As the pandemic continues to surge, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued an order imposing a mask requirement for all travelers on U.S. public transportation systems, including rail, van, bus, and motorcoach services, to mitigate the risk of COVID-19.
The CDC order, effective Tuesday, implements President Joe Biden’s Executive Order 13998, Promoting COVID-19 Safety in Domestic and International Travel, “to save lives and allow all Americans, including the millions of people employed in the transportation industry, to travel and work safely.”
The order states that individuals will be required to wear masks when traveling on conveyances, meaning “an aircraft, train, road vehicle, vessel … or other means of transport, including military,” into and within the U.S. Additionally, the order states that individuals must wear masks at public transportation hubs, including any fixed facility at which passengers are picked up or dropped off.
To further ensure safe travel, the order also states that operators of conveyances and transportation hubs must use best efforts to make sure individuals adhere to the new mask mandate. These efforts include:
- Boarding/allowing entry only to those persons who wear masks.
- Instructing persons that Federal law requires wearing a mask on the conveyance and/or at the transportation hub, and failure to do so constitutes a violation of Federal law.
- Monitoring persons onboard the conveyance and/or on the premises of the transportation hub for anyone who is not wearing a mask and seeking compliance from such persons.
- At the earliest convenience, removing any person who refuses to comply.
- Providing persons with prominent and adequate notice to facilitate awareness and compliance of the requirement to wear a mask, including advance notifications on digital platforms, posted signage in multiple languages, or printing the requirement on transit tickets.
The categories of individuals who are exempt from the CDC order include:
- Children under the age of 2 years.
- A person with a disability who cannot wear a mask or cannot safely wear a mask because of their disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
- A person for whom wearing a mask would create a risk to workplace health, safety, or job duty as determined by the relevant workplace safety guidelines or federal regulations.
In addition to the CDC order, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) anticipates issuing additional information and guidance on this topic. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Transportation has posted Frequently Asked Questions online and will continue to provide additional information about the order in the coming days.