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State drops public transit mask requirement, Bay Area agencies follow

The California Department of Public Health said Wednesday that they are dropping the mask requirement for passengers aboard public transportation vehicles and at transportation hubs. The decision comes two days after a federal judge in Florida struck down the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mandate.

Not long after the CDPH announcement, several Bay Area transit agencies fell in line.

BART, Caltrain and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which oversees Muni, announced late Wednesday afternoon that masks will no longer be required on their vehicles. 

An SFMTA statement released Wednesday afternoon says masks are still “strongly recommended” but not mandatory inside transit facilities or on Muni vehicles. The change is effective at midnight.

SFMTA officials claim the fleet has “excellent air flow,” which turns the air once every minute.

BART’s statement posted on Twitter at 4:22 p.m. was nearly identical to SFMTA’s messaging: Masks will no longer be required, though they are “optional” and strongly recommended for now. BART Board of Directors anticipate a proposal will be introduced Thursday that would reinstate the agency’s requirement if passed.

AC Transit, Caltrain and VTA also announced lifting of mask requirements in statements issued throughout Wednesday.

Confusion ensued Monday with transit agencies interpreting the ruling differently — some quickly dropped requirements and others hesitated. 

The Transportation Administration Security, which oversees airport security, announced shortly after the CDC ruling Monday they will no longer enforce the mask requirement on public transportation and at transit hubs. A number of airlines were quick to drop their own requirements the same day.

The Federal Transit Agency did not immediately change its policy, but they announced alignment with the TSA stance Tuesday.

Anthony Coley, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Justice, said in a written statement, that they disagree with the ruling and will appeal the decision:

“The Department of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention disagree with the district court’s decision and will appeal, subject to CDC’s conclusion that the order remains necessary for public health. The Department continues to believe that the order requiring masking in the transportation corridor is a valid exercise of the authority Congress has given CDC to protect the public health. That is an important authority the Department will continue to work to preserve.”

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