Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) board members voted 7-0 to reintroduce the mask mandate on all trains on Thursday, becoming the second California rapid transit system to bring back masks in a week.
According to the new mandate, made by an amendment to the District’s Code of Conduct, all riders are to wear masks in paid areas of the system, including on trains as well as in stations. The only exemptions to the new mandate are children under the age of two, as well as those with medical conditions that prevent a mask to be worn.
BART Board of Directors at its meeting today approved a temporary amendment to the District’s Code of Conduct to require riders to wear masks in paid areas of the system with limited exceptions. This requirement applies to trains and all portions of stations beyond fare gates.
— BART (@SFBART) April 28, 2022
Free masks are to be given to those not wearing any, with station agents, BART police officers, and BART safety ambassadors walking around with extra masks and ensuring compliance. The new mandate is to stay in effect until at least July 18th, with further dates pending on possible extensions by the board.
Board members voted to reinstate the mandate after only a little more than a week of the mask mandate being removed following a federal judge in Florida striking down the federal TSA mask mandate for air travel and mass transit. Concerns over a possible return of a COVID-19 variant and concern for riders who are immunocompromised, have underlying health conditions, and who cannot be vaccinated.
“COVID cases are rising and we must keep riders safe, especially folks with health conditions, immunocompromised, and kids not yet eligible to get vaccinated,” said BART board President Rebecca Saltzman on Thursday.
While the first public transit agency in the Bay Area to reinstate masks so far, BART was the second mass transit agency statewide to reinstate masks following a Los Angeles County Department of Public Health order put into place last week that effectively returned the mask mandate to all riders on public transit or in stations.
While some on Thursday and Friday noted that the new mandate was largely precautionary, others decried the mandate as a major step back and something that may be difficult to keep into place past July.
“People are just sick of them at this point and are now getting used to things returning to normal,” explained Olivia Moreno, a health policy advisor who has worked with multiple companies over masking and other COVID-19 measures for the las two years, to the Globe on Friday. It isn’t how it was like during the early days of the pandemic when we all didn’t know what was going on, or during variant surges when the need to reduce the spread f the virus was obvious. There are slight upticks here and there, and there are still people at greater risk than others out there, but that doesn’t justify another system-wide mandate like BART just did.
“Lawmakers have largely refrained from praising these mandates because they know that support for them has been declining fast. Latest nationwide polls has shown that support for public travel mask mandates has fallen to only 56% and continuing to tumble down. They don’t want to make anyone more upset. But they haven’t also spoken out against them because that would go against their whole message for the last few years. So that’s how people are stuck with masks in some places until well past Independence Day.”
As of Friday, no other public transit organization in California has joined San Francisco and Los Angeles in reinstating mask mandates.
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