MTA to riders: Wear a mask — it's still the rule

(MTA Poster and File Photos)

More than a year and a half into the coronavirus pandemic, which has sickened more than 2.3 million New Yorkers and killed at least 55,000, some mass transit commuters still aren't wearing a mask — and compliance is dropping. 

Mask compliance on buses is around 93% and 86% on subways, according to a recent survey by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Those rates have dipped a few points since a compliance high of 99% on buses in late April and 98% on subways in mid-May.

Perhaps it is pandemic fatigue. Perhaps it is honest confusion about the latest rules. Perhaps it is selfishness. Perhaps it is absentmindedness. Perhaps it is some combination of the above. 

But whatever the reason, the MTA isn't having it. The agency (which runs the city's subways and buses, Staten Island Railway, LIRR, Metro-North, and more) is reminding riders that wearing a mask is still required — even if you're vaccinated — and helps reduce the spread of germs and viruses.

"The COVID-19 Delta variant must be taken seriously, and with more customers expected to be in the system it is vital to remind everyone of the importance of getting vaccinated and wearing a mask," MTA Chief Safety Officer Patrick Warren said in a statement. "Regardless of your vaccination status, you must wear a mask when riding. It keeps our workforce safe; it keeps your fellow commuter safe, and it keeps you safe." 

The MTA plans to go on a "blitz of mask distribution" and step up messaging across its transit systems. 

"MTA staff and police officers will be strategically stationed at subway and railroad hubs, and bus terminals to distribute free masks to unmasked riders," the agency said in a news release. "The goal is to reach the near universal compliance levels seen in the transit system at the height of the pandemic in 2020."

The MTA has distributed more than 10 million masks to commuters since summer 2020. 

By the way, the requirement to mask up while using mass transit isn't just because of a state mandate issued in April 2020. It is also in line with a federal rule in place until at least Jan. 18, 2022. 

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MTA workers wearing white masks and yellow shirts hand out masks to riders in an almost-empty subway car

MTA workers hand out masks to subway riders. (MTA File Photo)