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Masks Are Coming Off but Not on Public Transportation—with One Exception | Frommer's ProStock Studio/Shutterstock

Masks Are Coming Off but Not on Public Transportation—with One Exception

Science has spoken! Yesterday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that Covid-19 vaccines have been so effective that fully vaccinated Americans can return to unmasked life, both indoors and out.

"Today, CDC is updating our guidance for fully vaccinated people," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said at a White House COVID-19 briefing. "Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physical distancing. If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic."

The agency made exceptions, however, for public transportation, as well as health care facilities, correctional institutions, and a few other spaces.

"Right now, we still have the requirement to wear masks when you travel on buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation, as well as airports and stations," Walensky said.

In other words, any place overseen by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will require masks until September 13. The TSA extended its mask mandate last week. The rule applies to airports and airplanes, trains and train stations, buses and bus terminals, and all ferries and ferry terminals.

There is an intriguing exception for cruise lines, however.

The CDC's newly revised Conditional Sailing Order states that masks may be removed for outdoor activities on cruise ships, making them the only form of public transit excused from mask rules. When the ship is in port, passengers are of course subject to local mask laws.

But at this stage any restrictions are almost wholly theoretical because no ships are currently leaving from American ports, with the exception of riverboats.

We have to wonder whether the CDC will make rules even looser by the time ships begin sailing again from Florida, Louisiana, Texas, California, Washington, New Jersey, Alaska, Hawaii, and New York.

After all, most cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line, Carnival Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, Virgin Voyages, and others, have all announced they will only admit vaccinated passengers (not counting small children in some cases) and vaccinated crew members. 

I'm not usually a gambler, but I'd bet mask rules for all forms of transportation will be dropped soon.

A lot will depend on the course of the virus, however. More Americans need to get vaccinated to stop the spread so we can all get back to mask-free living. 

Let's hope science starts speaking to the unvaccinated, too.