Across Virginia and the U.S., the new CDC guidelines take effect at 11:59 p.m.
RICHMOND-As of midnight on Feb. 2, a new mask mandate takes effect. Over the weekend, the Centers for Disease Control issued an order that clarifies what is and isn’t allowed on all public transit.
That includes all types of public transportation across Virginia, everything from the Fairfax Connector to the Farmville Area Bus. Specifically, the mask mandates cover all mass transit, taxis and trains, along with airplanes for anyone planning to fly. And yes, it also includes Uber, Lyft, Via, Gett and all other ride-sharing services that are still operating. In a few parts of Virginia, ride-sharing’s been banned until the pandemic is over. Subways like the DC Metro also fall under this rule.
“[People] must wear masks over the mouth and nose when traveling on [public transit] into and within the United States,” the order says. “[People] must also wear masks at transportation hubs as defined in this order.”
It also states all people onboard the airplane, bus or train must keep their mask on for the entire trip. That includes when you get on and when you arrive at your destination.
If you don’t follow these rules, you can’t take the trip. The order is pretty clear on that. Only people wearing masks will be allowed to board. And yes, that includes even people who already bought airline tickets. No mask means no seat.
The goal here, the order states, is to prevent “the further introduction, transmission and spread of COVID-19.” It comes as a result of an executive order President Joe Biden signed Jan. 21, ordering agencies to put mask mandates in place.
A Couple of Exceptions
There are a few exceptions to the rule. For example, you’re allowed to remove the mask to eat, drink and take medicine, just as you would in a restaurant. You can also take it off if you’re speaking to someone who’s deaf.
Children under the age of 2 don’t have to follow the rule. Neither does anyone with a disability that prevents them from wearing a mask safely. But let’s be clear: you can’t just walk up and declare that you have a disability. It has to be one clearly defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act, with a note detailing the issue.
As for your own car, truck or SUV, this doesn’t apply there either. Nobody’s going to pull you over for not wearing a mask while driving home from work.
The new rules come as Virginia deals with a new strain of the COVID-19 virus. On January 25, the Virginia Health Department warned an adult resident of Northern Virginia tested positive for the B.1.1.7 variant, first found in the United Kingdom.
The United Kingdom’s science advisory group released a report Jan. 22, warning that the strain could cause some serious problems.
“There is evidence from analysis of Pillar 2 testing data linked to COVID-19 deaths that infection with B1.1.7 is associated with an increased case fatality rate,” the report says. “The relative increase appears to be apparent across age groups.”
Brian Carlton is Dogwood’s managing editor. You can reach him at [email protected].