In her first COVID update in months, Governor Kathy Hochul said that the mask mandate on public transit will stay for now. With New York City’s current infection rate surpassing 9%, the greater concern should be the near-total lack of enforcement by NYPD on MTA buses and subways.
by David Stone
The Mask Mandate Continues
“We are trying very hard to encourage people to come back to work, use the subways, but they have to feel safe and secure,” Hochul said of her choice to continue the mandate on trains, buses and other public transportation.
“So we are going to continue to monitor it, but the numbers will have to be lower than they are right now and consistently lower” to lift it.
With state infection rates soaring – 9.15% is the 7-day average – the governor did not announce any other strategies for wrestling COVID, and there are no signs that the city under Mayor Eric Adams is committed to anything beyond lip service.
Despite the rapidly spreading Omicron subvariant known as BA.5, Hochul said the numbers are manageable for now but still too high to warrant lifting the mandate.
Yesterday, also, Hochul reported 22 new deaths from COVID, a number that would make headlines if caused by anything else. Imagine 22 deaths by fire, drowning or shooting getting so little attention.
Why Face Masks on Subways Matter
The question of whether or not to wear a face mask on public transit is not a simple one, and there are arguments to be made on both sides. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that people wear masks when using public transportation, and there are several good reasons for this.
First, it’s important to remember that COVID-19 is primarily spread through respiratory droplets. When an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks, they release these droplets into the air. If someone else is nearby and breathes in these droplets, they can become infected with the virus.
Wearing a face mask helps to protect other people in two ways. First, it blocks respiratory droplets from spreading in the air. Second, it helps to trap any droplets that the wearer might release. This is especially important on public transit, where people are often close together in confined spaces.
There is also some evidence to suggest that face masks can protect the wearer as well. While the main purpose of a mask is to protect others, it might also reduce the wearer’s exposure to respiratory droplets. This is especially true if the mask fit is good and there are multiple layers of fabric.
It’s important to remember, however, that face masks are not a substitute for other important measures, such as social distancing and hand washing. Face masks should be used in addition to these other measures, not instead of them.
Governor Hochul’s decision to keep the mask mandate in place on public transit is a good one. It’s an important measure that can help to protect both riders and workers. With infection rates rising, it’s more important than ever to do everything we can to slow the spread of the virus.