CDC Mask Guidelines As Face Covering Mandate for Public Transport Comes Into Force

It is now a federal offence to not wear a face mask or covering on public and commercial transport, and at transport hubs in the U.S., according to a mandate by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that came into force on Monday.

The mandate aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 applies to all travelers into, within, or out of the U.S.

It covers trains, buses, planes, boats, ferries, subways and ride-hail vehicles, as well as train stations, bus depots and airport terminals.

The face mask mandate applies to everybody aged two or older, unless they have breathing difficulties.

The CDC's mask guidelines

The CDC's mask guidelines state that face masks and face coverings should completely cover your nose and mouth, and fit snugly against the sides of your face and chin without any gaps.

Face masks that feature two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric are recommended, and neck gaiters should only be worn as a substitute if they are at least two layers thick.

Unsuitable or ineffective face coverings include any that are made of fabric that is difficult to breathe through, such as vinyl, ones that feature exhalation valves or vents, since they allow virus particles to escape, and face shields, as it isn't yet clear how effective they are.

Scarves, ski masks and balaclavas are often made of loosely knit fabrics and are therefore not substitutes for masks, and should instead only be worn on top of a face covering.

The CDC is also discouraging the use of N95 respirators and surgical masks among members of the public, as they're intended primarily for healthcare workers, and have been in short supply throughout the pandemic.

The CDC recommends keeping a spare face covering handy, especially in cold or wet weather. "A wet mask is harder to breathe through, is less efficient at filtering, and vents more around the edges of the mask," it says.

After removal, a wet reusable mask should be stored in a plastic bag until it can be washed.

The CDC mask guidelines also stress that you should take great care when putting a face mask on and taking it off.

Before handling your face mask, you should wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer. If you have to continually adjust your mask, that means it does not fit properly and should be replaced.

The CDC says you should only handle its earloops or ties when you remove it, and then fold the outside edges together. Be careful not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth when removing your face mask, and wash your hands immediately after.

If you wear glasses, you can reduce fogging by finding a mask that either has a nose wire or fits closely over your nose, but there are also anti-fogging sprays available.

The headline of this article has been updated for clarity.

A man wearing a facemask on train
A man wearing a mask sits on the subway on August 27, 2020 in New York City. It is now mandatory to wear a face covering on public transport and at transport hubs. Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images