President Joe Biden signed an executive order Thursday requiring that people wear masks during interstate travel, including on airplanes, buses, trains and boat or ferry services, as well as in airports. The order also requires quarantines for individuals entering the U.S.
The measures are part of a broad suite of steps the Biden administration has announced to combat the Covid-19 virus.
During remarks Thursday, the president did not specify how long people will be required to quarantine upon U.S. arrival. The executive order says only that the quarantine period will be in accord with CDC guidelines. On its website, the CDC recommends that in most cases individuals stay home for seven days after arriving from abroad.
The measure will accompany pretravel testing requirements that were already slated to go into effect for flyers on Jan. 26: Anyone arriving into the U.S. from abroad is required to produce proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken within 72 hours of departure.
The federal mask mandate for interstate travel won't have a material effect on the rules faced by flyers, since airlines and most airports already have their own mask mandates in place.
But the weight of federal law could improve enforcement options. Until now, airlines have mostly relied on banning individuals from future travel as their primary penalty.
The airline lobby hasn't embraced a mask mandate. But several aviation industry stakeholders, including airport industry lobbying groups and labor unions have called for a federal mask mandates for several months.
"Today's executive order on a mask mandate for interstate travel, including airports and airplanes, will provide much needed backup for flight attendants and aviation workers on the frontlines," Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA union, said in a statement Thursday.