The CDC Just Made This a Federal Crime, as of Tonight

For months, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has advocated for the use of face masks in public to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Mask mandates will continue to vary state to state, but a new nationwide law will go into effect as of midnight: The CDC has made wearing a face mask a requirement for all travelers on public transportation and in transit hubs, making refusing to do so a federal crime. Read on to see what the new rules could mean for you, and for more essential mask guidance, The CDC Warns Against Using These 6 Face Masks.

Travelers and transit hubs fall under the new federal mask law.

The new nationwide ruling, which goes into effect at midnight on Feb. 2, will require anyone traveling by airplane, train, subway, bus, taxi, or ship to wear a face covering while doing so, as well as requiring them to wear a mask inside airports, subway and train stations, bus terminals, seaports, ferry terminals, and other transit hubs. Finally, the ruling also requires those using ride-share services such as Uber and Lyft to wear a mask a well. And for masks to steer clear of, This One Type of Face Mask Is "Unacceptable," Warns the Mayo Clinic.

Mask violators could face federal charges.

Once the rules go into effect, any passenger who refuses to comply with the new order is at risk of potential federal criminal charges. However, the CDC suggested it was more likely that those in violation would actually be handed civil penalties such as fines, with the agency saying it would largely rely on "widespread voluntary compliance," Reuters reported.

"Requiring masks on our transportation systems will protect Americans and provide confidence that we can once again travel safely even during this pandemic," the order reads. It was signed by Marty Cetron, director for CDC's Division of Global Migration and Quarantine. And for more mask guidance from the CDC, If You're Doing This to Your Mask, the CDC Says You Need a New One.

There are a few exceptions to the mask rule.

The new mandate does allow for masks to removed for "brief periods" for eating, drinking, or taking medication, as well as certifying that face coverings can be homemade. Drivers in private cars and solo commercial truck drivers aren't required to mask up, and travelers under the age of two or anyone with specific medical conditions are exempt from the ruling. And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.

It's not the first national mask mandate.

While it's a sweeping change, the CDC's latest order isn't the first national mask mandate to be put forth by the current administration. President Joe Biden also issued a nationwide mandate requiring the use of masks on all federal properties and lands in one of his first executive orders. The ruling makes it a requirement for all federal employees and contractors to wear a face covering while on-site at federal courthouses, national parks, national monuments, and state capitol buildings.

"It's requiring, as I said all along, where I have authority, mandating masks be worn, social distancing be kept on federal property," Biden told reporters during a briefing in the Oval Office on Jan. 20. And for more on the future of the pandemic, This Is Exactly When We'll See the Next COVID Surge, Experts Warn