New York Governor Kathy Hochul has announced that the mask requirement for public transportation is being lifted. Following guidance from New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett, masks are now optional on all forms of public transportation, including subways, buses, commuter railroad, paratransit services, and in stations and airports. Free masks will continue to be available at subway station booths upon request as well as on commuter railroad trains.
To eliminate confusion for riders, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is rolling out a new campaign throughout stations and on subways, buses, and commuter railroad trains. Digital signage will encourage riders who prefer wearing a mask to continue to do so, while also ensuring awareness that it is now optional for all.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic the MTA has been guided by the health experts,” said MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber. “With revised guidance from the New York State Department of Health, which was the basis for the mask requirement on public transit, now is the right time for New Yorkers to make personal choices about what works best for them.”
“Mask usage remains a great defense against COVID-19 and will still be encouraged while riding,” said MTA Chief Safety Officer Patrick Warren. “Customers who choose to continue wearing a mask are free to do so, but now it is not required. Since the onset of the pandemic the MTA has distributed over 56 million free masks to employees and customers and will continue to monitor CDC and New York State Department of Health guidance.”
“Customers should continue to do what they are most comfortable with while riding public transit whether that means wearing a mask or not,” said MTA Acting Chief Customer Officer Shanifah Rieara. “To inform customers of this change, we are rolling out a variety of updated signage, audio announcements, and social media posts encouraging customers to do what they prefer. Free masks will continue to be readily available throughout the system for those who need and still want to wear one.”
Since the onset of the pandemic, the MTA has provided masks to employees and customers by distributing 56 million free masks. The Authority launched “Safe Travels and Operation Respect” and the MTA Mask Force in June 2020, when volunteers and MTA leaders went to stations and onboard subways, buses, and commuter railroads, distributing masks and educating riders on mask usage.