MTA keeps mask mandate for NYC subway, despite lift of federal requirement on mass transit

April 19, 2022

While mask mandates are being lifted in public transit systems around the country, New Yorkers should expect to wait a little longer to ride the subway unmasked. According to a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), the agency will require masks to be worn throughout the subway, bus, Metro-North, and Long Island Rail Road systems, despite a recent ruling from a federal judge striking down the national mask mandate for airplanes, trains, buses, and other forms of mass transit.

MTA Communications Director Tim Minton referred to the determination given by the state’s Commissioner of Health Mary T. Bassett on March 2, in which she concluded that the continued use of masks was a necessary procedure due to the increased risk of transmission within the transit system.

“Masks continue to be required on NY public transit for now pursuant to NYS Health Department determination,” Minton tweeted.

In the determination, masks are still required on all forms of public transportation and within stations for all people two years of age or older, despite vaccination status. However, the requirement doesn’t extend to vehicles operated by public or private school systems.

Bassett referenced two CDC studies that gave valuable insight into the effect masks had on transmission within indoor settings. One of those studies bore these results:

“A case-control study of over 3,000 participants demonstrated 56% to 83% lower odds of contracting the SARS-CoV-2 virus among those who reported always wearing a mask in indoor settings compared to those who didn’t.”

Another study yielded similar results: “A study of household transmission found that, in households with an index patient infected with the Omicron variant, household contacts who wore masks had a 43% lower chance of becoming infected compared to those who did not wear masks.”

The MTA has been monitoring mask compliance in buses and on the subway. Using observational data gathered between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. at the city’s 15 busiest bus stations and a “representative systemwide statistical sample” for the subway, the MTA’s data shows that mask compliance has wavered slightly over the past couple of months.

In the buses, mask compliance has dropped to around 88 percent, with 73 percent of riders wearing their masks correctly, meaning both nose and mouth covered. In the subway, mask compliance is around 83 percent, with 70 percent of riders wearing their mask correctly, according to the MTA’s data.

The MTA said they will continue to follow the CDC’s guidelines and monitor Covid-19 metrics within the transit system.

On April 18, a federal judge in Florida denied the extension of the mask requirement for public transit, although the CDC had extended it until May 3 nearly a week before, according to the New York Times.

Shortly after the Transporation Security Administration (TSA) announced the mandates lifting at airports, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy tweeted that he would be following the federal judge’s ruling and lifting the mask mandate for NJ Transit on April 19.

Amtrak has adjusted its mask policy, with its website stating, “masks are welcome and remain an important preventive measure against COVID-19. Anyone needing or choosing to wear one is encouraged to do so.”

According to Gothamist, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, will require masks on the PATH train and at JFK and LaGuardia Airports, but not at Newark.

Uber and Lyft on Tuesday also dropped their mask requirements. In a statement on their website, Uber still encouraged those who are more comfortable wearing masks to continue their use if it makes them feel safer.

But not in New York City. The city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission on Tuesday tweeted: “Masks are still required in all taxis and for-hire vehicles.”


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