The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) have teamed up in an effort to enforce mask-wearing in public conveyances and transportation hubs for the “preservation of human life.”
This isn’t a pro or con mask article because that could be considered disinformation. The heightened emotions around the mask debate have become tribal in nature, and nothing written by me or anyone else is likely to change the minds that have already been made up.
This article merely outlines the new rules to be enforced by the new mask police. Some readers may be concerned about the risk of arbitrary enforcement and excessive potential punishment to which those using public transportation will be subject.
Elizabeth Nolan Brown writes for Reason.com:
The order will be enforced by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents and “other federal authorities,” as well as state and local officials. “To the extent permitted by law…federal agencies are required to implement additional measures enforcing the provisions of this Order,” the CDC says.
“CDC reserves the right to enforce through criminal penalties,” the agency adds, though it claims not to intend “to rely primarily on these criminal penalties.” The feds may also implement “additional civil measures enforcing the provisions” of the order (which “is not a rule within the meaning of the Administrative Procedure Act,” the CDC notes, “but rather is an emergency action”). (source)
So, basically, we don’t get to know ahead of time with the criminal penalty might be, as it is not outlined in either the CDC order or the executive order. (More on the EO below.)
Back in early 2020, would you ever have imagined that your decision of whether to wear a face-covering or not could one day be a federal crime?
Here’s what the CDC has to say about the order.
The CDC issued a lengthy PDF order on Jan. 29th.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an Order pdf icon[PDF – 11 pages] on January 29, 2021 requiring the wearing of masks by travelers to prevent spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. Conveyance operators must also require all persons onboard to wear masks when boarding, disembarking, and for the duration of travel. Operators of transportation hubs must require all persons to wear a mask when entering or on the premises of a transportation hub.
This Order must be followed by all passengers on public conveyances (e.g., airplanes, ships, ferries, trains, subways, buses, taxis, ride-shares) traveling into, within, or out of the United States as well as conveyance operators (e.g., crew, drivers, conductors, and other workers involved in the operation of conveyances) and operators of transportation hubs ( e.g., airports, bus or ferry terminals, train or subway stations, seaports, ports of entry) or any other area that provides transportation in the United States. (source)
Please keep in mind this is the same CDC that told us last March that we should definitively not wear masks.
The CDC said last month it doesn’t recommend people use face masks, making the announcement on the same day that first case of person-to-person transmission of coronavirus was reported in the U.S. The CDC recommendation on masks stands, a spokesman told MarketWatch Wednesday, even with the first reported case of a COVID-19 infection in an individual in California who had not been to China or been exposed to a person diagnosed with the virus.
“The virus is not spreading in the general community,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the Center for the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a Jan. 30 briefing. “We don’t routinely recommend the use of face masks by the public to prevent respiratory illness. And we certainly are not recommending that at this time for this new virus.” (source)
It would be one thing to have federal officers roaming around public transit targeting those who aren’t wearing a mask at all. But this order is far more detailed, leaving a troubling number of details up to the discretion of the agent.
What kind of mask is required?
The mask itself must be compliant.
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 new rules don’t stop there.
What kind of masks don’t qualify as masks?
As per the CDC, the following are not sufficiently compliant.
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)
When can a mask be off?
Good news. You don’t have to wear a mask all the time on public transit. Following are the exceptions from page 4 of the order.
Bad news. The amount of time considered reasonable for the above exceptions is entirely up to the discretion of the officer. Vagueness is never a good thing in mandates because so much is open to interpretation – and that really depends upon the personal biases of the person interpreting.
Who is exempt?
There are a few people who are exempt from being targeted by the mask police.
It appears that the folks who wrote these rules have never met two-year-olds. I could barely keep socks and winter hats on my kids, much less a mask on their faces.
You also don’t have to wear a mask in the following conveyances.
This follows Biden’s new mask policies.
The Biden administration has wasted no time mandating masks. On his first day in office, President Biden signed an executive order requiring masks on all federal property (including national parks) and inside federal buildings. He also issued a 100-day mask “challenge” for all Americans.