Cue the federal mask cops. Americans are now required to wear masks in planes, trains, buses, subways, taxis, car services, boats, and transportation hubs, per a new order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that took effect today. Masks must be of a style approved by the federal government and must fit properly. Failure to comply will result in being prohibited from traveling, booted from the transit in question, and potential criminal penalties.
The order will be enforced by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents and "other federal authorities," as well as state and local officials. "To the extent permitted by law
federal agencies are required to implement additional measures enforcing the provisions of this Order," the CDC says.
"CDC reserves the right to enforce through criminal penalties," the agency adds, though it claims not to intend "to rely primarily on these criminal penalties." The feds may also implement "additional civil measures enforcing the provisions" of the order (which "is not a rule within the meaning of the Administrative Procedure Act," the CDC notes, "but rather is an emergency action").
Creating a vast network of law enforcement officials empowered to enforce these mask rules will of course provide a handy new excuse for monitoring and surveilling citizens.
Meanwhile, deputizing federal agents, state authorities, and local cops to enforce transit mask rules will open up all sorts of new police harassment and abuse opportunities.
Only targeting people without masks might not seem to leave a lot of room for discriminatory enforcement. But the CDC order doesn't just stop at people not wearing masks. In fact, it leaves a lot up to officials' discretion.
For instance, travelers can take masks off while eating, drinking, or taking medication leaving room for a lot of individual judgments in how long it's reasonable or appropriate to remove a mask for during these activities, as well as misinterpretation in whether someone is allowed to have a mask on or off at a given moment.
The CDC order also says it's not enough to simply wear a maskit has to be a certain kind of mask. It can't be a bandana, scarf, ski mask, or balaclava. It can't fit too loosely or too tightly. It can't contain an exhalation valve or be made from knitted fabrics, leather, plastic, or vinyl.
Again, that leaves a lot of room for authorities to choose who they target for enforcement.
"The CDC rule came just over a week after Biden's executive order, which already mandated masks on certain modes of public transportation including planes and trains, and it mandated masks on federal property," notes The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The new CDC rules apply to any passengers, operators, or staff of any "aircraft, train, road vehicle, vessel
or other means of transport," including "rideshares meaning arrangements where passengers travel in a privately owned road vehicle driven by its owner in connection with a fee or service." The order also applies "on the premises of a transportation hub," defined as "any airport, bus terminal, marina, seaport or other port, subway station, terminal (including any fixed facility at which passengers are picked-up or discharged), train station, U.S. port of entry, or any other location that provides transportation subject to the jurisdiction of the United States."
Kids under two years old, people with disabilities that disallow them from wearing masks, and people for whom "wearing a mask would create a risk to workplace health, safety, or job duty" are exempted.