Mask Mandates End on Planes, Public Transit in Mass.: Here's Where to Wear One

A federal judge's decision freed airlines, airports and mass transit systems to make their own decisions about mask requirements

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Masks are no longer required on airplanes, trains and rideshare services in Massachusetts after a federal judge in Florida struck down the mandate for methods of public transportation.

The Biden administration's mask requirement covered airlines, airports, mass transit and taxis, and was the biggest vestige of pandemic restrictions that were once the norm across the country.



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“What this court has said is that the mandate coming from the CDC was improper," legal analyst Michael Coyne said. “It does not limit the ability of private agencies and entities to do what they may want.”

A day after the ruling, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation announced that it was lifting its mask rules for the MBTA and airport facilities in the state.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to recommend wearing masks on public transit. The agency had recently extended the mask mandate, which was set to expire Monday, until May 3 to allow more time to study the BA.2 omicron subvariant of the coronavirus now responsible for the vast majority of cases in the U.S.

The judge's decision freed airlines, airports and mass transit systems to make their own decisions about mask requirements.

Do you need to wear a mask on the MBTA? What about Amtrak?

Beginning Tuesday, masks are optional on the MBTA, MassDOT said.

"Customers are no longer required to wear a mask on MBTA vehicles, or at stations or facilities if they choose not to; however, if people feel more comfortable wearing a facemask, then by all means continue to do so," MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said in a statement with MassDOT. "The MBTA remains committed to safety and will continue adhering to all CDC and Massachusetts’ public health guidance. The T is continuing to clean vehicles and stations regularly and upgrade air filtration systems."

The views among MBTA riders who spoke with NBC10 Boston were varied.

"I don't think I'll ever not wear a mask on the T again," said MBTA passenger Helen Ware. "I just feel safer that way, people can do what they want, obviously, but I think it's for the best if we're in this close proximity to a bunch of strangers, maybe we should keep a mask on."

"I think it's going to get really confusing if every shop, every transport system has a different policy in place," said Edi Gold of Brookline. "I'd rather keep it consistent and have it be personal preference."

Top Boston doctors discuss a Florida judge's repeal of the federal mask mandate on public transit like trains and airlines as well as the FDA's approval of the first COVID-19 breathalyzer NBC10 Boston’s weekly “COVID Q&A” series.

Amtrak also announced it would no longer require masks on board trains or in stations overnight, but people are encouraged to wear masks if they prefer.

The CDC continues to recommend that people wear masks in indoor public transportation settings. Amtrak still has a COVID-19 form that passengers must fill out before boarding.

People will no longer be required to wear masks on MBTA buses or trains, or at Logan International Airport.

Do you need a mask to fly?

Travelers at Boston's Logan Airport now have the option to choose whether or not to wear face coverings. The Transportation Safety Agency (TSA) said Monday night that it would it will no longer enforce the mask requirement. The CDC still recommends masks in airports.

"The mandate was a federal rule enforced by federal agencies," a Massport spokesperson said. "We are in transition due to the late decision last night by our federal partners and will be removing all signage about the mask mandate this morning."

Airlines are also empowered to make their own decision with regard to mask policies. Many airlines have already made the move to let passengers choose, including JetBlue, United, Delta, American and Southwest. The major airlines warned, however, that there may be some exceptions depending on where that flight is going. International flights, for example, may have different standards.

Some passengers told NBC10 Boston that they’re vaccinated and ready for the step, while others are a bit more cautious.

“Even though my glasses are fogging up, it feels safer to me," said Courtney Koslow, who flew to Boston from Atlanta. "So, I think our family will continue to wear masks.”

“You know, to each his own and I think my own is safety first," Maura Vogel said.

Travelers will now have to check with their airlines because it's now up to each company to decide whether or not to require masks -- at least for now.

Do you need a mask for Uber or Lyft?

Masks are no longer required for riders and drivers using Uber effective Tuesday, the company said in a statement.

Uber noted that the CDC still recommends wearing a mask if you have certain personal risk factors and/or high transmission levels in your area.

The rideshare company is also asking people to be respectful of people's individual preferences, noting that some people still feel safer wearing a mask due to personal or family health situations.

Lyft did not issue a statement on the ruling and did not immediately response to requests for comment.

Uber says that riders and drivers are no longer required to wear masks while using the service.

How about Steamship Authority boats?

The Steamship Authority of Massachusetts initially said Tuesday that it would continue to require masks.

"We are continuing to follow CDC guidance and requiring masks to be worn at all times on our vessels, buses, and at terminals," the Steamship Authority said. "We are reviewing the recent court order and reaching out to our federal partners to get further guidance."

However, after the U.S. Coast Guard updated its marine safety information regarding COVID safety requirements, the Steamship Authority said Wednesday that it will no longer be requiring masks to be worn at its terminals or on its ferries. Masks are also no longer required on its shuttle buses.

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