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In this June 16, 2020 file photo, a traveller wears a mask and protective goggles as he walks through Terminal 3 at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago.

The Associated Press

The White House on Thursday said it opposed language in a bill before Congress that would require airline, train and public transit passengers and workers to wear masks amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The White House Office of Management and Budget called the provision in a U.S. House of Representatives spending bill requiring the masks “overly restrictive.” It added that “such decisions should be left to states, local governments, transportation systems, and public health leaders.”

Airlines, Amtrak and most public transit systems and U.S. airports require all passengers and workers to wear facial coverings.

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Representative David Price, a Democrat who chairs the appropriations panel overseeing transportation issues, proposed an amendment this month to require the masks.

“President Trump’s flagrant disregard for basic public health measures is bad enough, but threatening to derail federal funding for major transportation and housing programs due to a common-sense provision to require masks on planes, trains, and buses is baffling,” Price said Thursday.

The House is set to vote on the bill Friday.

The statement comes as administration officials have held extensive talks in recent weeks about whether the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) should issue an order requiring facial coverings at U.S. airports, train and transit stations and onboard airplanes, trains and transit services, five U.S. and airline industry officials told Reuters.

Airlines have pressed the Trump administration to do more, including mandating temperature checks, as a way of reassuring wary passengers.

HHS declined to comment.

In a July 8 letter, seen by Reuters, Airports Council International – North America chief executive Kevin Burke urged HHS Secretary Alex Azar to issue an order requiring “facial coverings by all individuals in air transportation.”

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“A federal requirement on facial coverings will not only serve to instill confidence in those who work or travel through America’s airports, but also ensure a consistent application throughout the aviation system,” Burke wrote.

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