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What you need to know about new CDC travel guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic

What you need to know about new CDC travel guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a federal mandate requiring people to wear masks on all forms of public transportation in the United States, as COVID-19 cases continue to surge. The new order—which went into effect today, February 2, 2021—requires that every person over the age of two wears a cloth face mask while traveling or in transportation hubs, like airports or train stations.

“CDC recommends that non-essential travel be avoided; however, for those who must travel, additional measures are being put in place to help prevent the spread of the virus,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH, explains. “Masks are most likely to reduce the spread of COVID-19 when all people in public settings widely and consistently use them.”

This action aims to prevent further the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 and further support state and local health authorities, transportation partners, and conveyance operators to keep passengers, employees, and communities safe.

Today’s order from CDC is part of a comprehensive, science-driven, U.S. government response to the COVID-19 pandemic. One component of the whole-of-government response is taking actions related to reducing virus spread through travel.  Transmission of the virus through travel has led to—and continues to lead to—interstate and international spread of the virus.

“America’s transportation systems are essential,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH.  “Given how interconnected most transportation systems are across our nation and the world when infected persons travel on public conveyances without wearing a mask and with others who are not wearing masks, the risk of interstate and international transmission can grow quickly.”

Traveling on public transportation increases a person’s risk of getting and spreading COVID-19 by bringing people in close contact with others, often for prolonged periods, and exposing them to frequently touched surfaces. Face masks help prevent people who have COVID-19, including those who are pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic, from spreading the virus to others. Masks also help protect the wearer by reducing the chance they will breathe in respiratory droplets carrying the virus.

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“CDC recommends that non-essential travel be avoided; however, for those who must travel, additional measures are being put in place to help prevent the spread of the virus,” said Dr. Walensky.  “Masks are most likely to reduce the spread of COVID-19 when all people in public settings widely and consistently use them.”

For more information on the Order or to view frequently asked questions, visit: https://www.cdc.gov/quarantine/masks/mask-travel-guidance.html.

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