced by the Transportation Security Administration, as well as other local, state and federal authorities.
The order applies to travelers boarding, riding, and exiting airplanes, trains, subways, buses, taxis, and ride-shares. The rule also applies to airports, train platforms, subway stations, and other waiting areas. Passengers will still be allowed to remove their masks to eat or drink.
According to the order, face shields do not meet the mask requirements because “a properly worn mask completely covers the nose and mouth of the wearer.”
“A mask should fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face. Masks can be either manufactured or homemade, and should be a solid piece of material without slits, exhalation valves or punctures,” the order states. “Medical masks and N-95 respirators fulfill the requirements of this order.”
The requirement “will protect Americans and provide confidence that we can once against travel safely even during this pandemic,” said Dr. Marty Cetron, director of CDC’s division of migration and quarantine.
USA Today reported that airlines, which already have a mask rule in place, have banned over 2,000 passengers who refused to wear masks on flights. Flight attendant unions praised the federal rule, claiming the order will make enforcing masks easier for flight crews.
Children under two years old and disabled individuals are exempted from the order, and the CDC said transportation operators are allowed to request medical documentation for safety exemptions.
Building on the mask mandate, the CDC is considering requiring tests for passengers flying within the United States. However, airlines are against the required testing, fearing it will cause fewer people to fly.
The CDC’s rule comes just nine days after President Joe Biden issued an Executive Order calling for masks to be worn on all Federal property.
“Accordingly, to protect the Federal workforce and individuals interacting with the Federal workforce, and to ensure the continuity of Government services and activities, on-duty or on-site Federal employees, on-site Federal contractors, and other individuals in Federal buildings and on Federal lands should all wear masks, maintain physical distance, and adhere to other public health measures, as provided in CDC guidelines,” the order stated.