Sat | Feb 27, 2021

Biden signs order requiring masks on planes, buses, trains and at airports

Published:Thursday | January 21, 2021 | 4:02 PM
President Joe Biden speaks about the coronavirus in the State Dinning Room of the White House, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON (AP) — With a burst of executive orders, President Joe Biden served notice Thursday that the nation’s COVID-19 response is under new management and he’s demanding progress to reduce infections and lift the siege Americans have endured for nearly a year.

The 10 orders signed by Biden are aimed at jump starting his national COVID-19 strategy to increase vaccinations and testing, lay the groundwork for reopening schools and businesses, and immediately increase the use of masks — including a requirement that Americans mask up for travel. One directive calls for a addressing health care inequities in minority communities hard hit by the virus.

“We didn’t get into this mess overnight, and it will take months to turn this around,” Biden said. “Despite the best intentions we’re going to face setbacks “ But he declared: “To a nation waiting for action, let me be clear on this point: Help is on the way.”

The U.S. mask order for travel being implemented by Biden will apply to airports and planes, ships, intercity buses, trains and public transportation. Travelers from abroad must furnish a negative COVID-19 test before departing for the U.S. and quarantine upon arrival. Biden has already mandated masks on federal property.

Although airlines, Amtrak and other transport providers now require masks, Biden’s order makes it a federal mandate, leaving little wiggle room for passengers tempted to argue about their rights.

Biden also is seeking to expand testing and vaccine availability, with the goal of 100 million shots in his first 100 days in office. Zients called Biden’s goal “ambitious and achievable.”

The Democratic president has directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to begin setting up vaccination centers, aiming to have 100 up and running in a month. He’s ordering the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to begin a program to make vaccines available through local pharmacies starting next month. And he’s mobilizing the Public Health Service to deploy to assist localities in vaccinations.

Biden has set a goal of having most K-8 schools reopen in his first 100 days, and he’s ordering the departments of Education and Health and Human Services to provide clear guidance for reopening schools safely.

Follow The Gleaner on Twitter and Instagram @JamaicaGleaner and on Facebook @GleanerJamaica. Send us a message on WhatsApp at 1-876-499-0169 or email us at onlinefeedback@gleanerjm.com or editors@gleanerjm.com.