Starting February 1, which happens to be National Baked Alaska Day, at 11:59 pm, you will be required to wear a face mask if you are taking any kind of public transportation. That includes riding in or operating airplanes, ships, ferries, trains, subways, buses, taxis, ride shares, or llama caravans that serve the public. That’s by virtue of a new order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
Why did the CDC issue such an order on January 29? To restrict your freedoms? To make a political statement? To see how sexy you look when your mouth and nose are covered? To target you for those space lasers in the sky?
Nope. The goal is to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus, which is real and not spectacular. The U.S. is caught in the worst part of the pandemic to date, with over 150,000 new reported Covid-19 cases a day, according to the New York Times. Already, at least 436,780 have perished from Covid-19. Face coverings can block infected people from spewing the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV2) out of their noses and mouths. But for some reason there are still many people in the U.S. who don’t believe in helping each other via the simple act of covering their noses and mouths while in public areas where people may be in close proximity.
As the Order indicates, “conveyance operators must use best efforts to ensure that any person on the conveyance wear a mask when boarding, disembarking, and for the duration of travel.” If you are wondering what the heck a conveyance is, dictionary.com offers three definitions. The first begins with “the act of conveying,” which is sort of like defining “underwear” as “something that you wear under.” The second definition is a little more germane to this situation: “a means of transporting, especially a vehicle, as a bus, airplane, or automobile.” Therefore, a conveyance operator will include any driver, conductor, or crew member involved in the running of a public transport vehicle. Those who operate transport hubs such as airports, bus or ferry terminals, train or subway stations, seaports, and various ports of entry will have to make best efforts too. So if Up in the Air were set in the pandemic, that George Clooney character and everyone around him in the airport and airplane would have been wearing a face mask. Actually, make that face masks, plural. Multiple people should not try to wear one face mask.
What are “best efforts” in the words of the CDC order? Well, one is boarding only those who are wearing face masks at the time. Don’t listen to people claiming that their face mask is in their jacket pocket or in their pants. Never rely on what people claim is in their pants.
Two is instructing those who refuse to wear a face mask are violating Federal law. the CDC order is no longer just a recommendation or a suggestion. There are now consequences and teeth behind what the CDC is saying. The difference between recommending something (e.g., it’s not recommended to show up to a date dressed like a cat) and requiring something (e.g., you must wear clothes in a public place on a date) is huge.
Three is making sure that people continue to wear masks while on the conveyance. Face masks are not like a hat or feelings. They are more like underwear. Don’t change them while on the bus, airplane, or train.
Four is removing people who do not comply with face mask wearing from the conveyance. Of course, it is a good idea to stop the train, bus, airplane, or other conveyance before having the person disembark. Don’t have the anti-masker sit on the wing during a flight.
Finally, the conveyance operators should do their best to warn potential riders of this face mask requirement in advance. That can include sending emails or other warnings to passengers when they order tickets in advance and posting signs in very visible locations. Plastering “you aren’t a crab, don’t be selfish, wear a bleeping face mask,” all over the airport or train station won’t allow any riders to say, “oh, no one told me about this requirement.”
So what constitutes wearing a face mask? Well, wearing a Lone Ranger face mask won’t do, because that would not cover your nose and mouth. Neither would a bondage mask if it doesn’t completely cover your nose and mouth. Cloth masks should have at least two layers and consist of tightly woven fabric. Therefore, a fishnet mask would be about appropriate as a fishnet bathing suit during a job interview. A good test is trying to shine a light through the mask. If you can still clearly see the light, the mask is too holey so to speak. You should secure the mask to your head with ties, ear loops, or elastic bands. Gluing your mask to your face is a bad idea. Putting a face mask elsewhere like your neck, arm, or butt defeats the purpose and doesn’t make it a face mask anymore. The mask should fit snugly on your face. It’s not good to be too loose, meaning your mask and not your sexual practices. Oh, and make sure your mask doesn’t have slits, exhalation valves, or punctures. That would defeat the whole purpose.
The CDC also warned about face masks that do not fulfill the Order. This includes masks that do not really cover the mouth and nose such as face shields and goggles. Face shields can still allow enough particles that you exhale to pass under the shield. Also inadequate are scarves, ski masks, bandannas, and balaclavas. A balaclava is cloth headgear that exposes only part of your face, often your eyes and nose. It is not a layered filo pastry with chopped nuts and honey. That would be baklava. Wearing baklava on your face would not fulfill the CDC order as well.
Don’t try to pull your shirt or sweater collar over your mouth and nose and claim that you are wearing a face mask. You aren’t a turtle, and this won’t fit snugly enough over your nose and mouth to block potentially virus-laden droplets from coming out of your nose and pie hole.
Of course, you want to be able to breathe while wearing the mask. Therefore, the CDC warns against vinyl, plastic or leather masks. Using cement or a cinder block as a mask is a bad idea too.
The CDC does offer some exceptions to the Order. This includes people who are eating, drinking, or taking medications at the time. Trying to shove ziti through your mask into your mouth is a bad and futile idea. So it is reasonable to take your mask down momentarily to reach your mouth if you must. However, you may not even be allowed to eat or drink on the conveyance:
Don’t try to duck the Order by constantly eating during the trip either. For example, shoveling hot dogs into your mouth for half-an-hour straight could be problematic. This would be ingesting a lot of calories and not a very cool thing to do for the other passengers. The F train is not the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating contest.
Someone less than two years old would be exempt from the Order too. Not too many one-year-olds have been actively protesting face mask requirements on social media. That would be weird and adorable at the same time. Weirdorable. Nevertheless, getting an infant to wear a face mask and not eat it can be a challenge.
Some people may have a medical reason to not wear a face mask such as needing to wear an oxygen mask. This should be a real medical reason and not one concocted without the guidance of a physician. Oh, the mask may cause acne is not a real medical reason to not wear a face mask.
You can remove your mask if you need to communicate with someone who is hearing impaired or if a member of the Transportation Security Authority (TSA) asks you to do so to verify your identity. Unless you took your passport photo while wearing a face mask, which would be odd, a TSA member or other security or ticketing personnel may need to compare your ID photo with the actual bottom half of your face.
Also, don’t chastise a person for not wearing a face mask if the person is unconscious. First, find out why he or she is unconscious. Don’t simply ask, “why are you unconscious,” because that person wouldn’t be able to answer, which is what happens when you are unconscious. If you are the type of person who doesn’t want to help someone who has suddenly fallen unconscious, take your hand and slap yourself in your face. If you are holding a piece of baklava in your hand, put it down first. No one wants to waste a good piece of baklava.
So there you have it. Face masks are now required on public transit. Don’t waste your time trying to fight this new Order. We are all in the midst of a pandemic from a virus that continues to spread widely. Everyone needs to do their part to prevent further spread of the virus. If you really want to demonstrate to yourself your freedom to do what you want, stay at home, take off your clothes, put on a Viking hat, and cover your body in baklava. You are free to do what you want as long as you’re not hurting anyone else.
Trying to ride public transportation without a face mask could potentially be hurting others since you may not even know that you are infected with the virus. It used to be a recommendation to wear a face mask while riding public transit. But not enough people have been complying. Soon it will be an order.