WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a sweeping order late Friday requiring the use of face masks on nearly all forms of public transportation Monday as the country continues to report thousands of daily COVID-19 deaths.
The order, which takes effect at 11:59 p.m. EST on Monday (0459 GMT Tuesday), requires face masks to be worn by all travelers on airplanes, ships, trains, subways, buses, taxis, and ride-shares and at transportation hubs like airports, bus or ferry terminals, train and subway stations and seaports.
President Joe Biden on Jan. 21 ordered government agencies to “immediately take action” to require masks in airports and on commercial aircraft, trains and public maritime vessels, including ferries, intercity bus services and all public transportation.
Under Donald Trump, who was president until Jan. 20, a CDC push to mandate masks in transit was blocked and the agency instead only issued strong recommendations for mask use. Trump also rejected efforts by Congress to mandate mask use.
“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 11-page order signed by Marty Cetron, director for CDC’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine.
While airlines and most transit modes already require masks, the CDC order will make not wearing a mask a violation of federal law that could make it easier for flight attendants and others to enforce.
A U.S. airline group told Biden this month that carriers had had to bar “thousands of passengers” from future flights for failing to comply with airline mask policies.
The CDC said people violating the order could potentially face criminal penalties but suggested civil penalties would be more likely if needed. The order will be enforced by the Transportation Security Administration and federal, state and local agencies.
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