Federal mask mandate goes into effect for trains, planes and public transit — and riders tend to support it

Coronavirus

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — If it rolls, flies or floats and the public rides it, passengers must wear face coverings. That’s the gist of President Biden’s new executive order — effective Tuesday morning — intended to slow the pandemic that has already killed more than 440,000 Americans.

Trains, planes and transit buses — along with all federal buildings — are now mandatory masks zones. And everyone I talked to about the new order said it was a good idea.

“Because you protect people,” said Melanie Menendez, who was taking Amtrak from Los Angeles to Modesto. “It’s a way to be clean and healthy when you’re in transportation, you know?”

Masks have already been required, or at least strongly recommended, on most forms of transit, as well as retails stores and many offices, but the federal order gives state and other requirements some teeth. Janet Sanders of Golden Empire Transit says that’s the case with GET.

“Some people followed those rules and some people don’t,” Sanders said. “Now we’ll be able to enforce it and we’ll disembark them if they refuse to wear their masks.”

One woman told me off camera that it wasn’t fair to require face coverings for low income riders who may not be able to afford or even locate a mask amid this mask shortage.

Wrong on both counts.

Public transit systems, including the GET bus system, are providing free masks to any rider who doesn’t have one. And as anyone who’s been in a story in the last six months can tell you, there is no mask shortage. Vaccines perhaps, face coverings no.

Skywest flight attendant Tonya Manzo, going through TSA screening at Meadows Field, said some passengers have put up a fuss but, to her, the rule makes sense nonetheless.

“It’s something that is necessary,” she said.”I’m not a clinician, but I know that these mandates were created for our passengers’ safety, our crews’ safety.”

The near-unanimous verdict among those I talked to, on camera and off: What’s the big deal?

It comes down to this: Wear a mask on the bus, on the plane, on the train, or get off.

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