White House Reportedly Blocked CDC From Mandating Masks on Public Transit

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention drafted an order last month that would have made face masks a requirement on all public transit in the U.S., but the White House blocked it, according to a report by The New York Times. The order fell under the "quarantine powers" granted to the CDC during the pandemic, but it was overridden by officials in the White House coronavirus task force.

Two federal health officials confirmed the CDC's public transit order from September, explaining that it was a targeted attempt to slow the spread of the pandemic. It would have required all customers and employees to wear face coverings for their entire ride on airplanes, trains, buses and subways. Masks also would have been required in airports, train stations and other transportation hubs by law. They said that it initially had support from the secretary of health and human services, Alex M. Azar II, but stalled when it came to the White House's task force.

This is not the only CDC measure that the White House has overruled during the coronavirus pandemic. The agency reportedly issued an order to keep all cruise ships in the U.S. docked until mid-February, but the task force countered this order under pressure from the Florida tourism industry. The Times noted that Florida is a vital swing state in the 2020 presidential election.

The White House has also forced political appointees into the CDC to rewrite guidelines on reopening schools, testing for COVID-19 and other public efforts, allowing these officials to overrule the advice of CDC scientists. The Department of Health and Human Services has also been involved in this effort.

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This is just a part of the Times dense new report on the Trump administration's response to the coronavirus pandemic over the last several months. It also found that Trump indirectly holds considerable shares in Regeneron, the company whose coronavirus treatment he has touted as his own miracle drug over the last week. The treatment has not yet passed human clinical trials, yet Trump promised to distribute it to coronavirus patients around the country for free in two separate interviews on Friday.

This this distribution would be accomplished is still not clear. The president appeared on Rush Limbaugh's radio show and on Fox News' Tucker Carlson Tonight. In both cases, he side-stepped questions about his own coronavirus case and made false claims about the pandemic and his administration's response to it. At the time of this writing, it is still not clear whether the president is sick, and whether he is still infectious.