CDC Recommends Barring Travelers Without Masks

Carolyn Crist

October 20, 2020

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

Public transportation operators "should refuse boarding" to passengers who don't wear a face mask to stop the spread of the coronavirus, the CDC said Monday in updated guidelines.

The CDC reemphasized current guidelines for wearing masks on planes, ships, ferries, trains, subways, buses, taxis and ride-shares and said masks should be worn in airports, bus terminals, train stations and seaports as well.

"Operators should ensure that any person on the conveyance wears a mask when boarding, disembarking, and for the duration of travel," the CDC wrote.

Transportation companies and operators should inform people about mask requirements during the booking process and that "failure to comply will result in denial of boarding," according to the CDC. A reminder should also occur at the time of boarding.

At that time, public transportation operators should allow only those with face masks to board, continue to monitor those on board, and "at the earliest opportunity, disembark any person who refuses to comply," the CDC wrote.

Companies can have masks available for those who don't have a mask. Exemptions can be given for children under age 2 and people with a disability or hearing impairment that prevents them from wearing a mask.

While at a public transportation location or while traveling, passengers and employees should wear masks other than brief periods for eating, drinking, taking medication or verifying identity during a security screening, the CDC wrote.

Individual airlines and transportation companies have created their own mask requirements this year and have sometimes banned passengers for not wearing a mask. However, airports and other transportation hubs have asked for guidance on wearing masks during the full travel experience, particularly inside airports and in crowded security lines.

"There simply cannot be an economic and jobs recovery unless travel is able to broadly resume, and the universal embrace of mask-wearing and other hygiene measures is the thing that is going to enable that to happen," Roger Dow, CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, told USA Today.

Dow called the CDC's new update "helpful and clear" and said it would be particularly useful during the holiday travel season.

The "face-covering requirement, along with enhanced disinfection practices and health acknowledgement forms, are key components in our multi-layered approach to protecting the well-being of our employees and the traveling public," Airlines for America, a trade group that represents major airlines in the U.S., told CNBC.


CDC, "Interim Guidance: Wearing of face masks while on public conveyances and at stations, ports, and similar transportation hubs."

USA Today, "CDC advises booting travelers who refuse to wear masks on planes, trains, buses, other transportation."

CNBC, "CDC issues 'strong recommendation' for mask mandate on airplanes, trains."


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