Airports will receive approximately 86.8 million face coverings.

By Cailey Rizzo
June 15, 2020
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The federal government has started to distribute nearly 10 million cloth face coverings to airports, train stations, and public transit services for passenger use, in an effort to help prevent the spread of coronavirus as the country continues to reopen. 

“This Administration is committed to protecting our people and reopening the economy; distributing these facial coverings will help boost public confidence as we begin to resume our normal lives,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao said in a statement on Friday.

Airports will receive approximately 86.8 million face coverings. Amtrak and 458 transit agencies across the country will receive an additional 9.6 million masks. The federal government previously released 15 million face coverings for critical employees working in the transportation sector.

Passengers are still urged to bring their own face coverings when they travel as the availability of these masks is not guaranteed. 

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The initiative is in collaboration with the Department of Transportation, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Health and Human Services.

The Washington Post reported that Reagan National and Washington Dulles International airports received 2 million face coverings from the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) for passengers and 129,500 coverings from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for essential employees. 

Most U.S. airlines began requiring passengers to wear face coverings while onboard and at the airport and Amtrak also requires face masks for all passengers and employees while onboard. 

But many transportation workers want the federal government to step in, making face masks a "federal requirement."

“In the absence of federal requirements, these policies and related communication will remain inconsistent and unclear. Enforcement will be nearly impossible,” Susannah Carr, a United Airlines flight attendant and member of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee last week. 

Flight attendants hope the federal government will pass a law requiring face masks on airplanes during a pandemic, likening the response to banning smoking or requiring seat belts.