CDC: Keep wearing a mask on planes, trains, mass transit

Top U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials are restating their recommendation that Americans wear masks on planes, trains, and buses, despite a court ruling in April that struck down a national mask mandate on public transportation.

"CDC continues to recommend that all people — passengers and workers, alike — properly wear a well-fitting mask or respirator in indoor public transportation conveyances and transportation hubs to provide protection for themselves and other travelers in these high volume, mixed population settings," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement. "We now have a range of tools we need to protect ourselves from the impact of COVID-19, including access to high-quality masks and respirators for all who need them." 

The CDC recommends that anyone 2 years old and older should wear a mask on transportation and also in airports and train stations. Properly wearing a well-fitting mask or respirator protects you and the people around you, the CDC said.

"Wearing a well-fitting mask or respirator is most beneficial in crowded or poorly ventilated locations, such as airport jetways," the CDC said in a news release. "We also encourage operators of public transportation and transportation hubs to support mask wearing by all people, including employees."

For months, the Transportation Security Administration had been enforcing a requirement that passengers and workers wear masks. The government had repeatedly extended the mandate, and the latest one had been set to expire May 3. But a federal judge in Florida struck down the rule on April 18. The same day, the TSA said it would no longer enforce the mandate.

The CDC asked the Justice Department to appeal the decision, which the department did. But the status of the appeal is unclear.

However, New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs the nation's largest public transit system, is keeping its mask-wearing mandate in place for now. The MTA manages New York City subways and buses, the Staten Island Railway, the LIRR, and the Metro-North Railroad. 

"[I]t is important for all of us to protect not only ourselves, but also to be considerate of others at increased risk for severe COVID-19 and those who are not yet able to be vaccinated," Wallensky said. "Wearing a mask in indoor public transportation settings will provide protection for the individual and the community."

The CDC website outlines the differences among several types of masks and respirators and which ones are most effective at filtering out potential pathogens. A respirator provides better filtration than a mask. But both must be worn properly.

"A mask or respirator will be less effective if it fits poorly or if you wear it improperly or take it off frequently," the CDC states. "Whatever product you choose, it should provide a good fit (i.e., fitting closely on the face without any gaps along the edges or around the nose) and be comfortable enough when worn properly (covering your nose and mouth) so that you can keep it on when you need to."

With The Associated Press.