ATLANTA – Travelers on airplanes and public transportation like buses and subways will be required to put on face masks beginning this week to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a mask-wearing rule late Friday that builds on an order announced Jan. 21 by President Joe Biden.
The rule “will shield Americans and provide confidence that we will once again travel safely even throughout this pandemic,” mentioned Dr. Marty Cetron, director of CDC’s division of migration and quarantine, who signed the order.
The 11-page CDC order takes impact simply before midnight on Monday. It makes refusal to put on a masks a violation of federal law, enforced by the Transportation Security Administration and other federal, state and local authorities.
The rule applies to passengers on airplanes, trains, subways, buses, taxis, and ride-shares. It says travelers should put on a mask that covers their nose and mouth while riding and while getting on and off rides. The order extends to waiting areas like airports, train platforms, and subway stations.
Airlines already require masks and have banned more than 2,000 passengers for refusing to wear them. Flight attendant unions have mentioned a federal rule will make it simpler for crews to implement the requirement.
The order exempts children under 2 years of age and people with a disability that makes it unsafe to wear a mask. Airlines struggled with an exemption for safety and stopped allowing it. The CDC mentioned transportation operators can require medical documentation.
Travelers will likely be allowed to remove masks while eating or drinking.
The CDC mentioned some face coverings aren’t ok to comply with the rule. The don’t-travel list consists of face shields, bandanas, masks with exhalation valves, and masks that are too big or otherwise don’t fit properly.
The CDC mentioned transportation operators may require a negative COVID-19 test from passengers. Cetron mentioned this week that the health agency is considering requiring testing of passengers on flights within America, however, the airline industry is fighting a testing requirement out of fear that fewer people will fly. U.S. air travel is already down more than 60% from a yr ago.