WASHINGTON • The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said it will no longer require travellers to wear masks in outdoor transit hubs and in outdoor spaces on ferries, buses and trolleys, because of the lower risk of coronavirus transmission outdoors.
The change is the first in the CDC's transit mask policy announced in January and came after a lengthy review by the White House Office of Management and Budget's regulatory arm.
The CDC said on Thursday that it made the change "because of the lower transmission risk outdoors... Masks are still required indoors on all forms of transportation" regardless of vaccination status.
The change means people can take masks off outdoors while waiting for a train or in an outdoor courtyard of an airport.
The change came after the Biden administration held extensive discussions with transit unions and other groups. The administration is considering other modest changes to its indoor transit mask policies, including potentially allowing vaccinated airline workers to remove their masks in rooms not accessible to the public.
The CDC said last month that fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks outdoors and can avoid wearing them indoors in most places.
The Biden administration had extended face mask requirements in April across all US transportation networks until Sept 13 to address the spread of Covid-19.
The Federal Aviation Administration said this week that it has received approximately 2,900 reports of unruly behaviour by passengers since Jan 1, including about 2,200 reports of passengers refusing to comply with the mask mandate.
The CDC mask mandate issued in January requires masks in nearly all transportation modes, including in ride-share vehicles.
Many US states have completely rescinded mask requirements, with mask use mandated only for transit.
President Joe Biden imposed the transit mask mandate after his predecessor Donald Trump rejected CDC recommendations to do so.