Biden’s mask mandate: Transportation officials weigh options to implement Biden’s new requirement for passengers


The general rulemaking process can take months, at least, to complete, so officials are supposedly considering emergency actions that may come into force very soon. Biden on Thursday signed an executive order mandating interstate travelers to wear a mask, and on his first day in office, he challenged Americans to wear masks for 100 days to reduce the spread of coronovirus.

Sources said the executive is considering enforcement measures for the order such as civil penalties for air passengers from the Federal Aviation Administration, a comprehensive order from the Department of Transportation that applies to multiple modes of transit, and a Transportation Security Administration Instructions, sources said. He spoke on condition of anonymity to describe sensitive and preliminary discussions between agency officials and the transport industry.

Several individuals described the conversation as preliminary and noted that it was possible that the attitudes of each agency could have changed.

One possible outcome is a rash of measures from various agencies that oversee various types of travel such as trains, buses, airplanes, public transport, and wharf regulations. In addition to the FAA, the Department of Transportation includes the Federal Railroad Administration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which oversees the trains, and the Federal Transit Administration, which oversees the transit system. The Coast Guard controls the yacht security.

Federal action could provide greater stability and more stringent penalties, and Biden instructed several federal agencies to “take immediate action.”

Currently the facade requirements are governed by the order of the local government, which regulates terminals and airports, as well as rules from individual companies and operators outlining the conduct of passengers.

The project comes as Biden’s administration is still taking shape. The candidates heading the Departments of Transport, Labor, Homeland Security and Health have not yet been confirmed by the Senate. The man named for Pete Buttig, the Secretary of Transportation, testified at his confirmation hearing that once he assumed office, he would like to see “all concerned officials” enforce the wearing of the mask. Some agencies are currently headed by senior career officers, and the administration’s flatter policy officers are just settling into their new jobs.

Possible penalty

According to the sources in question, an approach is being implemented under consideration of FAA wearing a mask with civil penalties against passengers under consideration or noncompliance. Initial negotiations considered fines of up to $ 20,000, all of which were preliminary, according to a source familiar with the discussions. Another source said the agency’s lawyers were working on the issue. Two sources said the FAA could operate within about two weeks.

The FAA policy may be accompanied by a formal or informal recommendation that airlines include façade rules in prior flight safety directives and demonstrations by flight attendants, according to sources.

At the same time, the Department of Transportation considers issuing a facade directive that would apply to multiple modes of transport according to two sources. It is not clear what form of DOT can be used and when it can be effective.

Two sources familiar with the matter said on Sunday that the Transportation Security Administration was in contact with industry officials as it considers how to act.

Spokespeople for the FAA and DOT declined to comment and sent CNN to the White House to comment on the plans. The White House did not comment when contacted by CNN.

The TSA told CNN in a statement that it “together with the security partners (ie, airports, airlines) of the DOT, FAA, CDC and TSA, the agency is finding out that the president’s travel order for passengers to wear masks Can work collaboratively to implement. In airports, on planes, trains, ferries, intercity buses, mass transit and passenger rail systems. ”

Industry wants action

In the industry, there is an appetite for action. Flight attendants and other transport workers find themselves in the front row as they become rowdy and even violent in some cases in a tense situation when a passenger unravels.

US airlines, representing the largest US carriers, said on several occasions that it supported the federal mandate. It has asked the administration to limit the scope of an order to passengers only, citing other requirements for crew members.

The National Air Carrier Association, whose members include Spirit Airlines and Allegiant Air, said on Friday that the upcoming rules “ensure the safety of passengers, crew and people working at airports and any uncertainty about the mask” Is an important and long-lasting step to eliminate. ” Requirements in commercial aviation. ”

The Association of Flight Attendants, a union that urged the Trump administration to act last spring, is said to be “vitally important” in the cabin “where proper social distancing is not an option.”

FAA Administrator Steve Dixon, who is a Trump nominee, has served a five-year term, saying he believes travelers should wear face masks, but not required at first.

He recently signed an order to FAA officials to clamp down on passengers not following flight attendant’s instructions and are disruptive to the flight, including not following the airline’s rule for wearing masks. The agency has mentioned that it can recover passengers as much as $ 35,000 for some violations.

The amount of the FAA’s fine can be levied for various violations in the agency’s guidelines. The alleged violators may be able to negotiate a lesser amount.

The most recent version of the guidelines – revised earlier this year – is “a) imminent threat to the collective safety of aircraft or other persons (” a) imminent danger, for a passenger between $ 10,000 and $ 20,000. Does fine. ”

CNN’s Nikki Carvajal contributed to this report.

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