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RTA follows federal mask mandate for public transit

2/1/2021

NEW ORLEANS – Today, the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA) announced the new federal mask requirement as directed by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) which is applicable to any passenger taking public transportation. Although the RTA instituted a mask requirement for passengers on agency vehicles during the Spring of 2020, this new federal directive requires wearing a mask while on the conveyance and states that failure to comply may result in denial of boarding or removal. Further, the refusal to wear a mask is a violation of federal law and passengers may be subject to penalties under federal law. The mandate comes after President Joseph R. Biden issued an Executive Order on January 21, 2021 promoting safety in domestic and international travel while mitigating further spread of COVID-19. 

According to the recently updated order by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) referenced in TSA’s Security Directive, the required face mask must meet the following requirements: 

·         Cover the mouth and nose;  

·         Constructed of “a solid piece of material without slits, exhalation valves of punctures” and “two or more layers of a breathable fabric that is tightly woven (i.e., fabrics that do not let light pass through when held up to a light source)”; 

·         Secured to the head with ties, ear loops, or elastic bands that go behind the head; and 

·         Fit snugly, but comfortably, against the side of the face. 

If covered persons opt to wear gaiters, “they should have two layers of fabric or be folded to make two layers.” 

Masks that comport with the required standards may be: 

·         Either manufactured or homemade; 

·         Reusable or disposable; and 

·         Equipped with inner filter pockets. 

Clear masks, or cloth masks with a clear plastic panel, may be used as well – to facilitate communication with people who are hearing impaired or others who need to see a speaker’s mouth to understand speech. 

The following types of arrangements do NOT comply with the CDC’s order: 

·         Masks worn in a manner that fails to cover both the mouth and nose;  

·         Face shields or goggles worn without a mask that covers the nose and mouth – however, “face shields or goggles may be worn to supplement a mask that meets above required attributes”; 

·         Scarves, ski masks, balaclavas, or bandannas. 

·         Shirt or sweater collars, such as turtleneck collars, pulled up over the mouth and nose. 

·         Masks that are knitted or made from loosely woven fabric – that is, “fabrics that let light pass through”; 

·         Masks constructed of “materials that are hard to breathe through” – with specific reference to “vinyl, plastic or leather”; 

·         Masks whose construction contains “slits, exhalation valves, or punctures” and 

·         Masks that do not fit the wearer properly – leaving “large gaps” or fitting “too loose or too tight.” 

The updated mask requirement helps transit agencies across the country maintain transit while protecting frontline personnel and passengers. In addition to the mask update, RTA continues daily vehicle deep cleanings, additional mid-day cleanings at transit hubs, and monitoring ridership across the system to ensure no vehicle overcrowding. Riders are also reminded to social distance while on board and at transit stops. With the city in Modified Phase II, the agency is continuing to maintain operations for those carrying out essential activities. 

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