The Transportation Security Administration is beefing up its enforcement of a federal mask mandate, announcing Friday that people who refuse to comply could face fines of more than $1,000.
The agency announced that it is recommending fines ranging from $250 for a first offense and up to $1,500 for repeat offenders. “Aggravating” or “mitigating” factors could result in higher penalties, the TSA said.
President Biden last month signed an executive order requiring that travelers wear face masks when in airports, at bus, ferry and rail stations, and when flying commercially or riding buses and trains. The order went into effect Feb. 2 and will stay in place until May 11.
While the TSA strongly encouraged people to wear masks when going through airport security checkpoints, under the previous administration, the agency had no authority to sanction those who refused. Biden’s executive order changes that, giving the TSA and other agencies more tools to enforce the requirement.
Passengers can be asked to leave a station, be denied boarding or asked to leave a train, ferry, bus or airplane. Local agencies also can report scofflaws to TSA for further action.
The TSA issued the new directives Jan. 31. For ground transportation, passengers have to be told – when they buy tickets and again before departure – that scofflaws “may be subject to penalties under federal law.”
Health experts say that wearing a mask is critical to stopping the uncontrolled spread of the coronavirus, which has sickened more than 26 million and killed at least 454,000 in the United States. However, the issue of whether people should wear masks became deeply politicized under the Trump administration.
The Federal Aviation Administration, which last year said it would not enforce mask violations, has said it will ensure compliance with the new mandate.