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Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Sunday described public transit mask mandates as a "matter of respect."
There has been an increase in the number of disturbances on airplanes in recent weeks.
Buttigieg asked for people to think about what transit workers "have been doing to keep you safe."
US Transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg on Sunday backed the mask mandates still in effect on airplanes and public transit as a "matter of respect," in the wake of recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that suggest that fully vaccinated travelers can forgo face coverings in many public spaces.
During an appearance on ABC's "This Week," host Martha Raddatz pressed Buttigieg about the continued need for mask regulations on public transit, despite many fully vaccinated Americans dining out and returning to their fitness routines at gyms without face coverings.
"Well, some of the differences have to do with the physical space, some of them have to do with it being a workplace where in some of these transit and travel situations, people don't have a choice," he said. "It's a matter of safety, but it's also a matter of respect."
Raddatz also asked Buttigieg about the increase in violent disturbances and verbal assaults on airplanes, which have prompted some airlines to temporarily halt their alcoholic beverage offerings.
Buttigieg asked for the public to be courteous toward transportation workers, many of whom worked through the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Remember what they have been through, what they have been doing to keep you safe and make sure to show some appreciation and respect to everybody from a bus driver, operator to a flight attendant to a captain," he said. "They have been on the frontlines of this pandemic. Their jobs have been in doubt. They are here for your safety."
Buttigieg also noted that while 2021 Memorial Day weekend traffic is dramatically higher than last year, it would still take a while for the transportation system to ease back to pre-pandemic levels.
"As people return, we are coming out of one of the biggest shocks - perhaps the biggest shock - that the American transportation system has ever seen in terms of demands, schedules, all of these things changing and so the system is getting back into gear," he said.
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