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Masks are no longer required on the MBTA

Passengers ride the MBTA bus last winter. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Passengers ride the MBTA bus last winter. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Riders are no longer required to wear face coverings on MBTA vehicles or properties. Masks will still be required for riders on the T's paratransit service, The Ride.

The T announced its decision Tuesday afternoon, a day after a federal judge in Florida struck down the CDC’s federal travel mask mandate.

“The Commonwealth has followed federal guidance in terms of face coverings and to be consistent with that, we are lifting the face covering mandate at the Commonwealth’s transportation hubs and on most public transportation vehicles,” said Transportation Secretary and CEO Jamey Tesler in a statement.

The CDC had recently announced an extension of the deadline for the mask order from April 18 to May 3, citing an increase in cases nationwide mostly driven by the omicron subvariant BA.2. On Tuesday, the state's daily COVID report noted a 4.2% positivity rate. Case numbers in the state have been increasing since mid-March.

Massachusetts Port Authority officials began removing signs associated with masking requirements at the airport on Tuesday morning, as the TSA stopped enforcing the mask mandate.

"In line with the TSA's guidance, mask wearing will now be optional within our airport facilities and on Logan Express buses," Massport CEO Lisa Wieland said in a statement. "There may still be certain requirements onboard international flights, so we would encourage those passengers to check with their airline and destination."

The MBTA and Massport join transportation services like Uber and Lyft, several airlines including Delta and JetBlue, and other transportation agencies in the country in relaxing restrictions.

The CDC still recommends people wear masks in indoor public transportation settings, and transit officials say individuals could still do so.

“If people feel more comfortable wearing a face mask, then by all means continue to do so," said MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak in a statement.

Poftak also said "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.”

Ramnath Subbaraman is an infectious disease physician and an assistant professor at the Tufts University School of Medicine. For him, mask mandates help ensure equity in public spaces.

“Mask mandates are really about protecting our most vulnerable,” he said. “When you implement them at a public level, it’s kind of establishing a public ethic around that.”

According to the T, its buses, trains, and trolleys recycle and refresh air every 60 seconds, and exchange air at least 10 times every hour. The agency also said over the last two years it has upgraded air filtration in all of its vehicles to “the maximum levels” its HVAC systems allow, and is investing in a new air treatment technology.

With additional reporting by the State House News Service

This article was originally published on April 19, 2022.

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