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U.S. DOT rejects federal mask mandate on public transit

By Admin

Reported By Erik Bascome for SiLive.Com

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has rejected pleas from transit workers to require masks on all forms of public transportation.

On Friday, the DOT sent a letter to the Transportation Trades Department (TTD) of the AFL-CIO labor federation rejecting the union’s request from earlier this year to implement a mask mandate on all DOT-approved, commercial public transportation.

In the letter, the DOT referred to the proposed mandate as “unwarranted,” claiming that the department has already taken steps to education transportation agencies and encourage safe operating procedures.

The DOT also noted that many states and localities, like New York, have already implemented their own mask requirements on public transit.

“At this time, the Department’s view is that the measures discussed above, along with the ongoing efforts of key transportation stakeholders, are adequate to address the concerns identified in the petition without the initiation of a rule-making process,” the department wrote.

Larry Willis, president of TTD, referred to the DOT’s decision as “heartbreaking” and “unfathomable.”
“It is unfathomable that in the midst of a global pandemic which has killed more than 209,000 Americans, and left millions more sick and potentially facing lifelong side effects – including the president of the United States – that the U.S. Department of Transportation would outright reject such a simple, science-backed, lifesaving measure. The DOT’s decision is heartbreaking, and in light of yesterday’s news, frankly, shocking,” Willis said.

With tens of thousands of transit workers across the country falling ill throughout the pandemic, Willis said the proposed mandate would have been a common-sense way to add an additional layer of protection for both transit workers and the riding public.

“Since COVID-19 first touched American shores, the president and his administration have shown callous disregard for human life in response to this virus. Failure by this DOT to issue a common-sense federal mask mandate for all modes of commercial passenger transportation is only a continuation of that failed response. Sadly, it is working people who will suffer because of this decision,” said Willis.

With the DOT’s refusal to enact the mask mandate, TTD has turned its attention to Congress, with hopes that lawmakers can pass legislation that would federally mandate masks on all forms of public transportation.

“We call on Congress to do what the DOT refused to and pass life-saving legislation requiring masks on all forms of commercial public transportation. The people who have risked their lives to see us through this crisis by serving on the frontlines of our transportation system deserve no less,” Willis said.