- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 17, 2021

House Republicans have introduced legislation to prohibit the federal government from requiring that people wear face masks while riding public transportation including buses, subways, planes and trains.

Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona filed the bill Friday with the support of seven co-sponsors, all Republican, who seek to overturn the federal mask requirement put in place to help curb the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Bottom line, mask mandates are old news, and are only being kept in place by those who relish controlling our day-to-day lives,” Mr. Biggs said in a statement announcing the introduction of his bill.

Known as the “Travel Mask Mandate Repeal Act of 2021,” the bill would ban the government from requiring people to wear masks on public transportation and inside transportation hubs such as airports.

Adults have been required to wear masks on public transportation for nearly six months under an executive order President Biden signed upon entering office. The rule is set to expire in September.

Public health officials recommend that people wear face masks to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, an extremely contagious and potentially deadly respiratory disease.

While the U.S. has made significant advancements in combating the coronavirus pandemic since it started in early 2020, the number of daily new cases reported around the country has spiked in recent weeks.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Friday that the seven-day average of newly reported positive COVID-19 cases has recently increased by nearly 70%

Speaking during a White House press conference, the CDC director said local policymakers in areas where few people have been vaccinated against COVID-19 might want to consider requiring face masks again.

“If you are not vaccinated, you remain at risk. And our biggest concern is that we are going to continue to see preventable cases, hospitalizations and, sadly, deaths among the unvaccinated,” she said.

The bill is currently co-sponsored in the House by Reps. Andrew Clyde of Georgia, Tom McClintock of California, Bob Gibbs of Ohio and four Texans – Randy Weber, Chip Roy, Louie Gohmert and Lance Gooden.

Identical companion legislation was introduced earlier this week by Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican who tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in the pandemic. It has five co-sponsors, all Republican.

“In a free country people will evaluate their personal risk factors and are smart enough to ultimately make medical decisions like wearing a mask themselves,” said Mr. Paul.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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