Masks optional on some state transit services

HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) – Masks are now optional on some transit services in Connecticut, the state Department of Transportation announced Wednesday.

Officials say the mask mandate on CT Transit, Hartford Line and Shore Line East has been lifted.

The decision comes after a federal judge in Florida overturned the mask mandate for public travel earlier this week.

Rail services on the New Haven Line follow orders from New York State as it is operated by Metro-North.

“For the past two years, our transit operators have provided masks to the public and enforced mask mandates on transit. Now that the federal transit mask mandate is no longer in effect, masking will no longer be enforced, but is still strongly encouraged by current CDC guidelines,” said Connecticut DOT Deputy Commissioner Garrett Eucalito.

Health officials across the state are concerned about the move because the state’s positivity rate has increased all week. The buses are also seeing an influx of passengers due to Governor Lamont’s free ride initiative.

“Bus ridership is growing,” said Doug Holcomb, general manager of Greater Bridgeport Transit.

“We are back to about 80% of pre-pandemic levels,” says Holcomb.

Holcomb says after the abrupt end of the mask mandate, Greater Bridgeport Transit will still encourage mask wearing.

“We hope people will continue for at least the next few weeks. It’s pretty close if you’re on a bus or train. You are close to people. Maintaining social distancing is very difficult,” says Holcomb.

On Monday, the mask mandate for public transportation was overturned by a federal judge in Florida. On Wednesday evening, the Ministry of Justice filed an appeal to overturn this decision.

“One of the reasons it looks like the Justice Department is moving forward is you don’t want to deprive the Centers for Disease Control of what they’re supposed to do, and they’re supposed to protect public health,” says Angela Mattie, professor at Quinnipiac University.

“While we await the appeal, the federal judge in Florida’s overturned mask warrant ruling still stands,” Mattie says.

The CDC’s national mask mandate for public transportation was due to end on May 3.

Melvin Z. Madore