How The Mask Mandate Impacts Travel

How The Mask Mandate Impacts Travel

a couple takes a selfie as Old Faithful

William Campbell/Getty Images

Yellowstone National Park

Properties and lands controlled by the federal government — including such iconic monuments as the Statue of Liberty and national parks such as the Grand Canyon — will require those who visit or work there to wear masks effective immediately.

With an executive order signed Thursday, President Biden made “masking up” a signature piece of his pandemic-ending plan.

The order also requires face-coverings on planes, trains, ferries and buses during interstate travel.

Travelers arriving from other countries, meanwhile, are required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of departure, and to quarantine once they arrive, according to new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. (The CDC suggests a seven-day quarantine for arrivals from outside the U.S.) The directive calls on federal agencies to begin discussions with the governments of Mexico and Canada about possible infection-prevention protocols for entry by land and have a plan within two weeks, as well as a plan from the Department for Homeland Security for safe entry by sea.

The CDC has long recommended the federal government implement mask requirements as an effective way to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which has now claimed more than 400,000 lives in the U.S. The new requirements — part of the White House’s “100 days mask challenge” to slow the spread of COVID-19 — are one element of a national plan that’s billed as a “roadmap to guide America out of the worst public health crisis in a century.” Along with mask-wearing for infection prevention, the plan includes strategies to accelerate the pace of vaccinations.

Visitors to all 423 sites managed by the Department of the Interior, including national parks and monuments such as Mount Rushmore, will need to wear face coverings — with no exceptions stated for outdoors. Previously there was no blanket mask mandate, only strong encouragement that visitors wear them.

Air Travel

Because airlines already require that passengers and crew members wear masks, it may not seem like much will change for travelers who fly. But flight attendants and pilots unions have asked for a federal requirement to add teeth to their own rules.

While the majority of travelers follow mask rules, there have been hundreds who’ve refused, airlines say; in December Delta reported that it had banned nearly 700 passengers from future flights for refusing to wear masks. There have also been reports of flight attendants being harassed and threatened while trying to enforce their airlines’ mask requirements.

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