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Riders not ready to let go of their mask after the T drops mandate

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An unmasked rider watches as a masked person walks down the aisle to take a seat on an Orange Line train the first day the mask mandate has been lifted for traveling on the MBTA. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
An unmasked rider watches as a masked person walks down the aisle to take a seat on an Orange Line train the first day the mask mandate has been lifted for traveling on the MBTA. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Some riders boarded MBTA vehicles without a mask after the agency dropped its face covering requirement for riders.

The announcement came Tuesday, after a federal judge voided the CDC’s mask mandate for public transportation.

While some riders seemed ready to show their unmasked faces on the T’s trains, buses and trolleys, many riders were hesitant to do the same.

Tin Dang of Dorchester lives with his family, which includes kids and his senior parents. Before entering Downtown Crossing station, the 24-year-old said he doesn’t want to risk bringing the virus home.

“It’s not me personally, but I care about my family,” he said. “Some people are very vulnerable to the COVID viruses … I’d rather take care of my family, you know?”

Elroy Brown of Dorchester said he rides the T every day and also plans to continue masking up. He’s gotten used to it after wearing a mask for so long, he said.

“You got people out here sneezing in public, not covering their mouths. So like, I’m [going to] wear my f------ mask,” he said.

The CDC still advises that people wear masks in indoor public transportation settings. On Wednesday, the agency asked the Department of Justice to appeal a Florida judge's ruling overturning the mandate.

Public health experts have expressed concern about the end of the mandate, especially as new COVID cases are on the rise. The most recent measurements show increased levels of the coronavirus in Greater Boston's wastewater, and state data shows hospitalizations ticking up as well.

“Covid is most definitely not over,” said Shan Soe-Lin, a managing director at Pharos Global Health Advisors in Boston and a proponent of mask use. “It’s just really frustrating that still we’re not able to pull together as a society to take care of each other.”

Soe-Lin said she will rethink her own plans for an upcoming vacation now that masks are no longer a requirement on airplanes. For her, wearing a mask is not a big ask.

“I was in labor for four days, and I wore a mask the whole time because I was supposed to,” she said. “So if I can do that, you can wear a mask on the bus. You can do it.”

Some riders are in favor of ending the mandate for public transportation but not getting rid of masks in general.

Liane Czirjak of Rhode Island is a professor at Suffolk University, who uses the T as part of her work commute and for visits to Boston.

“I will continue to mask if it’s a crowded car,” she said. “If it’s not crowded then it’s okay.”

Czirjak said the mandate is dangerous for workers trying to uphold the policy. MBTA police have reported several incidents of attacks on operators who asked riders to wear a mask.

“Too many people are causing problems, and I think it’s not safe for some people who are trying to enforce it,” Czirjak said. “I have mixed feelings but for that reason, I think it’s OK.”

The T still requires riders to wear masks on its door-to-door service for people with disabilities, The Ride.

This article was originally published on April 20, 2022.

This segment aired on April 20, 2022.

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Darryl C. Murphy Twitter Host
Darryl C. Murphy is the host of WBUR's daily news and culture podcast, "The Common."

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