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| Properties and lands controlled by the federal government — including iconic monuments such as the Statue of Liberty and national parks such as the Grand Canyon — will require those who visit or work there to wear masks. Masks also must be worn by everyone age 2 and older on public transportation (planes, trains, ferries, buses) and at transportation hubs like airports.
In an executive order he signed on Jan. 21, President Joe Biden made “masking up” a signature piece of his pandemic-ending plan, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has made the rules effective today. Refusing to wear a face covering in these settings is therefore now a violation of federal law, and could result in a $250 fine and up to $1,500 for repeated violations.
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Travelers arriving from other countries, meanwhile, are required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of departure and to quarantine once they arrive, according to new CDC guidelines. (The CDC suggests a seven-day quarantine for those arriving from outside the U.S.) The directive calls on federal agencies to begin discussions with the governments of Mexico and Canada about possible infection-prevention protocols for entry by land, as well as a plan from the Department for Homeland Security for safe entry by sea.
The CDC has long recommended that the federal government implement mask requirements as an effective way to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which has now claimed more than 463,000 lives in the U.S. The new requirements — part of the White House’s “100 days mask challenge” to slow the spread of the coronavirus — are one element of a national plan that’s billed as a “road map to guide America out of the worst public health crisis in a century.” Along with mask wearing for infection prevention, the plan includes strategies to accelerate the pace of vaccinations.
Here’s a breakdown of the rules for travelers.
Visitors to all 423 sites managed by the Department of the Interior, including national parks and monuments such as Mount Rushmore, will need to wear face coverings. Previously, there was no blanket mandate, only strong encouragement that visitors wear masks. The National Park Service (NPS) clarified the order with a statement on Feb. 2, noting that masks are not only required in NPS-managed buildings but also outside “when physical distancing cannot be maintained, including narrow or busy trails, overlooks and historic homes.”
Because airlines already require that passengers and crew members wear masks, it may not seem like much will change for travelers who fly. But flight attendants and pilots unions have asked for a federal requirement to add teeth to their own rules.