TSA will have authority to enforce mask mandate under new CDC rule

CDC mask mandate for public transportation goes into effect at midnight

ATLANTA — Travelers on airplanes, buses and other public transportation will be required to wear face masks, according to a new mandate by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Atlanta-based agency issued a mask-wearing rule Friday that builds on an order announced by President Joe Biden earlier this month.

Many airlines and transportation agencies like MARTA have had mask policies in effect for months now.

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Channel 2′s Matt Johnson learned more about what the new mask mandate adds and also spoke with travelers.

Nikki Pulliam said she never flies without her mask on, even though it’s not by choice.

“When the airport tells you, ‘If you take your mask off, we will land the plane and make you get off and put you on the do not fly list,’ that’s pretty much an enforceable thing,” the Baldwin County resident said.

Pulliam said she will still run into people who will wear their masks the wrong way but questions if a mask mandate is the right solution.

“Six feet across from me with his mask pulled down but he had no one around him,” she said. “How are you going to enforce him to put his mask on?”

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At 11:59 p.m. on Monday night, the Transportation Security Agency will have the authority to enforce President Joe Biden’s transportation mask mandate.

At Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, officials can’t enforce a mask requirement, but airlines can once passengers are on a plane.

The executive order gives the TSA the power to deny entry and boarding or fine someone who isn’t wearing a mask while on public transportation.

“We are asking folks to please remember that we’re all super connected. And this is one of the things that we can do,” said Dr. Jodie Guest with Emory University.

Guest said the federal mandate is a step in the right direction nearly a year into the pandemic in the U.S. She’s optimistic that people who typically refuse to wear masks may have a change a heart.

“I do hope that there’s a trickle down effect and people will recognize they need to be masking beyond when they’re on public transportation, and everyone starts to adopt it when they’re out of their home,” she said.

Some airport staff Johnson spoke to said most people wear their masks but the mandate may work for the fraction of people who don’t.

“It’s so much we don’t know about this. Let’s try to keep it contained as much as possible,” airport employee Danielle Williams said.

For Pulliam, she said risking a flight or a fine isn’t worth skipping a mask.

“If that’s all you got to do to stay on the flight to get where you got to go, just do it,” she said.

It’s not just any face covering that’s required. The CDC has requirements and a face shield isn’t enough.

The CDC order states that you need a mask underneath that face shield. Scarves and bandanas will not cut it either. It must be a mask that covers your face and nose.

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