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CDC releases new guidelines for wearing masks on public transportation

NmewahanG | Pixabay

To address the recent spikes in coronavirus cases across the country, The Center for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidelines on Oct. 19 strongly urging people to wear masks on public transportation — such as buses, trains and planes.

The new guidelines come after CDC’s original mask mandate was blocked by the White House. In the original draft, the CDC would have required both passengers and employees to wear masks on all forms of transportation, The Washington Post said However, two federal health officials blocked the order last month.

The order was drafted under the agency’s “quarantine powers” and would have been “the toughest federal mandate to date,” according to The New York Times. This could have been effective in slowing down a virus that is currently infecting more than 40,000 people in America daily, they also reported.

According to the CDC, passengers and operators of public transportation need to do their part in preventing the spread of the virus. “Masks are most likely to reduce the spread of COVID-19 when they are widely used by people in public settings,” and are “one of the most effective strategies available,” for reducing transmission, the CDC said in the newly released guidelines.

The emphasis on wearing masks is due to the high risk of transmission when many people are in close contact and exposed to surfaces that are touched by others for extended periods of time. Additionally, “intrastate transmission of the virus has led to — and continues to lead to — interstate and international spread of the virus,” the CDC added.

The CDC understands mask wearing is also crucial for America’s economy and that transportation is essential to functioning businesses. Therefore, utilization of masks on a mass scale could save lives and and allow people to “once again travel more safely,” the CDC said.

However, with the conflicting messages on mask wearing by President Donald Trump and members of his task force that he created to handle the virus, led by Vice President Mike Pence, the new guidelines have received mixed reactions.

The “strongly worded,” as The Washington Post calls it, guidelines have been embraced by industry and medical professionals, but have also been criticized for not doing enough to combat the pandemic.

The administration’s task force has to approve and sign off on coronavirus related mandates. One task force official said the decision on masks should “be left up to the states and localities,” according to The New York Times.

Scott Atlas, Trump’s trusted pandemic adviser, said that masks were ineffective on Twitter. “That means the right policy is @realDonaldTrump guideline: use masks for their intended purpose – when close to others, especially hi risk. Otherwise, social distance. No widespread mandates. #CommonSense,” Atlas said.

Atlas has since been deleted because his comment was flagged as “dangerous misinformation” by medical and health experts, according to The Washington Post. There has actually been research that suggests that masks wearing has reduced the infection rate of COVID-19.

The result of a recent study indicated mask-wearing and other safety protocols like social distancing and hand washing “would greatly reduce community transmission of the virus,” the Association of American Medical Colleges reported.

“If 95% of people wear cloth masks when they’re out and about interacting with other people, it reduces transmission by at least 30%,” NPR said, according to analysis from the research of scientists.

“To really give teeth to these requirements, there actually has to be a federal mandate,” Larry Willis, president of the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO said.

Some have expressed that mask-wearing, which is intended to be a scientific concern, has now turned into “a political expression” because it has moved beyond health, The New York Times mentioned.

Trump, who has even contracted COVID-19 himself, continued to contradict himself on masks. When he came home from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, he took his mask off to salute Marine One. He also criticized former Vice President Joe Biden for wearing a mask at the first presidential debate of 2020.

The CDC released these guidelines this month primarily because they have been pressured by the transportation industry.

In the airline industry, there have been some airlines that have banned passengers who refuse to wear masks. This has also been the case for several other transit companies.

In NYC, MTA ridership is gradually increasing and making passenger safety a growing concern. Although the MTA’s current mask mandate requires all riders to wear a mask, the CDC’s new guidelines will be vital to the safety of transit riders everywhere.

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    ErnestOct 31, 2020 at 2:41 am

    Fake science of CDC used as political weapon against America because Trump is President. CDC lacks credibility and is irrelevant.