Masks Are Now Mandatory on Public Transit Across the U.S.

It's been required on most transport for a while, but it's mandatory now.

masks on public transportation CDC
Shutterstock/Drazen Zigic
Shutterstock/Drazen Zigic

Masks will now be required for travelers on airplanes and public transportation, including buses, subways, and ride-hailing services like Uber, in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 as people around the world continue to line up for the vaccine. The 11-page order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) makes the refusal to wear a mask on public transportation or an airplane a violation of federal law

The rule applies to any passenger or employee on an airplane, train, subway, bus, taxi, ride-share, or other public conveyance as well as in waiting areas like those found at airports, train stations, and subway stations. The order also specifies that masks must be worn over the passenger's nose and mouth. Though, passengers are allowed to remove masks while eating or drinking. Additionally, children under two and people who have a disability that causes them to be unable to wear a mask are exempted. Lifehacker reports that staff can ask for proof of medical exemption.

Moreover, the rule will not apply to anyone actively communicating with someone who is hearing impaired "when the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication." There are also brief exemptions for when you're showing your ID during boarding or in an emergency, such as when you need to put on an oxygen mask due to the loss of cabin pressure in an airplane.

For the most part, this rule isn't causing sweeping changes. Many cities and states have rules about mask-wearing on public transport and airlines have enforced this for months, banning hundreds of passengers for their refusal to wear a mask. However, flight attendant unions have said that having a federal rule in place makes it easier to enforce mask-wearing, according to the Chicago Sun-Times

Additionally, there are stipulations about what is considered an adequate face covering. Bandanas, masks with valves, and face shields worn without a mask are all highlighted among the face coverings deemed insufficient. More details can be found on the CDC's order


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Dustin Nelson is a Senior Staff Writer at Thrillist. Follow Dustin Nelson on Twitter.