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Mass transit riders remain confused on masks as DOJ challenges judge’s strike down of federal mandate

April 25, 2022

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — To wear a mask or not to wear a mask? The constant confusion continues. No one coming or going from Albany International Airport on Thursday seems to be entirely sure.

“Honestly, we’re confused because the signs at the door still say that they’re required, so we put them on. We weren’t planning on actually wearing them,” says one woman while ushering her kids to put their masks on.

“I have my shots, and I’ll just take my chances I guess,” says another woman, sans mask, while leaving the arrivals gate.

Even though a Florida district judge ruled to overturn the federal mass transit mask mandate on Monday, the Department of Justice now plans to follow the CDC’s recommendation and appeal. Governor Hochul meanwhile says challenges on the federal level do not change New York’s Department of Health directive.

So what does that mean for the rest of us?

Ryan McCall, a legal expert with Tully Rinckey, says the powers that be may be battling it out, but as long as the state says the masks stay on, the masks stay on in buses, subway cars, and airports — at least in the terminals.

“Right now, most of the major airlines have begun saying that they are no longer requiring the mask mandate. Once you walk into that airport, you need to have your mask on, but once you step foot on the plane or take your seat, at that point you can take your mask off,” he explains to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton.

Once you step off public transit and into private services, that’s where changes come in. Uber and Lyft posted on Twitter that all mask policies are suspended.

An Amtrak spokesperson says passengers and employees do not need to wear masks in the trains or stations, though they’re free to choose:

“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. Anyone needing or choosing to wear one is encouraged to do so. Please refer to commuter railroads for their specific policies.”

McCall says it’s best to default to Department of Health guidelines whenever you’re unsure.

“They still do have the authority to mandate masks on public transit of that nature throughout the course of the state,” he says.

He adds it’s still in everyone’s best interest to watch closely how the federal events unfold. While the DOJ did file its appeal, it did not request an emergency stay.

“I think they’re weighing their next moves very carefully, and what’s interesting about that is whatever the outcome of the appeal might be, because that might determine if the federal government could enforce a mask mandate in any future pandemics,” he explains.

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