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Travelers now required to wear masks at U.S. airports, bus and rail stations

By Jean Lotus & Daniel Uria
A masked passenger walks through St. Louis-Lambert International Airport in St. Louis, Mo., on November 25, 2020. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI
A masked passenger walks through St. Louis-Lambert International Airport in St. Louis, Mo., on November 25, 2020. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 2 (UPI) -- Beginning Tuesday, masks must be worn at security checkpoints in all U.S. airports and across commercial and public transportation systems as an added measure to control the spread of COVID-19.

The Transportation Security Administration is implementing the requirement as part of President Joe Biden's order promoting the protective health measures in the travel sector, and it supports an emergency order by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that asks people to wear masks at stations, ports and other transportation hubs

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Under the rules, masks are required at airports, bus and rail stations. The requirement applies to passenger aircraft, public transportation, passenger railroads and over-the-road buses operating on scheduled fixed-routes, the TSA said.

Flyers over the age of 2 who refuse to wear a mask will not be permitted in secure areas of airports, which includes the terminal and gate area, the TSA said.

Face shields and goggles are not acceptable substitutes for masks, the agency noted.

"This will help prevent further spread of COVID-19 and encourage a unified government response," TSA administrative official Darby LaJoye said in a statement.

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"We are committed to this measure as the right thing to do."

The mask rule will remain in effect until at least May.

Under the mandate, TSA employees can cite and fine anyone who refuses to comply or interferes with screening agents.

On his first day in office, Biden ordered that masks must be worn inside all federal buildings and offices, and U.S. airlines already require that passengers must wear face coverings on all aircraft.

The TSA said last month that U.S. airports saw a dramatic increase in passenger traffic over the holiday travel season in late December and early January, although flying figures nationwide are still well below normal due to the pandemic.

Federal officials continue to caution against unnecessary travel. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said at a White House briefing last week that U.S. coronavirus cases are still "extremely high" and that "now is not the time to travel."

The National Park Service also announced Tuesday that face masks will now be required in all NPS buildings and facilities as well as NPS-managed lands where physical distancing can not be maintained, such as narrow or busy trails, overlooks and historic homes.

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"Wearing a mask around others, physical distancing and washing your hands are the simplest and most effective public health measures to help stop the spread of COVID-19," NPS Office of Public Health Director Captain Sara Newman said. "Getting outside and enjoying our public lands is essential to improving mental and physical health, but we all need to work together to recreate responsibly."

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