WASHINGTON - Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on Friday said he would mandate masks in all interstate US transportation if elected after the Trump administration rejected requirements. "As president I will mandate mask wearing in all federal buildings and all interstate transportation because masks save lives - period," Biden said in a speech in Delaware. "Wearing masks is not a political statement, it is a scientific imperative."
On Monday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a "strong recommendation" that all passengers and employees on airplanes, trains, subways, buses, taxis and ride-share vehicles wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The interim CDC guidance urges facial coverings at transportation hubs like airports and train stations, saying masks "will protect Americans and provide confidence that we can once again travel more safely even during this pandemic."
Airlines, US passenger railroad Amtrak and most public transit systems and US airports require all passengers and workers to wear facial coverings, as do ride-sharing firms Uber and Lyft.
Delta Air Lines said in a memo made public Friday that it had banned 460 people to date for failing to wear masks.
The White House has rejected calls from US health experts to mandate masks in transportation.
Reuters reported in July that administration officials had held extensive talks about whether the Health and Human Services Department should issue an order requiring masks at US airports, train and transit stations and onboard airplanes, trains and transit services before opting not to proceed.
In July, the White House opposed legislation that sought to mandate all airline, train and public transit passengers and workers wear masks, saying it was "overly restrictive." It added that “such decisions should be left to states, local governments, transportation systems, and public health leaders.”
Earlier this month, the US Transportation Department rejected a petition that sought a mask mandate at airports and for US airlines, saying the department believes "there should be no more regulations than necessary."
A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Biden's remarks.