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As COVID Restrictions Loosen, Safety Urged on Public Transportation

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Wednesday, May 26, 2021   

TAMPA, Fla. - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has determined that people two weeks out from receiving their last dose of the COVID-19 vaccine can interact with others without a mask on, and without social distancing. However, COVID-safe behavior will have to continue on public transit, even in states such as Florida that have ended mask mandates.

Gov. Ron Desantis lifted the statewide mask mandate on May 3, but the Transportation Security Administration still requires masks at airports and onboard airplanes.

Tampa International Airport communications manager Danny Valentine said the airport has workers who enforce the measure.

"If they see someone without a mask on or wearing it improperly," he said, "they can either ask them to pull up their mask over their nose, or they can offer to give them a mask if they don't have one."

The CDC continues to advise that masks, when worn properly, are an effective way to prevent transmission of the virus, and that anyone older than 2 years of age should wear them in public settings.

Kids younger than 12 aren't yet approved to get the vaccine. Dr. Amit Arwindekar, North American medical director for United Healthcare Global, said that age group doesn't usually see serious COVID symptoms, but still can spread the virus to others.

"So, if you're going to travel with children under the age of 12, we really encourage you to delay if you can," he said. "If not, make sure they wear their mask, make sure that they're washing their hands, and doing everything you can to keep them from getting sick, so that they don't spread it to other people."

According to the latest CDC data, nearly 37% of Florida's population is fully vaccinated, and 5.3% of COVID tests were positive, a downward trend from the last few months.

While COVID rules have relaxed for some activities, Arwindekar said things haven't returned to normal.

"If you're taking public transit, if you're getting health care, or if you're in a tight space with other people - like sitting in an airplane, in a bus, in a car with people you don't live with," he said, "then it's important to still maintain those public-safety measures: wearing your mask, washing your hands, distancing wherever possible."

He also urged careful planning for international trips, since the U.S. State Department has placed "Do Not Travel" notices on 80% of countries.

Disclosure: United Healthcare contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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