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MTS joins other transit agencies in scrapping mask requirements

An undated file photo of a sign requiring riders to wear a facial covering on the San Diego Trolley.
KPBS staff
An undated file photo of a sign requiring riders to wear a facial covering on the San Diego Trolley.

The Metropolitan Transit System Wednesday joined other local transit agencies in rescinding its mask requirements aboard its buses and trolleys, following Federal Transit Administration and California Department of Public Health guidance.

Even so, the MTS encouraged riders to continue to wear face coverings and practice social distancing if possible to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Anyone who may be experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 should take preventive measures and keep public safety in mind. People should not ride public transportation while showing symptoms of illness.

On Tuesday, the North County Transit District rolled back its mask requirements.


"Based on updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the North Country Transit District will no longer require face coverings to be worn onboard vehicles or in stations, effective immediately," said Colleen Windsor, spokeswoman for the transit agency.

The change impacts Coaster and Sprinter trains, Breeze buses, Flex on-demand service and Lift paratransit services.

Mask-wearing requirements on transit operations were thrown into doubt Monday when U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle in Florida issued a ruling saying the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had exceeded its authority by mandating face coverings on mass transportation.

The U.S. Justice Department said Wednesday that it would appeal the ruling.

Most major airlines — including Southwest, Delta, American and United -- quickly made mask-wearing optional in response to the ruling. The Transportation Security Administration also announced that it would no longer enforce the mask rule at airports.


According to Sabrina LoPiccolo, spokeswoman for the San Diego County Airport Authority, masks remain optional while traveling through San Diego International Airport for both passengers and employees.

"Our primary goal is to ensure the health and safety of the traveling public," she told City News Service. "We will continue to comply with TSA guidance on masking. At this time, TSA's mask mandate is not in effect."

The ride-hailing service Uber also dropped its mask mandate for drivers and passengers, saying face coverings are still recommended. Lyft had not yet issued any changes in its masking policy.

The CDC first issued an order mandating masks on public conveyances in January 2021, saying "traveling on public transportation increases a person's risk of getting and spreading COVID-19."

"Air travel often requires spending time in security lines and busy airport terminals," the agency stated. "Travel by bus, train and other conveyances used for international, interstate or intrastate transportation poses similar challenges."

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