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Biden’s mask mandate: Transport officials assess options to impose Biden’s new requirements on passengers

The normal rule-making process can take at least months to complete, so officials are thought to be considering urgent action that could take effect much earlier. On Thursday, Biden signed an executive order requiring travelers between countries to wear a mask, and on his first day in office, he challenged Americans to wear masks for 100 days to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

The agencies are considering enforcement measures, such as civil sanctions for air passengers from the Federal Aviation Administration, a broader order from the Ministry of Transport applicable to many modes of transit, and a transport security directive, sources said. They spoke on condition of anonymity to describe sensitive and initial discussions between the agency̵

7;s employees and the transport industry.

Several people described the talks as preliminary and noted that each agency’s approach could change.

A possible result is a set of measures from different agencies that control the rules for different types of travel, such as trains, buses, planes, public transport and ferries. In addition to the FAA, the Transport Department includes the Federal Railway Administration, which monitors trains, the Federal Road Safety Administration, which controls buses, and the Federal Transit Administration, which is involved in overseeing the transit system. The Coast Guard regulates the safety of the ferry.

Federal action could provide greater consistency and tougher penalties, and Biden has ordered a number of federal agencies to “take immediate action.”

At present, the requirements for masks derive from the orders of local authorities regulating terminals and airports, plus the rules of individual companies and operators outlining the behavior of passengers.

The project is coming as the Biden administration is still being formed. The nominees for heads of the ministries of transport, labor, national security and health have not yet been confirmed by the Senate. Secretary of Transport nominee Pete Buttigig testified during his confirmation hearing that after taking office, he wanted to examine “all relevant authorities” in order to require a mask to be worn. At present, some agencies are run by senior career officials, and the administration’s elected political officials simply settle into their new jobs.

Possible fines

One of the approaches considered is the imposition of masks with civil penalties, which the FAA is allowed to assess against violators or non-compliant passengers, according to one of the sources familiar with the discussions. An early conversation involved considering fines of up to $ 20,000, according to one of the sources familiar with the discussions, who stressed that everything was in advance. Lawyers for the agencies are working on the issue, another source said. Two sources said the FAA could act within approximately two weeks.

FAA policy may be accompanied by a formal or informal recommendation that airlines include the mask rule in pre-flight safety instructions and demonstrations conducted by flight attendants, according to one source.

At the same time, it is alleged that the Ministry of Transport is considering issuing a mask directive to apply to many modes of transport, according to two sources. It is not clear what form of action DOT can use and when it can take effect.

Two sources familiar with the matter said on Sunday that the Transport Security Administration has been in contact with industry representatives as it considers how to act.

FAA and DOT spokesmen declined to comment and sent CNN to the White House to comment on the plans. The White House did not comment when it contacted CNN.

TSA told CNN in a statement that it is “exploring how the agency, along with security partners DOT, FAA, CDC and TSA (ie airports, airlines), can work together to enforce the president’s travel order for passengers. to wear masks while at airports, planes, trains, ferries, intercity buses, mass transit and passenger rail systems. ”

The industry wants action

There is an appetite for action in the industry. Stewardesses and other transport staff are on the front lines, as tense situations in some cases become noisy and even violent when a passenger refuses to disguise himself.

American airlines, representing the largest carriers in the United States, have repeatedly stated that they support a federal mandate. He asked the administration to limit the scope of the contract to passengers only, citing other requirements for crew members.

The National Airlines Association, of which Spirit Airlines and Allegiant Air are members, said on Friday that the forthcoming rules were “a critical and long overdue step to ensure the safety of passengers, crew and airport workers and to remove any uncertainty about regarding the mask requirements in commercial aviation. ”

The Stewardess Association, a union that called on the Trump administration to act last spring, called the masks “vital” in the cabin, “where proper social distancing is not an option.”

FAA Administrator Steve Dixon, a five-year-old Trump candidate for Trump, said he believed passengers should wear face masks, but had not previously demanded so.

He recently signed an order ordering FAA officials to crack down on passengers who do not follow flight attendant instructions and interfere with flights, including disobeying airline rules. The agency notes that it can fine passengers up to $ 35,000 for certain violations.

The amounts of fines that the FAA may impose for various violations are set out in the agency’s guidelines. Alleged violators may be able to negotiate up to a lower amount.

The latest version of the guidelines – amended earlier this year – provides for a fine of between $ 10,000 and $ 20,000 for a passenger who “poses an (immediate) threat to the safety of (aircraft) or the collective safety of others.” ”

CNN’s Nikki Carvajal contributed to this report.

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