LOS ANGELES - Mask mandates on Southland rail and bus lines were slowly lifted Tuesday in response to a federal judge's ruling, with face coverings now being deemed a strong recommendation rather than a requirement.
After continuing to enforce the mask requirement on its buses and trains for much of the day, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced late Tuesday afternoon it was scrapping the mandate for passengers and drivers.
"However, it is important to recognize that we still live in a pandemic, thus face masks will continue to be strongly recommended on public transit to keep ourselves and those around us safe," County Supervisor Hilda Solis, who chairs the Metro Board of Directors, said in a statement. "I urge our residents to continue to remain vigilant and look out for one another as we move forward."
Mask-wearing requirements on transit operations were thrown into doubt Monday when U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle in Florida issued a ruling saying the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had exceeded its authority by mandating face-coverings on mass transportation.
Most major airlines — including Southwest, Delta Air Lines, American and United — quickly made mask-wearing optional in response to the ruling. The Transportation Security Administration also announced that it would no longer enforce the mask rule at airports — hence face coverings are now optional at Los Angeles International Airport, Hollywood Burbank Airport and John Wayne Airport in Orange County.
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The Orange County Transportation Authority also announced Tuesday it will no longer require passengers to wear masks on its buses, although face coverings are still recommended.
Metrolink officials also opted to drop the mandate on its commuter rail lines and stations, making it only a recommendation.
The ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft also dropped its mask mandates for drivers and passengers, saying face coverings are still recommended.
The Orange County Transportation Authority was also continuing to require masks.
Metrolink officials, however, opted to drop the mandate, making it only a recommendation.
As of late Tuesday afternoon, the Los Angeles city Department of Transportation was still asking passengers to wear masks on its DASH and Commuter Express buses. Some other city transit agencies were also still maintaining the requirements, including Torrance Transit, Culver City Bus and Santa Monica Big Blue Bus.
The CDC first issued an order mandating masks on public conveyances in January 2021, saying "traveling on public transportation increases a person's risk of getting and spreading COVID-19."
"Air travel often requires spending time in security lines and busy airport terminals," the agency stated. "Travel by bus, train and other conveyances used for international, interstate or intrastate transportation poses similar challenges."
Mask mandates have slowly been lifted in many settings in recent weeks. Los Angeles County and the state have scrapped requirements for masks at outdoor and indoor mega-events, and face coverings are no longer mandatory in most indoor environments.
Mask requirements inside school classrooms have also been lifted, and face coverings are now only strongly recommended at L.A. County campuses. Masks are also "strongly recommended," but not required, on school buses.
The county still requires masks at health-care facilities.
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