- President Biden’s “100 Day Masking Challenge” order is in effect, with mask use and social distancing required in all federal buildings and on all federal land.
- The face mask mandate was Biden’s first executive order after the inauguration, symbolizing his commitment to making the coronavirus pandemic his administration’s top priority.
- The Biden administration will also issue an order covering mask mandates in airports and on public transportation, including airplanes, many trains, and intercity buses.
As soon as he took office on Wednesday, President Biden signed his first executive order on face masks, making face coverings mandatory from now on in a number of situations. However, the “100 Days Masking Challenge” order only covers federal property, so it’s not a universal mask mandate. Health officials like Dr. Anthony Fauci have been advising people to wear masks at all times when in the presence of others to reduce the spread of COVID-19. But many people continue to oppose face mask use for various reasons. Trump was reluctant to use face masks himself and ended up catching COVID-19 after attending what’s now believed to have been a superspreader event at the White House in mid-September.
Biden might not be able to force states to implement mask mandates, but his order will cover all federal offices and federal land. Biden also plans to implement mask mandates on airplanes and other means of public transportation.
Addressing the first order, Biden’s counselor Jeff Zients told CNN that the “executive action will direct the agencies to take action to require compliance with CDC guidance on mask-wearing and physical distancing in federal buildings, on federal lands, and by federal employees and contractors.”
Zients, who will be the administration’s COVID-19 response coordinator, added that “the president will call on governors, public health officials, mayors, business leaders, and others to implement masking, physical distancing and other public measures to control COVID-19.”
He added, “This is not a political statement. This is about the health of our families and economic recovery of our country.”
Biden said that the coronavirus crisis is a top priority and he plans to implement additional measures to combat the pandemic. This includes abandoning Trump’s move to withdraw the United States from the World Health Organization and restoring the National Security Council’s Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense that was disbanded in 2018.
On Thursday, the Biden administration will also issue a mask mandate for flights, trains, and busses. Per USA Today, White House officials have said the order will require people to wear masks in airports and on certain forms of public transportation, including airplanes, many trains, and intercity buses. It’s unclear when the order will take effect, what the term “many” covers, or how the order will be enforced.
Airlines already require face masks on planes, and people who fail to comply are often escorted off of the aircraft and banned from flying. USA Today reports that nearly 3,000 passengers have been banned from flying with various airlines so far. That figure does not even include bans issued by American and Southwest, the country’s two largest airlines.