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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 spiraling coronavirus infections.

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 disparaged other politicians and journalists for wearing masks, mocking one reporter during a White House news conference as “politically correct” for his decision not to remove his mask to ask a question.


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Issuing its new “interim guidance” note on Monday, the CDC called masks “one of the most effective strategies available for reducing COVID-19 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.


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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.

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