The Department of Transportation (DOT) has rejected a petition by the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) and its 33 member unions, for an emergency order requiring masks on all forms of commercial public transportation.
TTD president Larry Willis said in a statement that masks and appropriate face coverings are a science-backed, lifesaving measure.
“Already, tens of thousands of frontline transportation workers – our members – have become ill or perished due to COVID-19 exposure. A federal commercial passenger and public transportation mask mandate would have offered an additional layer of protection not only for these workers, but the passengers they serve. In too many cases, those passengers are other essential workers just trying to get to their jobs on the frontlines of the pandemic, or working families on their way to get groceries, medical appointments, or check in with loved ones.”
TTD is now calling on Congress to pass legislation requiring masks on all forms of commercial public transportation.
Several other countries, like the U.K., already require the use of masks and face coverings on public transportation, whereas others take a regional approach and only mandate their use in hotspot areas. Travelers who fail to comply are not permitted to travel and are often fined.
The U.S. is not alone in choosing not to make wearing masks a legally enforceable policy. Australia also came under fire last month for not issuing a nationwide directive on their use on public transport, saying only that if physical distancing was not possible, masks may offer some level of protection.
U.S. transportation operators and states may set their own policies on mask wearing. The MTA in New York and WMATA in Washington, D.C., for example require all travelers and staff to wear masks or face coverings.