America Airlines – Face Masks Are Mandated On All U.S. Public Transportation
Beginning Monday at midnight, face masks are mandated on all public transportation in the United States.
Yesterday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a wide-reaching order requiring face coverings to be worn on virtually every type of public transportation. That means all means of travel — airplanes, ships, trains, subways, buses, taxis, and ride-shares — as well as at transportation hubs like airports, bus depots, ferry terminals, train and subway stations and seaports.
“Requiring masks on our transportation systems will protect Americans and provide confidence that we can once again travel safely even during this pandemic,” said the CDC order. “Therefore, requiring masks will help us control this pandemic and aid in re-opening America’s economy.”
The new CDC mandate was expected. On January 21, on his full day in office, President Joe Biden ordered government agencies to “immediately take action” to require masks on all public transportation. Last fall, the CDC had previously drafted a similarly sweeping order, but it was blocked by the Trump administration.
While the CDC reserves the right to impose criminal penalties, the order implies that civil penalties would be more likely for violators. The order will be enforced by the Transportation Security Administration and federal, state and local agencies.
The order says passengers must wear a mask in transit except for brief periods, such as to eat, drink or take medication. Masks may be either purchased or homemade.
The order exempts travelers younger than age 2 as well as passengers with specific medical conditions.
Travelers should see a big change at airports. Under the Trump administration, the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) deferred to airlines on masks. While all major US airlines now have mask mandates in place, not all airports do.
In June, FAA administrator Stephen Dickson told a senate hearing that “we do not plan to provide an enforcement specifically on that issue.” Even as late as December, the FAA stated that “failure to wear a face covering is not itself a federal violation.”
Yesterday, an FAA statement said it the agency is now “committed to ensuring commercial airline passengers comply with President Biden’s face mask mandate throughout their journey from curb-to-curb” and is “strictly enforcing a zero-tolerance policy toward passengers who cause disturbances on flights or fail to obey flight crew instructions.”
Meanwhile, the CDC said last week that it was “actively looking” at requiring negative Covid-19 tests for domestic air travel. Testing became a requirement for nearly all international travel on January 26.
The CDC has made it clear that it would prefer Americans to stay home until the pandemic is under control. “I want to emphasize that now is not a good time to be traveling, period, internationally or domestically,” said CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky during a virtual Fintech Zoom global town hall last week.
She was backed up by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infection disease expert. “Getting vaccinated does not say you have a free pass to travel,” said Dr. Fauci. “Nor does it say you have a free pass to put aside all the public health measures that we talk about all the time.”