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Connecticut transportation officials keep mask mandate in effect, after feds stop enforcing it

Windsor Locks, CT - June 25, 2020: Signs at Bradley International Airport remind travelers to wear masks at all times and maintain proper social distancing. (Tyler Russell/Connecticut Public)
Tyler Russell
Connecticut Public
Signs at Bradley International Airport on June 25, 2020, remind travelers to wear masks at all times and maintain proper social distancing.

State and local transportation officials are responding to a federal court decision Monday that ruled the federal mask mandate on public transportation was “unlawful.”

While the White House said it was reviewing the decision, it also said the Transportation Security Administration will stop enforcing the mask mandate on planes, trains, buses and other modes of transportation.

But state officials aren’t following suit. The Connecticut Department of Transportation is keeping the mandate in place for buses and rail.

“Passengers and employees must continue wearing a mask on CTtransit buses and Metro-North, Hartford Line, and Shore Line East rail services in Connecticut,” said Josh Morgan, the communications manager for the department. “We continue to wait for further guidance and clarification from the [f]ederal government on whether they will appeal the recent court ruling.”

And the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority is also keeping its requirement for masks on trains.

“The mask requirement on public transit in NY remains in effect for now pursuant to a March 2, 2022 determination by the New York State Department of Health,” MTA Communications Director Tim Minton said in a statement.

Jim Cameron, a transportation columnist and founder of the advocacy site CommuterActionGroup.org, said that in practice the mask mandate has been difficult to enforce on Metro-North trains traveling between Connecticut and New York. “I have seen concerned commuters asking conductors to ask other people to put their masks on, and the conductors refuse,” Cameron said Tuesday. “That has to be left to the MTA police. And there are no MTA police on trains in Connecticut.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had recommended continuing the order for masks through May 3.

In contrast, travelers at Bradley International Airport and the state’s other airfields will no longer need to wear masks, said a public information officer for the Connecticut Airport Authority.

“Following the recent court ruling and changes to the enforcement of the TSA Security Directives and Emergency Amendment requiring masks across the transportation industry, effective immediately, the CAA will no longer enforce a mask mandate at our airports,” wrote Ryan Tenny, a spokesman for the authority.

And the same holds for passengers on Amtrak, the federal passenger rail service in Connecticut and across the country.

“While Amtrak passengers and employees are no longer required to wear masks while on board trains or in stations, masks are welcome and remain an important preventive measure against COVID-19,” the agency said on its website. “Anyone needing or choosing to wear one is encouraged to do so.”

Jennifer Ahrens is a producer for Morning Edition. She spent 20+ years producing TV shows for CNN and ESPN. She joined Connecticut Public Media because it lets her report on her two passions, nature and animals.
Jeff Cohen started in newspapers in 2001 and joined Connecticut Public in 2010, where he worked as a reporter and fill-in host. In 2017, he was named news director. Then, in 2022, he became a senior enterprise reporter.
Lori Connecticut Public's Morning Edition host.

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