By Nissa Shaffi, NCL Associate Director of Health Policy
On January 20, just hours following a historic inauguration, President Biden signed an Executive Order (EO) requiring mask-wearing on federal property and inside airports, planes, trains, ships, and intercity buses. Effective immediately, refusing to wear a mask in these locations will now be considered a federal offense. The President also called on governors and local health officials to encourage mask-wearing and social distancing. This comes as especially good news for airlines and their employees, as they now have a federal rule protecting them from passengers who refuse to wear masks inflight, in turn ensuring everyone’s safety.
The EO is the latest of many efforts to halt the spread of COVID-19 by influencing behavior around this necessary public health measure. The mandate to require mask-wearing is also poised to complement President Biden’s call to action for the American public to commit to 100 days of mask-wearing, during the early days of his presidency. Epidemiologists agree that concerted efforts towards pandemic-related precautions can significantly reduce COVID-19 cases in the country, providing much-needed relief for health care facilities currently operating beyond maximum capacity.
Over the course of the pandemic, mask-wearing has unfortunately morphed into a highly polarizing political issue. More than 405,000 Americans have perished in the last year, and irresponsible behavior, such as a stubbornness towards wearing masks, will only further exacerbate the crisis. There are many contributing factors behind this phenomenon, but a lot of it distills down to misinformation and propaganda.
The bottom line is that masks save lives and are powerful tools in preventing the spread of COVID-19. They should be worn to protect the wearer, as well as those they come into contact with. The EO mandating the use of masks is a great step in encouraging civic responsibility in containing the virus. As we forge ahead in our persistence against the coronavirus, consumers are encouraged to maintain adherence to federal health guidance pertaining to physical distancing, the usage of masks, and other public health measures.