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A “strong recommendation for wearing … [face] masks” has been suggested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This recommendation was published in interim guidance last Monday, urging passengers and operators of public conveyances to wear face masks.
The national public health institute wrote that face masks should be worn while on board any public transportation. Moreover, the interim guidance also stated face masks should be donned “within locations where people board … conveyances.” Among such locations are seaports, airports, subway stations, and bus terminals.
The newly published recommendation further strengthens the advocacy and the need to wear masks. CDC acknowledged masks as “one of the most effective strategies available for reducing COVID-19 transmission.”
The interim guidance justified the need for wearing a face mask while inside buses, airports, and ride-shares. CDC wrote, “traveling on public conveyances increases a person’s risk of getting and spreading COVID-19” because people are clustered together.
Public transportation operators should decline individuals not wearing masks from boarding any conveyances, as advised by the CDC. However, the health institute provided some instances when individuals can take their face masks off during the travel duration. Here are the following exceptions:
- When individuals are “eating, drinking, or taking medication,” but only for brief periods.
- When individuals are either “unconscious, incapacitated, unable to be awakened, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.”
- When any law enforcement officials ask an individual to verify their identity by removing their mask temporarily.
Some individuals “may be” excused from wearing a face mask in public transportation. For example, individuals with any disability or mental condition that prohibits them from wearing a face mask are exempted. As for employees and conveyance operators, some can opt not to wear a mask when it creates risk or interferes with their work.
Still, the CDC didn’t indicate it as a mandate, instead stating it as a mere recommendation. The CDC wanted to release an order that makes face masks mandatory on all public transportation. The would-be plan was written under the “quarantine powers” of the CDC. It is also endorsed by Alex M. Azar II, the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
However, this mandate did not come to fruition because the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force refused it earlier this month. The task force, headed Vice President Mike Pence, didn’t even discuss the proposed mandate. An official from the task force justified the refusal. The official said the heads of states and localities should mandate the requirement to wear a mask.
This rejection left the CDC to tone it down to a “strong recommendation.” The refusal also opens people’s possibility (especially anti-maskers), turning a blind eye from the interim guidance.