The U.S. Department of Transport (DOT) is to distribute 100 million face masks to airports and other mass transit hubs across the United States, the agency announced on Friday. The bulk – some 86.8 million masks – will be despatched to the nations airports to protect passengers from the novel Coronavirus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended the use of cloth face coverings since April in environments where it is difficult to maintain social distancing – such as in airports, on planes and on other public transport like busses and trains. Many airlines and some airports have also announced policies that make wearing a face mask mandatory but the FAA has declined to make rules to enforce these policies onboard aircraft.
“This Administration is committed to protecting our people and reopening the economy, commented Elaine L. Chao, the US Transport Secretary. “Distributing these facial coverings will help boost public confidence as we begin to resume our normal lives,” she continued.
The cloth face coverings have been secured by FEMA, explained Chao. Supplies will be distributed via the US Postal Service over the coming weeks.
In a statement, the DOT said it would still be up to passengers to bring their own masks to airports or on planes where mandatory wearing policies had been implemented.
“Passengers are still responsible for having their own facial covering per existing guidance from airlines, airports, transit agencies, and passenger rail authorities. The cloth facial coverings announced today are intended to be supplemental. Availability at these locations is not guaranteed,” the DOT statement cautioned.
A group of lawmakers, flight attendants and pilots have urged the DOT to go further by making temporary legally enforceable rules for the wearing of face masks on planes. Flight attendants have been told they cannot force someone to wear a mask if they refuse but must instead try to negotiate with non-compliant passengers.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.