The Federal Mask Mandate: The New Rules You Need To Know
On January 20, 2021 the newly elected President Joe Biden, signed a new Federal mask mandate requiring individuals to wear masks on Federal property. The ultimate goal of this policy is to halt the spread of COVID-19, to ensure the continuity of Governments services, and thus, save more lives.
The policy adopted on January 20 was followed by another executive order signed on January 21 mandating face mask wearing while traveling domestically and internationally.
Health officials claim that this is not the right time to let your guard down, take off masks, and relax, and this is what Joe Biden is trying to convey by legitimizing the new Federal mask mandates.
The New Federal Rules for Mask Wearing
According to the new executive order on protecting the Federal Workforce from COVID-19 spread:
"Federal employees and other individuals present in Federal buildings as well as those visiting Federal lands, are required to wear face masks, maintain social distance, and adhere to the safety measures specified in CDC guidelines."
Exceptions: If some individuals are not able to adhere to this requirement due to physical or mental impairments, they will be required to maintain additional physical distancing measures and additional testing.
According to the order on promoting COVID-19 safety in domestic and international travel:
"Individuals traveling domestically should wear face masks in the following places:
- Commercial aircraft;
- Public maritime vessels;
- Intercity buses.
In terms of international travels, the following requirements apply:
- Individuals traveling to the United States from other countries should provide a proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test;
After entry into the United States, international travelers are required to self-quarantine.
Exceptions: Categorical or case-by-case exclusions to these mandates may come in force for individuals with sensory, cognitive, or behavioral issues as specified by CDC. In this case, those individuals will be required to adhere to alternative safeguards.
Doesn't Public Transportation Already Require Face Masks?
Technically, yes. However, federal government safety reports show that passengers have repeatedly been ignoring the attendants when asked to follow this requirement. At times, the risks that those passengers constituted went far beyond the increased hazard of COVID-19 spread. That’s one reason why the Biden administration had to come up with the federal mask mandates.
Implementation of the Mask Mandates Enforcement Plan
At this point, the way the new mandates are going to be enforced remains unclear. The new rule requiring federal officials and agencies to “immediately take action” does not include any specific details of how to implement the requirement. Neither does it specify how strictly and by whom mask wearing will be monitored.
How the Federal Mask Mandates Will Change Our Lives
Throughout the pandemic, there have been plenty of calls for mask mandates, but the previous President administration never mandated masks all together. For some, Biden’s mandates may seem like a new, stricter rule obliging everyone to wear masks indoors as well as outdoors.
‘What these mandates do is that they require people to wear masks when they are on federal property land, such as the Statue of Liberty in New York, or when entering federal agency buildings’, says Dr. Mark Graber, Constitutional Law Professor of Maryland Law School in his interview with PIX11 News.
But in general, the new adopted Federal mask mandates do not change anything in the states with mask mandates already endorsed.
When asked specifically about whether masks will be mandatory at National Parks, the representatives from Biden administration said that the parks overseeing agencies will be responsible for such decisions.
Do Federal Mask Mandates Work?
At this point, the nation does not have enough vaccine doses for everybody. Lockdowns make adverse impact on businesses and are impossible to sustain for a prolonged period. The only public health measure that remains available to most people is face masks. Besides, scientific studies show the effectiveness of mask wearing against COVID-19 transmission which means the mandates can work.
Mask Mandates in Other Countries
The first two countries that adopted federal mask mandates were Vietnam and the Czech Republic and the COVID-19 fatality rate is low in these countries (1.8% in Vietnam, and 2.8% in the Czech Republic). Yet, there are also countries that do not have federal mask mandates, such as Brazil, Finland, and Norway, where mask wearing is more of a recommendation rather than a rule that everyone should obey.
Mask wearing is required by the World Health Organization, which means that all countries of the world ideally should follow this rule. In countries, like Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and Argentina, 95% of the population follows the mask wearing rule.
In Germany, new regulations require people to wear either N95, KN95, or FFP2 masks in public transportations. France officials discourage people from wearing cloth masks calling them inefficient against COVID-19.
Face Masks Crucial for Coronavirus Prevention
Sufficient number of evidence shows that face masks are effective against the spread of COVID-19. So, masks continue to be the most cost-effective medical tool that can save hundreds of lives. Besides, they do not have side effects as compared to drugs and vaccines.