Buckle up, everybody – and fasten that face mask.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued new guidance on the use of face masks for public transit, urging passengers and workers to wear facial coverings throughout the entire travel journey in the fight against COVID-19.
The CDC shared the update on Monday, advising people traveling via air, sea and land, as well as officials and crew members operating the transportation, to wear face masks to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
“Traveling on public conveyances increases a person’s risk of getting and spreading COVID-19 by bringing persons in close contact with others, often for prolonged periods, and exposing them to frequently touched surfaces,” the public health institute explained.
“Given how interconnected most transportation systems are across the nation and the world, local transmission can grow quickly into interstate and international transmission when infected persons travel on public conveyances without wearing a mask and with others who are not wearing masks.”
With that being said, the CDC “strongly recommends” that “appropriate masks” be worn by all passengers and personnel on public transit, like “airplanes, ships, ferries, trains, subways, buses, taxis, ride-shares.” To that end, the people passing through or working in transit hubs like “airports, bus or ferry terminals, train stations, seaports” are also advised to cover their mouth and nose with a face mask.
Furthermore, the CDC pressed transit operators to “refuse boarding” to anyone who refuses to wear a mask “for the duration of travel,” beyond exceptions for briefly eating or drinking, verifying one’s identity to authorities, such as the TSA, or if otherwise incapacitated.
The CDC also added that exceptions to the passenger face mask guidance should be made for children under age 2, as well as those who are exempt from wearing a mask for medical reasons.
TravelPulse reports that the CDC initially pitched an order requiring all passengers and personnel on public transit to wear face masks, in a suggestion that was ultimately shot down by the White House.
The CDC’s latest recommendations followed a request from Vice President Mike Pence to CDC Director Robert Redfield, and further empowers commercial airlines to enforce mask-wearing policies during transit.