Many Maryland transit agencies opted to lift masking requirements after a federal judge struck down the CDC’s masking mandate.
Earlier this week, a federal judge in Florida’s 11th Circuit struck down a policy requiring public transportation riders to wear face masks. This ruling comes when masking requirements nationally are already being relaxed. Several weeks ago, many of Maryland’s indoor masking requirements were already being lifted.
The federal policy was implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Biden administration last week extended the requirement into May. Some in public health circles believe the ruling may prove problematic for the current and future administrations when responding to public health emergencies.
On the local level, the ruling has had an impact as well. Many local transit agencies from across the country have opted to lift their transit masking requirements. New York and Philadelphia are two notable outliers by retaining their masking policies.
What does masking look like in Maryland?
In Maryland, almost all jurisdictions are moving lift transit masking requirements. Yesterday the Maryland Transit Administration moved to make masking optional on all buses, trains, and Mobility vehicles operated by the agency. The operators of the Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI) axed their masking requirements, citing the lack of TSA enforcement. Washington DC’s regional transportation agency WMATA lifted masking requirements. While the eastern shore’s multicounty transit agency, Shore Transit, also eliminated masking requirements.
In addition to regional transit agencies that service multiple counties, many county-run transit agencies are also moving to make masking optional. This week both Montgomery and Frederick Counties removed masking requirements on their transit services.
It appears that most, if not all, local jurisdictions in Maryland will be moving to an optional mask policy. What this will mean for the transmission of COVID-19 is yet to be seen. Many still have significant concerns for those who remain unvaccinated and those with conditions that make catching the virus especially troublesome. This recent policy change reflects a transition to the latest chapter of the COVID-19 saga, but it remains to be seen if this is the end of the story. Especially in the wake of a possible appeal of the Florida ruling.