Trump blocked CDC from requiring COVID masks on public transit
CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield testifying before Congress (screengrab)

An order by President Donald J. Trump diverted a draft memo by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that would have required all passengers and employees to wear masks on all forms of public and commercial transportation across the nation, according to two federal health officials.

More than 40,000 Americans per day become infected with COVID-19 and the CDC mask mandate would have been a tough federal guideline to help curb or stop the spread of transmission, decreasing the overall viral load in cities and states in a uniform manner. The order was drafted under the CDC's "quarantine powers," which had the support of the secretary of health and human services, Alex M. Azar II. However, the head of the Coronavirus Task Force, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, denied to hear it.

A task force official who wished to speak anonymously said, “The approach the task force has taken with any mask mandate is, the response in New York City is different than Montana, or Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Local and state authorities need to determine the best approach for their responsive effort depending on how the coronavirus is impacting their area.”

“I think masks are the most powerful weapon we have to confront COVID and we all need to embrace masks and set the example for each other,” said CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield.

Representative Peter A. DeFazio, a Democrat from Oregon and chairman of the House committee on transportation and infrastructure, said, “It’s especially outrageous because the science is so clear: masks save lives. The millions of Americans who work in and use our transportation systems every day — from bus drivers, train conductors and flight attendants, to the frontline workers who rely on public transit — deserve to know their president is relying on experts’ best advice and doing everything possible to keep them safe.”