The mandate will go into effect shortly before midnight on Monday (Feb. 1), and will also require people to wear masks at transportation hubs. That includes airports, bus or ferry terminals, seaports, and train or subway stations, the federal agency has confirmed. Children under the age of 2 will not be required to wear masks, and anyone who cannot safely wear one due to a disability will be exempt, too.
"Traveling on public transportation increases a person’s risk of getting and spreading COVID-19 by bringing people in close contact with others, often for prolonged periods, and exposing them to frequently touched surfaces," the CDC said in a statement. "People must wear masks that completely cover both the mouth and nose while awaiting, boarding, disembarking, or traveling on airplanes, ships, ferries, trains, subways, buses, taxis, and ride-shares as they are traveling into, within, or out of the United States and U.S. territories."
While the CDC stated that it has the right to enforce the mandate with criminal penalties, as of right now it does not plan to rely on them. The CDC hopes the mandate "encourages and anticipates widespread voluntary compliance as well as support from other federal agencies in implementing additional civil measures enforcing the provisions." President Joe Biden signed an executive order on Jan. 21 that urged heads of federal agencies and executive departments to "immediately take action" to make masks a requirement for public transport.
Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, over 25.9 million cases have been reported in the United States. More than 430,000 in the U.S. have died from COVID-19.