VTA ends mask mandate days after federal judge strikes down national mask requirement
The Valley Transportation Authority announced Wednesday it was dropping its mask requirements aboard VTA buses, light rail and paratransit vehicles and at VTA facilities.
The news comes after a federal judge in Florida struck down a mask mandate on mass transit and airplanes Monday, prompting airlines to repeal their masking requirements.
“In light of recent decisions by the federal government to lift mask requirements on public transit, VTA is strongly recommending, but not requiring passengers and employees to wear masks,” said VTA spokesperson Stacey Hendler Ross in a news release.
Ross emphasized that the lifting of requirements “does not signal an end to the COVID-19 pandemic” and that experts “still recommend wearing face masks in a variety of settings, including mass transit.”
The VTA in the process of taking down signs requiring masks.
Caltrain and SF Muni have not ended their mask mandates while AC Transit, Golden Gate Bus and Golden Gate Ferry, and SMART train made masks optional, as did Santa Cruz Metro. BART said Wednesday that masks are still required but that officials are “seeking clarity from the state” and would enforce a mask mandate if there’s one for transit on the state level.
“I’m not quite sure what to do. I’ve got congestive heart failure, diabetes and I’m in a wheelchair and completely dependent on public transportation,” said Thom Mayer, a 73-year-old Sunnyvale resident who uses paratransit. “I take the light rail to church in downtown San Jose. I don’t want to miss church but I also don’t want to die right away. We all know we’re gonna die at some point but I don’t want it to be this week or next.”
Mayer, who said he will now have to make a choice between riding public transit with unmasked passengers or staying home, emphasized that wearing masks is “primarily to protect your neighbors.”
“I am double-vaccinated and double-boosted and I do have a life to live,” he added. “Public transit is sort of my window into it so I don’t know what to do at this point.”