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MTA enforces masks after judge overturns federal mandate for public transit

Photo: StockSnap / pixabay.com

Masks will still be required for commuters on Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road, even though a federal judge in Florida lifted the nationwide mask mandate on planes and other public transit.

The Florida judge said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention failed to justify its decision to extend the mask mandate that was supposed to expire next week. Researchers wanted more time to study the BA.2 omicron subvariant that’s on the rise. The Department of Justice plans to appeal the ruling.

Opponents of the mandate argue that states have already loosened restrictions in restaurants and stores after COVID-19 cases declined from record highs earlier this year.

In New York, the MTA said it will follow guidance from the state health department to keep passengers masked while it reviews the Florida court decision.

Masks are still also required on the New York City Ferry, New York City Taxis, and at JFK, LaGuardia and Stewart Airports. On Long Island, MacArthur Airport and Suffolk County Transit will require masks, as well.

"This was not a decision by the federal government that masks were no longer needed in very congested settings like public transit, our buses, in New York City the subway. But it was overturned by the court for procedural reasons," New York Governor Kathy Hochul said. "You watch the variants, they come, and we're starting to see cases and hospitalizations go up."

In Connecticut, Bradley International Airport will also no longer require masks, but the state Department of Transportation still encourages commuters to wear masks in the airport and on forms of public transportation.

Governor Ned Lamont said it’s the wise thing to do, despite Monday’s federal court decision that made national enforcement illegal.

“I can understand why Metro-North or the MTA in this case,” Lamont said. “They want to leave the mask mandate in place for another couple of weeks. Just to see if we get through this. Otherwise, look, we are broadly leaving it up to our municipalities,or schools. We are not changing that.”

Lamont said the issue should be resolved in the next few weeks, if COVID-19 infection rates remain low.

In the meantime, commuters without masks will not face consequences.

Natalie is a former news fellow with WSHU Public Radio.
As WSHU Public Radio’s award-winning senior political reporter, Ebong Udoma draws on his extensive tenure to delve deep into state politics during a major election year.