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Biden Administration Mandate Requires All Travelers To Wear Masks

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

A federal mandate from the Biden administration now requires everyone traveling within the U.S. to wear a mask. In some ways, that's nothing new. Since last spring, airlines individually ruled that passengers have to mask up. And many local governments did the same for buses and subways.

SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

The mandate makes those rules the same across the board. And some in the transportation industry say that's not only a comfort, but a lifesaver.

JOHN COSTA: Unfortunately, it wasn't a federal guideline in the beginning. And I believe, if it was, we would've saved a lot of lives. I've lost, as of today, 126 of my members.

PFEIFFER: That's John Costa, international president for the Amalgamated Transportation Union, which represents transportation workers around the country.

COSTA: My members did not sign up to die on these jobs. This wasn't part of the agreement.

PFEIFFER: Costa hopes the mandate will make it easier for bus drivers to focus on safe driving rather than arguing with riders about masks.

MARTIN: Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, is hopeful the rule will make flying safer, too.

SARA NELSON: When you're on the plane and you're trying to enforce these things, it can very quickly become a conflict. And we had flight attendants who were assaulted or other conflicts between passengers on board. And it was putting everyone at risk.

MARTIN: Her union represents 50,000 flight attendants at 17 different airlines. She says federal backing will make their jobs easier.

NELSON: Because we are able to say, this is not just an airline policy and have people sort of complain about the rules of the airline. This is a federal mandate.

PFEIFFER: Costa, the transportation union president, is pleading with passengers to follow the rule.

COSTA: Wear a mask, please. You know, just have respect for the other riders on that bus and the operator on that bus. You know, he wants to go home. And he doesn't want to wind up like the other casualties we've had.

PFEIFFER: Even if you're just waiting to board a plane, train, subway or bus, you must have a mask on.

(SOUNDBITE OF LEGENDARY SKIES' "PETRA") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.