New York lifts mask mandate on public transit

Posted On Wed, September 7, 2022 By

Posted On Wed, September 7, 2022 By In Policy, Transportation

Image courtesy of Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit on Flickr

Masks are no longer required on public transportation in New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Wednesday. During a press conference in Harlem, the governor said masks are now optional for riders traveling on New York City’s subways and buses, as well as MetroNorth and Long Island Rail Road. The state’s mandate has been in place since April 2020 at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Image courtesy of the MTA on Twitter

The mandate was first instated in April 2020 by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo in an executive order.

This past April, most major transit systems throughout the country dropped their mask mandates after a judge overturned the nationwide requirement. However, Hochul decided to keep the mandate in place and revisit the issue at a later date.

During the press conference, Hochul also encouraged New Yorkers to get a new booster shot and endorsed recently approved shots that target specific strains of the coronavirus, including Omicron BA.4 and BA.5.

The new boosters work to “bolster previous vaccination protection” according to an official press release. The age requirement for the boosters is 12 and older for Pfizer vaccines and 18 and older for Moderna. To be eligible for this booster, New Yorkers must have already received the two original vaccine doses or a booster two months before.

“We are going to continue watching the numbers. We’re watching global trends, we’re watching for variants, we’re watching for any updates in vaccines. We do believe that we’re in a good place right now especially if New Yorkers take advantage of this booster,” Hochul said during the press conference.

The lift of the mask mandate comes as compliance has fallen significantly over the last few months. While the MTA quietly stopped tracking mask wearing on the subway and bus, the last study released in April by the agency recorded just 64 percent of subway riders properly wearing masks. The rule has also not been enforced by transit officers.

Although masks are now optional on the city’s public transit, Hochul still encourages their use for those unsure about riding maskless.

Masks will still be required in all of the state’s public health facilities, but are no longer required at airports, homeless shelters, jails, and prisons.

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