Masks are now optional on public transportation as of April 19. This change resulted from U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle of the Florida Middle District’s decision on April 18, which ruled the mask mandate as “unlawful.”
Originally, the travel mask mandate was extended to May 3, 2022, because of a surge of COVID-19 cases, but the Transportation Security Administration will no longer enforce the mandate after the ruling.
Whatcom Transportation Authority released a notice on their website saying “Masks are optional.” The notice said masks are a great way to keep yourself and others healthy, and some operators will likely keep wearing them, but they are no longer required.
Maureen McCarthy, WTA's manager of community relations and marketing, said WTA was following the Federal Transit Administration's guidance for masking mandates but that when the federal court ruling was made, it created ambiguity.
“Given that there wasn’t one [single] voice coming straight from the federal government, we decided, given that the mask mandate was soon to expire anyway, it would be better to make it plain to people that the mandate had ended and that masks were now optional,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy said the bus is still safe even if only people choosing to wear a mask are doing so, but that avoiding conflicts has become an important part of mask-wearing for WTA.
“Certainly the climate on the bus of having to enforce something that many people have grown weary of is something that we wanted to improve,” McCarthy said. “So dropping the mask mandate was in part to help reduce conflict on the bus.”
At Western Washington University, 85% of students ride WTA to get around Whatcom County. Although WTA will continue to provide masks, many students who commute on WTA might notice fewer people wearing them.
Camila DeJesus, a first-year at Western who rides WTA, said she thinks it’s fine if people don’t wear a mask if it’s not federally mandated.
“I think people can do what they want, but I will continue to wear one for my own safety,” DeJesus said.
Joshua Solorzano (He/Him) is a student reporter on The Front, reporting on the City News beat. He is majoring in Visual Journalism and minoring in Spanish. Habla español con fluidez.
You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.