As cases of the COVID-19 Delta variant continue to rise, the federal government is stressing the importance of wearing a mask to slow the spread of the virus.
In general, masks continued to be required for people traveling in buses and motorcoaches, whether on fixed routes, as part of charter operations or on school buses.
During a recent United Motorcoach Association Town Hall, representatives from Transportation Security Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration answered operators’ questions about the current federal mask mandate.
Both agencies are operating under President Biden’s Executive Order 13998. Along with the Executive Order, the Department of Homeland Security issued a National Emergency determination. TSA is also following the Center for Disease Control emergency order. FMCSA is following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
Loretta Bitner, FMCSA’s Chief of Commercial Passenger Carrier Safety, said that by following CDC guidelines, FMCSA’s masking requirements go beyond the TSA requirements in terms of types of passenger vehicles that must follow the CDC guidelines.
“So currently in addition to the directive from TSA, which covers the fixed route carriers, the CDC order includes all passengers and all personnel operating conveyances. That includes charter operations and the school bus operations,” Bitner said.
David Cooper, TSA Industry Engagement Manager, added that there are indications that the TSA mask mandate will be extended beyond September 13. The mandate has already been extended once.
“More than likely, based on what we’re seeing in the numbers (of cases),” said Cooper. “This is going to be driven by CDC, and in coordination within the US government as a whole.”
Both Bitner and Cooper encouraged operators to check the CDC website frequently for the most current information regarding mask requirements.
Cooper invited operators with specific questions about the CDC guidance regarding the mask order and transportation, or the TSA security directive, to email TSA-Surface@tsa.dhs.gov,
“We will get you an answer, regardless of what you’re asking about the mask requirements,” Cooper said.