LIVE: Biden Ramps Up Covid Fight With Orders Nixing Trump Policies

(Jan. 21) President Joe Biden will push for additional travel safety during the coronavirus pandemic by requiring people to wear masks in airports and on planes while enforcing quarantines for people who arrive in the U.S. from other countries.

In an executive order he will issue Thursday, his second day in office, Biden will codify an action by former President Donald Trump on Jan. 12 to require a negative Covid-19 test before flying to the U.S. from other nations, according to a Biden administration fact sheet. The order will be coupled with one requiring masks on federal properties that was signed by Biden on Wednesday.

The language of the orders hadn’t been released so it’s difficult to assess how the various provisions will be enforced. All U.S. carriers have some kind of requirement that passengers cover their faces, as do many airports and transit systems.

But the federal mask requirement could put teeth into policies now written and enforced by the airlines, which have limited remedies, such as refusing to allow customers to board future flights.

And it will go beyond airplanes. According to the Biden fact sheet, the administration will require “mask-wearing in airports, on certain modes of public transportation, including many trains, airplanes, maritime vessels, and intercity buses.”

While evidence on the risks of flying during the pandemic varies, there is broad consensus that wearing a tight face covering can significantly reduce the risks of transmitting the Covid-19 virus.

One of the actions with the highest potential impact is a requirement that people arriving in the U.S. from other nations adhere to what have previously been unenforced quarantine guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC suggests international travelers get a second test for the virus within three to five days after arrival and that they stay at home or in isolation for seven days — even if the test is negative. For people who don’t get tested, it’s safest to isolate for 10 days, the CDC says.

Similar restrictions in the U.K. have reduced travel and have been opposed by airlines and others in the travel industry, who have said aggressive testing should be enough to slow spread of the disease.

“The Executive Order also calls for the consideration of additional public health measures in domestic travel,” according to the Biden fact sheet.

Adherence to the airline mask requirements have at times been spotty, and there are exceptions for when passengers must eat and drink. Aside from persuasion, the only tool for airlines if passengers refuse is to prohibit them from taking the flight.

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