Starting tonight, if you're taking any form of public transportation, you'd better be wearing a mask.
Last Friday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a sweeping face mask order: Beginning at 11:59 p.m. EST February 1, all travelers, age 2 and up, must wear masks on all forms of public transportation, including airplanes, subways, ships, trains, ferries, buses, taxis, and ride-shares—yes, that means you must mask up in your Uber. The order includes the hubs of transportation, too, like airports and train stations.
According to the order, masks can be manufactured or homemade, but "should be made with two or more layers of a breathable fabric that is tightly woven." Gaiters can be worn, so long as they have two layers, but scarves, ski masks, balaclavas, bandannas, shirt collars pulled over the mouth, masks with punctures or vents, and vinyl or leather masks (seriously, how can you breath?) do not count.
Mayor Sylvester Turner said in a press conference Monday afternoon that the federal order will be enforced here in Houston, i.e. if you're not wearing a mask at George Bush IAH or Hobby, you'll be escorted out by airport security.
While discussing the order, Houston's chief medical officer, Dr. David Persse, explained, once again, how to properly wear a mask: "The mask goes over the nose and the mouth, not just the mouth," he said. Face shields do almost nothing, he said, but protect you from spittle, so you should still wear a mask under a clear shield.
The only people who do not need to wear a mask are children under the age of 2, and people who are incapacitated or unconscious, or would be unable to remove a mask themselves. "If you have a history of asthma," said Persse, in a tone like he was scolding school children (how many times have you seen someone with a mask hanging below their nose at the grocery store and cringed?), "that does not mean you do not have to wear a mask."
The CDC's mandate comes on the heels of President Joe Biden's January 20 executive order that government agencies move quickly in issuing mask mandates on federal property and for travelers. In his first two days in office, Biden signed a slew of executive orders regarding the Covid-19 pandemic, including ramping up testing, increasing PPE and vaccine production, and encouraging mask wearing for the first 100 days of his presidency.
Read the full CDC mandate here.