The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommend people masks on public transportation and at public transportation hubs, like airports and train stations.
“Transmission of the virus through travelers has led to—and continues to lead to—interstate and international spread of the virus which causes COVID-19,” the new recommendation reads. “Appropriately worn masks reduce the spread of COVID-19—particularly given the evidence of pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic transmission of the virus.”
Now, the CDC “strongly recommends appropriate masks be worn by all passengers and by all personnel operating the conveyance while on public transportation conveyances,” such as airplanes, ships, ferries, trains, subways, buses, taxis, and ride-shares. The CDC also recommend that people wear masks while in “transportation hubs and other locations where people board such conveyances,” including airports, train stations, and bus terminals.
The new recommendations also suggest that transportation operators should “refuse to board anyone not wearing a mask and require all people onboard, whether passengers or employees, to wear masks for the duration of travel.” However, it’s okay for people not to wear masks when eating or drinking, in order to verify their identity, or if they’re unconscious.
There are some recommended exemptions to the mask rule, such as kids under two years old, those with written instructions from a medical provider to not wear a mask, and anyone with a disability or mental health condition that prevents them from wearing a mask.
If these recommendations sound familiar to you, it’s likely because most major airports, transportation lines, and local governments in the country already adopted them. Airlines such as Delta, Southwest, United, and American all require passengers wear masks for as much of their journey as possible, SELF reported previously. But now those agencies and companies have the CDC’s guidelines on masks to help enforce those policies. Earlier this month, the New York Times reported that the White House originally attempted to block the CDC from publishing an order requiring passengers and employees to wear masks while on public transportation.
As a reminder, face masks are one of a few public health tools we have to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Experts believe the virus is transmitted mainly through respiratory droplets. People who have the virus can expel those droplets when they talk, cough, sneeze, or yell. And other people can then inhale those droplets or they might land in someone else’s mouth, nose, or eyes, and possibly go on to infect them.
But a face mask can catch the majority of those droplets before they can spread to someone else, and some types of masks can also help prevent the wearer from inhaling other people’s droplets. So it makes sense that wearing an effective mask in a crowded area like a train station or airport would be a good idea.
Surgical masks and N95 masks are the most effective at preventing the spread of the coronavirus, but cloth masks can be effective enough for the general public. Face masks are most effective when they’re worn snugly (but comfortably) over the mouth and nose. We also know that masks made of more than one layer of materials like cotton are more effective than masks made from just one layer.
Along with social distancing and washing our hands frequently, face masks are an important way to keep ourselves and others safe while traveling.