Biden says he would if elected mandate masks in interstate transportation

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on Friday said he would mandate masks in all interstate U.S. transportation if elected after the Trump administration rejected requirements.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden looks on as he talks to reporters while leaving, following the final 2020 U.S. presidential campaign debate, at Nashville International Airport in Nashville, Tennessee, U.S., October 22, 2020. REUTERS/Leah Millis

“As president I will mandate mask wearing in all federal buildings and all interstate transportation because masks save lives - period,” Biden said in a speech in Delaware. “Wearing masks is not a political statement, it is a scientific imperative.”

On Monday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a “strong recommendation” that all passengers and employees on airplanes, trains, subways, buses, taxis and ride-share vehicles wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The interim CDC guidance urges facial coverings at transportation hubs like airports and train stations, saying masks “will protect Americans and provide confidence that we can once again travel more safely even during this pandemic.”

Airlines, U.S. passenger railroad Amtrak and most public transit systems and U.S. airports require all passengers and workers to wear facial coverings, as do ride-sharing firms Uber UBER.N and Lyft LYFT.O.

Delta Air Lines DAL.N said in a memo made public Friday that it had banned 460 people to date for failing to wear masks.

The White House has rejected calls from U.S. health experts to mandate masks in transportation.

Reuters reported in July that administration officials had held extensive talks about whether the Health and Human Services Department should issue an order requiring masks at U.S. airports, train and transit stations and onboard airplanes, trains and transit services before opting not to proceed.

In July, the White House opposed legislation that sought to mandate all airline, train and public transit passengers and workers wear masks, saying it was “overly restrictive.” It added that “such decisions should be left to states, local governments, transportation systems, and public health leaders.”

Earlier this month, the U.S. Transportation Department rejected a petition that sought a mask mandate at airports and for U.S. airlines, saying the department believes “there should be no more regulations than necessary.”

A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Biden’s remarks.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Andrea Ricci