announced on April 18 that they will no longer enforce a requirement that riders wear masks, a move local transit rider advocacy group Pittsburghers for Public Transit “condemns” as “irresponsible.” Port Authority’s decision comes hours after a federal judge in Florida struck down the CDC’s mask mandate covering airplanes and other public transportation.
“Effective immediately,” Port Authority wrote on Facebook, “We will no longer enforce mask wearing. Individuals are welcome to continue to wear masks for their own comfort and safety.”
PPT argues that Port Authority has a responsibility to protect riders from COVID-19 by requiring all riders to wear masks. “Mask-wearing has been shown to be effective only when it is universally adopted, and not solely by those who elect ‘to wear masks for their own comfort and safety,’” PPT writes in a release, citing a study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“Many people with disabilities, including those who are immunocompromised, rely on public transit to access essential services,” PPT’s statement continues. “Without a mask requirement and enforcement, these riders must compromise their health in order to go to the doctor, to buy fresh food, to visit with family and more.”
“The decision to stop enforcing mask usage on buses doesn’t consider people like me, who are immuno-compromised," says bus rider and PPT Board Chair, Verna Johnson. "This latest COVID-19 variant is more transmissible than any other we’ve seen, and people are still getting sick and dying from the virus. Port Authority’s choice makes me afraid to ride.”
Port Authority spokesperson Adam Brandolph declined to respond to PPT’s criticism of the agency’s move, writing to Pittsburgh City Paper in an email, “While Port Authority passengers and employees are no longer required to wear masks while on board vehicles or in stations, masks are welcome and remain an important preventive measure against COVID-19.”
NPR reports that the Fla. judge who threw out the CDC’s mask mandate, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, ruled improperly based on a misunderstanding of public health law, according to two legal experts who teach law at Georgia State University and Arizona State University
Pittsburghers for Public Transit will be holding a rally downtown at 1 p.m. on Fri., April 22 to “highlight how transit service is linked to survival for both individuals and our broader community, to demand service improvements, and to insist on increased safety for transit riders and workers.”