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Face masks now required by federal law on public transit
Ben Franklin Transit offers guidance for riders to comply with new federal mask mandate
RICHLAND, Wash. – Ben Franklin Transit (BFT) is following requirements from the Emergency Order issued by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on January 29, 2021, and as supported by a Security Directive from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) on January 31, 2021. In effect until further notice, the Order mandates the wearing of face masks on all public transportation nationwide to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
The federal face mask mandate applies to all BFT vehicles and at all BFT transit facilities. BFT has required face coverings on all vehicles and at all facilities, including transit centers, since early in the pandemic. BFT continues to closely adhere to mandates, proclamations, and health authority guidance at the federal, state, and local levels to support the safe mobility of the community. The federal mandate further heightens and underscores the critical nature of full compliance with mask requirements aboard public transit.
Mask Requirements Under the Federal Order
Passengers and employees on BFT vehicles and at all BFT transit facilities must follow the Order’s face mask requirements.
According to the CDC, the following are attributes of masks needed to fulfill the requirements of the Order:
- Face masks should cover the nose and mouth and fit snugly against the sides without gaps.
- Face masks can be either manufactured or homemade and should be a solid piece of material without slits, exhalation valves, or punctures.
- While medical masks and N-95 respirators fulfill CDC and TSA’s requirements, face shields and/or goggles are not an acceptable substitute for the use of a mask; however, they may be used in addition to an acceptable mask.
Mask Exemption Requirements
Any passenger wishing to use BFT services without a mask due to a medical exemption must show exemption documentation each time they ride. If they cannot provide documentation, they can choose to be provided a mask by BFT to continue their trip or discontinue their trip at that time.
Face mask exemptions include:
- Travelers under the age of 2 years old.
- Those with a disability who cannot wear a mask or cannot safely wear a mask because of the disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
- Those for whom a mask would create a risk to workplace health, safety, or job duty as determined by relevant workplace safety guidelines or federal regulations.
Ongoing Commitment to Safety and Cleanliness
Early in the pandemic, BFT implemented various safety measures across all services and operations to protect their front-line employees and passengers. BFT remains committed to providing safe, excellent transportation services to the community by continuing to implement enhanced cleaning and safety measures.
These efforts include, but are not limited to, the daily sanitizing of vehicles, as well as additional sanitization of high-touch surfaces on vehicles, at transit centers, and BFT facilities. Rider capacity limits on vehicles continue to allow onboard distancing, and BFT will continue rear-door bus entry and operating fare-free until further notice. BFT’s most recent safety measure information can be found at bft.org/Safety and includes a link to a running timeline of COVID-19 response measures back to March 2020.
“Ben Franklin Transit has provided vital transportation services to the public and remained a safe way to travel in our community throughout the pandemic,” said BFT General Manager, Gloria Boyce. “Our team is committed to setting the example, upholding compliance with applicable orders, and keeping our community safely mobile. We appreciate the cooperation of the community in following these mandates to keep our community healthy and ensuring the BFT system remains a safe means for transportation.”
Throughout the pandemic, Ben Franklin Transit has closely coordinated COVID-19 safeguards with mandates, proclamations, and health authority guidance at the federal, state, and local levels. BFT will continue to monitor COVID-19-related developments and take appropriate actions to support safe public transportation in the community.
For more information about the CDC Order, visit: https://www.cdc.gov/quarantine/masks/mask-travel-guidance.html
For more information about the TSA Directive, visit: https://www.tsa.gov/news/press/releases/2021/01/31/tsa-implement-executive-order-regarding-face-masks-airport-security