The People’s CDC urges the TSA, CDC, and the White House to prioritize the health of the people over the preferences of corporate executives, and extend the federal mask mandate for public transportation beyond May 3. Although we welcome the CDC’s recent announcement to extend the mandate for 2 weeks, we strongly recommend that the mandate stays in place for longer, until there is a sustained period of low COVID transmission. While the pandemic is ongoing and COVID continues to pose a threat, mask mandates are an essential policy that helps keep society open and accessible to everyone.
Millions of Americans, including people of color, people with low incomes, and people with disabilities or who are immunocompromised, rely on public transportation as their only way to get to work, or access healthcare and other essential services. At a time when COVID rates are increasing or remain high in many places, dropping the mask mandate for public transportation will further shift the burden of risk to the communities who are already most impacted by COVID. People should not have to face the impossible choice between accessing the services they need to survive, or risk contracting a virus that can cause serious illness.
High-quality masks such as N95, KN95, and KF94, when worn correctly, are very effective at preventing COVID transmission in enclosed environments such as buses, trains, and airplanes. While high-quality masks offer some protection to individual wearers, universal masking is the most effective way to protect everyone from infection, including those at higher-risk, transit workers, and children too young to be vaccinated.
The majority of Americans support masking, and as COVID rates rise around the country due to the BA.2 Omicron variant, it is critical that decision-makers renew or reinstate mask mandates, and ensure that high-quality masks are made free and accessible to all.