© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Travelers board the air train at Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, New Jersey, the United States, July 2, 2021 ahead of the July 4th holidays. REUTERS / Eduardo Munoz
By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A senior U.S. health official who signed a comprehensive ordinance to wear masks on almost all public transport said they were an important tool in preventing the transmission of COVID-19, even as some lawmakers repealed it Demand rules.
Marty Cetron, director of the global migration and quarantine division at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told Reuters on Thursday that the agency’s “current position” is that the mandate should not be lifted.
“Masks are really powerful and we should make sure they are part of our arsenal,” Cetron said in an interview. “We don’t mask ourselves just to protect ourselves – we mask because that’s how we care for one another and express our concern for one another.”
The rules that have been in force since January require all travelers to wear masks on airplanes, ships, trains, subways, buses, taxis and carpooling, as well as at transport hubs such as airports, bus or ferry terminals, train stations and subway stations and ports.
“The truth is that the unvaccinated part that is out there is extremely vulnerable,” said Cetron, particularly at an indoor transportation hub “where ventilation may not be optimized.”
A group of Republican lawmakers introduced bill banning masking requirements on public transportation this week, arguing that it no longer makes sense with a growing number of Americans getting vaccinated. Republican MP Andy Biggs said the rules on transit masks “are only followed by those who enjoy controlling our daily lives.”
In mid-May, CDC said that in most places, fully vaccinated people could avoid wearing masks indoors – with a few exceptions like transit.
The mask mandate has led to major friction points with US aircraft. The Federal Aviation Administration said Tuesday that it had received 3,420 recalcitrant passenger reports since Jan. 1, including 2,559 for refusing to wear masks.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said Sunday was the busiest day since February 2020, with nearly 2.2 million passengers.
“I understand we are all emotionally over it right now, but I think we will succeed together when we realize that the virus is the enemy and it is not your fellow citizen or the person who is on a plane or piece You have to wear fabric sitting next to you over your face, “said Cetron.
There is no expiration date for ordering CDC transit masks. In April, the TSA extended their mask requirement until September 13th.
“As long as the CDC order is in place, the modes of execution are expected to continue … with their own guidelines,” said Cetron.
“We won’t wait until September to reassess,” said Cetron, adding that CDC is regularly reviewing the mandate. “If the pandemic suddenly goes away beforehand, we have the option of taking the order back.”
Under Donald Trump, a CDC attempt to mandate masks in transit was blocked.
When asked if he still believes there is a scientific or health policy basis for US travel restrictions banning entry into the United States from some countries, Cetron said, “I will not go into the details,” however, said that the discussions will be held on the US government.