The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Board of Directors voted on Thursday to reinstate the masking mandate for all passengers and employees on Thursday, only 10 days after the last mandate had ended on the Bay Area’s rapid transit rail system.
Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, BART has gone through many on-and-off periods of masking being mandatory while riding the system. This year alone, the system has seen mandatory masking ended at the beginning year due to a large drop in new cases following the winter COVID-19 case rise, and reinstated following a new rise of cases in April, removed once again on July 18th.
With yet another swing in cases in the Bay Area this month, BART issued the mandate again, resulting in yet another quick and rash flip-flop that will last this time until at least the early fall.
“The BART Board of Directors has voted to reinstitute a face mask requirement effective immediately until and inclusive of October 1, 2022, unless further extended by the board,” the transit system said in a statement on Thursday. “The temporary amendment to the District’s Code of Conduct requires riders to wear face masks that fully covers a person’s nose and mouth in paid areas of the system with limited exceptions.”
Masking will now be required once past all fare gates once again, with the only exceptions to the mandate being children who are 2 and under, as well as riders with medical conditions who cannot wear masks, such as those who use external oxygen tanks to breathe. Free masks will be handed out to those without masks at station booths and from BART safety employees. Should any rider reject a mask or the offer of a free mask, a citation of up to $75 will be issued. The person refusing would also be ejected from all paying areas.
Masking mandate returns to BART after only 10 days
While not entirely unexpected, the returning BART policy turned the heads of many who did not expect a return so soon and who didn’t think the mandate would return following major mandate rejections happening recently across the state.
“For weeks, we’ve seen more and more cities and counties across California reject bringing back masking mandates, even though there is still worry amongst some of COVID variants and monkeypox,” explained Miguel Oliver, a policy consultant on many mass transit systems in the US and Mexico, to the Globe on Friday. “Look at LA surprising everyone and not bringing back the mandate yesterday. But mass transit systems have always been different with people shuffling in and out everywhere. And it can be understandable to even some of the more vocal people wanting to get rid of mandates, especially systems that swing by airports and hospitals often enough.
“LA’s makes sense because of that, and they have been consistent in requiring masks for a few years now. I mean, people want it to be removed, but you aren’t seeing people protesting it. BART however, that’s one without those dangers. Sure, a few airports are hooked up, but it is very much a city-commuter based line through rail rapid transit, not like LA Metro’s mix of trains and buses. So it is very odd BART keeps going back and forth on this and just confusing riders. If any system deserves an end to the mandate now, it is BART, but they just went back to it after less than two weeks. That’s nuts. Not other transit system keeps going back and forth and confusing riders like they are.”
The BART board is due to meet again on September 22nd, where it will meet to vote on another mandate extension.
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