Here's what you need to know about the new federal mask mandate

Effective February 2, 2021, masks are required on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation and in transportation hubs such as transit centers and bus shelters.  The CDC’s Order focuses on transit because it brings people in close contact with one another.

The federal mandate requires that public transportation operators use best efforts to ensure that any person on the conveyance wears a mask when boarding, disembarking, and for the duration of travel. Depending on the circumstances, public transportation operators must take the following actions:

  • board only people who wear masks;

  • instruct people that wearing a mask on the conveyance is a requirement of federal law and that not complying with the requirement is a violation of federal law;

  • monitor the conveyance for any person who is not wearing a mask and seek compliance from such a person;

  • at the earliest safe opportunity, disembark any person who refuses to comply; and

  • notify people of the requirement to make sure they aware of and comply with the requirement to wear a mask. Examples of such notifications are messaging in apps, on websites or through email; posters in multiple languages with illustrations; and printing the information on tickets.

 

The following categories of people are exempt from the requirement to wear a mask:

  • A child under the age of 2 years;

  • A person with a disability who cannot wear a mask, or cannot safely wear a mask, for reasons related to the disability with proper medical documentation of the disability, as required by the CDC. 

The following are attributes of masks needed to fulfill the requirements of the Order. CDC will update this guidance as needed.

  • A properly worn mask completely covers the nose and mouth.

  • Cloth masks should be made with two or more layers of a breathable fabric that is tightly woven (i.e., fabrics that do not let light pass through when held up to a light source).

  • Mask should be secured to the head with ties, ear loops, or elastic bands that go behind the head. If gaiters are worn, they should have two layers of fabric or be folded to make two layers.

  • Mask should fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face.

  • Mask should be a solid piece of material without slits, exhalation valves, or punctures.

The following attributes are additionally acceptable as long as masks meet the requirements above.

  • Masks can be either manufactured or homemade.

  • Masks can be reusable or disposable.

  • Masks can have inner filter pockets.

  • Clear masks or cloth masks with a clear plastic panel may be used to facilitate communication with people who are hearing impaired or others who need to see a speaker’s mouth to understand speech.

  • Medical masks and N-95 respirators fulfill the requirements of the Order.

The following do not fulfill the requirements of the Order.

  • Masks worn in a way that does not cover both the mouth and nose

  • Face shields or goggles (face shields or goggles may be worn to supplement a mask that meets above required attributes)

  • Scarves, ski masks, balaclavas, or bandannas

  • Shirt or sweater collars (e.g., turtleneck collars) pulled up over the mouth and nose.

  • Masks made from loosely woven fabric or that are knitted, i.e., fabrics that let light pass through

  • Masks made from materials that are hard to breathe through (such as vinyl, plastic or leather)

  • Masks containing slits, exhalation valves, or punctures

  • Masks that do not fit properly (large gaps, too loose or too tight)

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