The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new guidance on Monday saying it "strongly recommends appropriate masks be worn by all passengers and by all personnel" operating public transport across the country, including in stations, terminals and airports, to help slow.
The Trump administration has thus far declined to issue any national mandate on face coverings, opting to leave such rules to state and local leaders to determine. The president himself has said he wears a mask "when needed," but he's, mocking one reporter during a White House news conference as "politically correct" for his decision not to remove his mask to ask a question.
Issuing its new "interim guidance" note on Monday, the CDC called masks "one of the most effective strategies available for reducing transmission," and said well-fitted face coverings "are most likely to reduce the spread of COVID-19 when they are widely used by people in public settings. Wide use of masks especially helps protect those at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 as well as workers who frequently come into close contact with other people (e.g., in airports, seaports or other docks, bus terminals, and train stations)."
Most U.S. airlines, Amtrak and many other transport companies already require passengers and staff to wear masks. The CDC urged passengers on all "public conveyances (e.g., airplanes, ships, ferries, trains, subways, buses, taxis, ride-shares) as well as operators of those conveyances," to follow suit.
While they have become a lightning rod this year in the American political debate, mask use was widely adopted early during the coronavirus pandemic in many Asian nations, and given the success in those countries at limiting the virus' spread, it has since been mandated in public settings in many European nations.
There has been a clear consensus from scientific research for months that face masks — far more even than plastic face shields — are effective at preventing the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.
The CDC said Monday that everyone "should wear masks that cover both the mouth and nose when waiting or, traveling on, or departing from public. People should also wear masks at an airport, bus or ferry terminal, train or subway station, seaport, or similar area that provides transportation."
It urged transport operators to "refuse boarding to anyone not wearing a mask and require all people onboard, whether passengers or employees, to wear masks for the duration of travel," with exceptions for eating, drinking, and medical disorders that prohibit mask wearing.
Mask requirements on mass transit have caused some tense moments. A passenger hit a flight attendant in Miami on Monday night. The BBC crew onboard said the argument involved someone refusing to wear a mask. Delta Airlines said two customers did not comply with crew member safety instructions and were kicked off the flight.
Earlier in October, a man who refused to wear a face mask wasin Arizona after he and another passenger who asked him to follow the rules got into a fight, according to police.
And in July, in the Southern California city of Torrance, a woman punched her Lyft driver after he asked her to put on a mask. The driver said the passenger began to escalate the situation after a subsequent dispute over whether he took her to the correct destination, CBS Los Angeles reported.
Delta said it has banned more than 450 passengers for not a wearing a mask. Meanwhile, Uber announced it has banned more 1,200 people.
Kris Van Cleave contributed to this report.