Transit riders will no longer be required to wear masks on New York City’s subways, buses and commuter rail lines, Governor Kathy Hochul announced Wednesday, ending one of the last mask mandates of the region in public places.
The governor announced that masks are now optional on public transport, although she says they are still “encouraged”.
“We are adapting to the needs of all New Yorkers,” Hochul said at a news conference in Harlem, noting that optional mask-wearing takes effect immediately.
Compliance with the face covering requirement had fallen sharply in recent months as transport authorities largely backed away from enforcing the rule. When the MTA last conducted a passenger masking survey in April, rates had fallen to 64% compliance, down from about 90% the previous year.
Masks will still be needed in health care settings, including nursing homes, said state health commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett.
The mandate was first announcement in April 2020 when New York was in the throes of the pandemic via an executive order from former Governor Andrew Cuomo. It remained in place for the MTA — which oversees the city’s subways and buses, as well as the Metro North and Long Island Rail Road — even as other transit agencies moved to make masks optional for commuters. passengers.
In April, after a federal judge rejected the national transit mask mandate, NJ Transit and Amtrak dropped their requirements, confusing among commuters who did not know which rules applied.
The Transportation Security Administration also announced at the time that it would no longer enforce the warrant at airports or aircraft, although the Port Authority maintained a requirement for JFK and LaGuardia airports.
Lisa Daglian, executive director of the Citizens’ Standing Advisory Committee to the MTA, said differing rules between agencies and lack of enforcement on subways and buses had only led to mistrust and uncertainty. among users.
“At the same time, the police and the MTA were saying that it was important to follow all the rules of conduct, [they] weren’t enforcing a blatant and direct rule,” Daglian said. “Without clear direction, there was confusion and that led to complacency among riders.”
The end of New York City’s transit mask mandate comes as Hochul and the federal government eased other COVID requirements, including the rules regarding masking and isolation for public school students.
The state health department is also lifting mask mandates for jails, jails and domestic violence shelters.
Subway riders had mixed feelings about Hochul’s announcement, though many at the Union Square subway station told Gothamist it made no difference given the lax enforcement.
“It’s okay, it doesn’t really make a difference,” student Tony Oppfer said. “People who are going to wear one are going to wear one, and people who don’t want to wear one are not wearing them.”
Lara Lane, a tourist from California, said she was surprised to find so many bare-faced transit riders waiting as they roamed the city.
“I generally consider New Yorkers to be the smartest people in the country,” she said. “I would expect them to be careful, with everyone living so close together.”
Still, others said they were comfortable with the change in policy, even though they might continue to mask up for their own personal reasons.
“I just do it whenever I feel like I’m having a bad day now,” Abi Fraser said. “Besides, people are mean, they do disgusting things from time to time.”