Homeland Security Authorizes TSA to Enforce Biden’s Mask Mandate

February 1, 2021 Updated: February 1, 2021

The Department of Homeland Security authorized the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to start enforcement of President Joe Biden’s mask mandate for U.S. travelers.

“TSA will fully comply with the President’s Executive Orders, CDC guidance, and the DHS National Emergency determination to ensure healthy and secure travel across all transportation sectors. This will help prevent further spread of COVID-19 and encourage a unified government response,” Darby LaJoye, acting TSA administrator, said in a statement.

“As we continue to experience impacts from this pandemic, we are committed to this measure as the right thing to do for the TSA workforce, for our industry stakeholders, and for passengers.”

According to the TSA website, face coverings are now required at “screening checkpoints and throughout the commercial and public transportation system,” adding that it came on the heels of Biden’s national emergency declaration. The order takes effect on Feb. 2.

The masking mandate will last until May 11, and travelers over the age of 2 who are not wearing masks might be “denied entry, boarding, or continued transport” and could face “civil penalties.”

Joe Biden Janet Yellen
President Joe Biden receives an economic briefing with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in the Oval Office at the White House on Jan. 29, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

The TSA said the “federal face mask requirement extends to the nation’s domestic network of airports” as well as “passengers and crewmembers flying aboard airplanes operated by domestic and foreign air carriers with inbound flights to U.S. ports of entry.”

“Surface transportation modes, such as passenger rail, bus systems, and over-the-road bus companies” are included, the agency said. “Passengers without a mask may be denied entry, boarding, or continued transport. Failure to comply with the mask requirement can result in civil penalties.”

Biden on Jan. 20 implemented a federal face-covering directive.

“It is the policy of my Administration to halt the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) by relying on the best available data and science-based public health measures,” Biden wrote at the time.

“Such measures include wearing masks when around others, physical distancing, and other related precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Put simply, masks and other public health measures reduce the spread of the disease, particularly when communities make widespread use of such measures, and thus save lives.”