A court ruling makes it impossible to follow the transportation rules

A Florida federal judge ruled that the U.S. national mask mandate for public transport was invalid. This created confusion for passengers who use transit systems and airports.

A court ruling makes it impossible to follow the transportation rules

This ruling allows airports, mass transit systems and airlines to choose whether they want to keep mask rules or abandon them altogether.

For example, passengers on United Airlines flights from Houston to New York could remove their masks at the departure airport and on board, but they would need to put them on again once they reach New York.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had recently extended their mandate to May 3 in order to give more time for studying the BA.2 omicron Subvariant of coronavirus, which is responsible for most U.S. cases. The court decision, however, put the mandate on hold.

Here are some examples of how U.S. transport centers and providers are responding to this challenge:

AIRLINES

After the court's decision, major airlines were among the first to change their rules. United, Southwest Airlines, American, Alaska Delta, JetBlue, and American announced that masks will no longer be required for domestic flights.

United Airlines stated that while this does not mean that employees will no longer be required to wear a face mask - nor do they have to enforce a requirement for the majority of flying passengers - they will still be able wear masks if they so choose, as the CDC recommends wearing a mask when taking public transit.

Because its members are divided on the issue, the Association of Flight Attendants has taken a neutral position regarding masks. The union president called for calm in airports and on planes Monday.

Alaska Airlines stated that some passengers banned for violating its mask policy will be banned.

AIRPORTS

The airports took a while to remove masks. Many expressed uncertainty and decided to wait and see.

Others, including Houston's main airports, have removed mask requirements after the Transportation Security Administration declared it would not enforce the mandate. Los Angeles International, Phoenix Sky Harbor, and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International all eliminated mask requirements. San Francisco International Airport stated that it is still waiting for guidance from TSA.

New York City airports left masks in place until now, except for Newark Liberty International Airport which is situated across the Hudson River in New Jersey, where masks can be optional.

Officials in Massachusetts also announced that the Boston Logan International Airport will no longer require masks.

TRAINS AND BUSES

Tim Minton, communications director at Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said that masks were being made mandatory on subways, buses, and commuter trains in New York. This is the same policy as was used since the beginning of the pandemic.

The Monday ruling appeared to have caught the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey off guard. They manage the New York area's major airfields, as well as buses, trains and other transportation services.

At first, a spokesperson stated that an order to wear masks was still in place as we consult with state public health officials. Later, the agency issued a news release stating that masks are mandatory at New York facilities but optional at New Jersey facilities. Port Authority buses and trains between the two states still require masks.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority announced Tuesday that the requirements to remove masks from Boston's subways and buses as well as other public transit systems were removed.

The Philadelphia Transit Agency has declared that masks are no longer required for subways, buses, trains and stations.

Regional train system that serves Washington, D.C., said Monday that masks would be an option for customers and employees moving forward.

The five-county Metrolink passenger train system in Southern California does not require people to wear facial coverings. Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LAMTA) and Los Angeles City Department of Transportation still have web advisories that state that face masks must be worn.

Officials from Anchorage and Juneau announced Tuesday that masks are no longer required for public transport in two of Alaska's most populous cities.

TriMet, Portland's public transit agency has made it optional to wear masks on its trains and buses.

Amtrak stated that it would make masks optional.

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RIDE-SHARING

Lyft and Uber, ride-sharing companies, announced Tuesday on their websites that masks are now optional for riding or driving.

"We understand that people have different comfort levels. Anyone who wishes to keep wearing a mask is welcome to do so. Lyft stated that riders and drivers can cancel or decline any ride they do not wish to take.

Uber stated that they no longer require people to sit in their back seats, but both Uber and Lyft have said that it is not necessary.


 

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