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U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg late last week met with Amtrak and transit officials and workers at Union Station in Washington, D.C., to discuss the new mask mandate for the nation's transportation network and President Joe Biden's support for additional pandemic-relief funding for public transit agencies.
One of Biden's first actions was to sign an executive order that required workers and passengers on the nation's transportation network to wear masks to reduce the risk of travelers spreading the coronavirus. On Jan. 31, the Transportation Security Administration issued a security directive implementing the order, stating that it applies to passenger railroads, intercity bus services and public transportation.
Buttigieg, who was sworn in as secretary last week, discussed the safety measure, as well as the Biden administration's proposed American Rescue Plan, which would address transit agencies' financial struggles caused by the pandemic.
The secretary also thanked workers for their service during the pandemic. He underscored that dependable public transit systems are critical for a robust and equitable economy recovery.
"We depend on many essential workers for our economy and for our way of life," said Buttigieg in a press release. "And while many Americans are wrestling with the complexities of working from home, many other Americans don't have the opportunity or the option to work from home and they are supported by these extraordinary workers who look after the safety, efficiency and effectiveness of American travel."
Among those on hand during Buttigieg's visit was Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Paul Wiedefeld.
"We welcome the secretary's support to encourage all customers to wear face masks to protect themselves, other riders and our employees. And we look forward to working with him and his team as we push for additional financial relief so we can continue providing safe, reliable service to help the region and our economy recover," Wiedefeld said in a press release.