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In the USA, the rules for wearing masks have been tightened: what you need to know

On February 2, 2021, a law came into force in the United States requiring travelers to wear masks when using all types of transport: airplanes, trains, buses and taxis, recalls The points guy.

Photo: Shutterstock

Previously, all US airlines required some type of facial coverage, and anyone who refused to comply could get a temporary or permanent ban from flying. Now the stakes are even higher - bans are still in place, but more severe penalties may apply, including huge fines.

While the new federal mandate means airlines are now better equipped to deal with violations, it also opens up the possibility for some travelers to request an exemption from wearing a mask if they are people with a disability that prevents them from wearing it safely.

However, this is not a loophole that suddenly gives travelers the opportunity to state that they do not feel comfortable wearing a mask or that they find it difficult to breathe through a piece of fabric. Here's what the TSA reports:

“This is a minor exception for people with disabilities who cannot wear a mask for reasons related to disability. HFor example, those who: do not understand how to take off the mask due to cognitive impairment; cannot remove the mask on its own due to dexterity / mobility impairments; unable to quickly contact someone and ask to take off the mask due to speech impairment or speech disorders; unable to wear a mask because it would interfere with assistive devices / technologies. The exception does not apply to persons for whom wearing a mask is only difficult. The CDC intends to issue additional instructions on this exemption. "

For now, the CDC simply points out that an exception could be made for “a person with a disability who cannot wear a mask or cannot safely wear a mask for reasons related to disability,” although airlines are likely to offer a much narrower interpretation.

American Airlines, for example, has released updated instructions for passengers on who can be exempted from wearing a mask: “American will ask customers with disabilities who cannot wear a mask to notify the airline's special assistance team at least 72 hours before departure. Exemption from wearing a mask will require documentation from a licensed healthcare provider, as well as confirmation of a negative COVID-19 test result taken within three calendar days prior to departure, or confirmation of recovery from COVID-19. "

In addition, the company further limited the list of acceptable face covers, noting that bandanas and neckerchiefs are no longer acceptable. All travelers must comply with CDC mask requirements. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers the following wearing options to be violations:

  • masks that are worn so as not to cover the mouth and nose;
  • face shields or goggles (they cannot be considered a replacement for a mask, but can be used as a supplement to a mask);
  • scarves, ski masks, balaclavas or bandanas;
  • shirt or sweater collars (such as turtleneck collars) pulled over the mouth and nose;
  • masks made of loose fabric or knitted (light-transmitting fabrics);
  • Masks made from materials that are difficult to breathe (such as vinyl, plastic, or leather)
  • masks with slits, exhalation valves or punctures;
  • masks not fitting properly to the face (large gaps, too loose or too tight).

These requirements also apply to travel by other means of transport.

Delta will also allow passengers with disabilities to fly without a mask, but only in certain situations. The airline strongly discourages customers from traveling if they cannot wear a mask, although it does allow exceptions.

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United Airlines shared a note with employees stating that in very limited cases, customers may be allowed to travel without a mask: “Emergencies are thoroughly vetted by a team of experts, including internal and external healthcare professionals, legal and security professionals, and go through a rigorous approval process. From time to time, customers contact United before departure or at the airport to discuss rare, delicate situations that might free them from our requirement for masks on board. ”

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