WASHINGTON – Beginning Tuesday, Americans are required to wear face masks while traveling on domestic public transport as part of a national strategy to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The mask-wearing rule which will go into effect at 11:59 pm Monday (0459 GMT Tuesday) makes refusal to wear a mask a violation of federal law, enforced by the Transportation Security Administration and other federal, state and local authorities.
The rule, issued by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), applies to passengers on airplanes, trains, subways, buses, taxis and ride-shares. And it extends to waiting areas such as airports, train platforms and subway stations.
The mandate builds on an order announced by President Joe Biden who on his first day in office unveiled a national strategy in order to change the course of the COVID crisis in the country which is the worst hit in the world by the pandemic.
As of Monday evening local time, the United States has recorded more than 26.3 million COVID-19 cases and over 443,000 related deaths, showed a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
Health experts have attributed US failure to control the virus to political polarization, a rejection of science and an absence of a national strategy under the Donald Trump administration.
A year into the pandemic, Americans have still not come to a uniform consensus on mask wearing, which public health experts say is among the most effective means of stemming the virus spread.
As of Friday, about 10 states remained without statewide mask mandates. For those with mask decrees, the details differ. Some simply require a face covering anytime an individual leaves his or her residence.
Increasing mask-wearing across the United States by just 10 percent would significantly curb the transmission of the coronavirus, found a study published on Jan. 19 in the Lancet Digital Health journal Studies.
The spreading of multiple new coronavirus strains in the country has also increased the urgency for the Unites States to accelerate the pace of vaccinations.
“You need to get vaccinated when it becomes available as quickly and as expeditiously as possible throughout the country,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden’s chief medical adviser, said in a virtual News briefing with the White House COVID-19 response team.
Biden’s national vaccination campaign aims to administer 100 million doses of two-stage coronavirus vaccines in his first 100 days in office.
More than 470 infection cases of coronavirus variants have been reported in at least 32 US states as of Sunday, according to the latest CDC data.
The vast majority of these cases, 467, are caused by the variant originally detected in Britain, in addition to three cases of a new strain initially discovered in South Africa and one case of a strain first discovered in Brazil.
January has been by far the deadliest month of the pandemic in the country, with over 95,000 COVID-19 deaths, surpassing December’s total of over 77,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.