President Biden has issued 42 executive orders since taking office, and among them one that mandates wearing masks in federal facilities, but that changes little in travel.
President Joe Biden set the tone of his administration by signing a record-setting number of executive orders following his inauguration. Several were issued regarding the requirement of wearing face coverings inside of federal facilities, the limit of the president’s executive power. CNN provided a write-up of all the executive orders the president issued.
Executive Order on Promoting COVID-19 Safety in Domestic and International Travel.
Requires mask-wearing in airports and on certain modes of transportation, including many trains, airplanes, maritime vessels and intercity buses. International travelers must provide proof of negative Covid-19 tests prior to coming to the US. – CNN
Here is a list of those modes of transportation and locations:
(ii) commercial aircraft;
(iv) public maritime vessels, including ferries;
(v) intercity bus services; and
(vi) all forms of public transportation as defined in section 5302 of title 49, United States Code.
President Biden’s first Executive Order (not the above) was the “100 Days Mask Challenge” mandating masks to be worn on federal land and buildings. However, there is no language regarding the length of the specific travel order. The two overlap in airports, already covered in the first order.
Why It Changes Little
Prior to the changing of the guard in Washington, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an order that required all international arrivals into any US port of entry to supply a negative COVID-19 test result. The president’s executive action calling for the same was a week after the CDC guideline was announced.
Likewise, virtually every (if not every) airport in the country already required masks. Many airlines acted faster than the CDC and state governments in requiring masks to be worn. Some have enforced masks with dubious results, passenger compliance has had strong consequences.
As a local or state effort, transportation hubs like subway stations had already ordered mask mandates if not further, more stringent policies based on their local requirements. Those municipalities had a responsibility for protecting the public health interests regardless of whether the White House issued an order signed by President Trump or Biden.
In issuing this particular executive order for a mask mandate, travel changes little. Some could argue that the mandate was important to reset the country’s focus and affect change for which he had the power to affect. But in practical terms, the order maintained what had already been implemented by both the private sector and public facilities.
It could be suggested that by issuing the mandate, federal facilities were given more latitude to enforce face-covering policy in the event it was necessary. However, even private sector businesses like airlines have acted with impunity with regard to their own policies. Some have banned those who fail to comply, banning them for the short term or even for life.
I couldn’t find a single example for which this executive action delivered a material change which begs the question: Outside of posterity, was this order effective in changing anything?
Matthew called the mask mandate “regress” not progress, but I disagree. He finds that there will be more room to move in the new rules than the old, while I find that the mandate does little.
These policies were already in place at the local level, everywhere. There wasn’t a courthouse in the country, federal, state, or county for which a person could enter bare-faced prior to the order – if they were open at all. I can understand the need to establish precedence, but the first order the president signed once in office achieved that goal.
What do you think? Was it necessary from a perspective of setting the tone the president wanted? Is there a material change you saw from the order that I missed?