© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: People walk without protective masks in Times Square amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, USA, May 4 from 2021. REUTERS / Carlo Allegri
By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday that it will no longer require travelers to wear masks in open-air transit centers and in outdoor spaces on ferries, buses and trams, due to the lower risk of transmission of the coronavirus outdoors.
The change is the first to the CDC’s transit mask policy announced in January and came after an extensive review by the regulatory arm of the White House Office of Management and Budget.
The CDC said it made the change “because of the lower risk of transmission outdoors … Masks are still required indoors for all forms of transportation,” regardless of vaccination status.
The change means that people can remove their masks outdoors while waiting for a train, in an outdoor courtyard at an airport, or in outdoor transit modes.
The change came after the Biden administration held extensive discussions with transit unions and other groups. The administration is considering other modest changes to its interior transit mask policies, including allowing vaccinated airline workers to remove their masks in rooms not accessible to the public.
In May, the CDC said that fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks outdoors and can avoid wearing them indoors in most places.
In April, the Biden administration extended face mask requirements across all US transportation networks until September 13 to address the spread of COVID-19.
The Federal Aviation Administration said this week it has received approximately 2,900 reports of unruly passenger behavior since Jan. 1, including about 2,200 reports of passengers refusing to comply with the federal mask mandate.
The CDC mask mandate issued in January requires masks in nearly all modes of transportation, including rideshare vehicles.
Many US states have completely rescinded the mask requirements and transit is the only remaining place where the wearing of masks is mandatory.
President Joe Biden imposed the transit mask mandate after his predecessor, Donald Trump, rejected the CDC’s recommendations to do so.
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