CDC Releases New Advice on Mask-Wearing on Public Transportation

In newly issued guidance for passengers using public transportation such as planes, trains, buses, rideshares and taxis, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised all passengers wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The guidance came after pressure from the airline industry as well as in light of a dramatic rise in cases in the U.S. The new advice also comes after strong evidence has shown the value of wearing a mask to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

Regarding mask-wearing, the CDC guidelines for public transportation says:

“CDC strongly recommends appropriate masks be worn by all passengers and by all personnel operating the conveyance while on public conveyances (e.g., airplanes, ships, ferries, trains, subways, buses, taxis, ride-shares) and within locations where people board such conveyances (e.g. airports, bus or ferry terminals, train stations, seaports).”

The U.S. Travel Association praised the new recommendation. president and CEO Roger Dow said: “The CDC’s new guidance really says it all: ‘America’s transportation systems are essential…for America’s economy and other bedrocks of American life.’ There simply cannot be an economic and jobs recovery unless travel is able to broadly resume, and the universal embrace of mask-wearing and other hygiene measures is the thing that is going to enable that to happen.

Dow noted that the advice was “helpful” and “clear.”

“That’s why the travel industry has been emphasizing the necessity of masks since the early days of the pandemic and will keep repeating it as often as we need to until it’s fully automatic behavior among travelers,” he said. “The CDC’s latest message is helpful and clear, and will be important for promoting a crucial understanding heading into the holiday season: safe travel is absolutely possible as long as everyone in the travel ecosystem employs best health practices.”

While the U.S. Travel Association praised the CDC, the new guidance falls short of what transportation industry leaders and unions had wanted.

According to the Washington Post and the New York Times, the CDC had drafted an order requiring all passengers and employees to wear masks on all forms of public transportation. These types of orders can come with penalties for non-compliance but it was blocked by the White House.

The new guidance does provide the airline industry with more cover for enforcing mask-wearing and was given after a request from Vice President Mike Pence to CDC Director Robert Redfield.