New York City subway users are permitted to expose their faces for the first time in more than two years.
On Wednesday, Governor Kathy Hochul lifted the mask restriction that had been in effect for the state’s public transit systems since April 2020, when former Gov. Andrew Cuomo imposed it in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Hochul, Mask requirements for homeless shelters, detention centers, and penal facilities would also be eliminated.
But masks will still be required in New York hospitals, nursing homes, and adult care institutions.
Since April, when a federal judge in Florida overturned President Biden’s executive order requiring face coverings on public transportation, New York has been one of the only states in the country with a mask rule for transit facilities and airports.
Cuomo put teeth behind his prior mask requirement for transit riders in September 2020, proposing $50 fines for anyone who refused to wear a mask on public transportation.
However, the restriction was seldom implemented, with Metropolitan Transportation Authority Police issuing only 41 summonses to riders who broke the law the following year.
Most of the MTA’s attempts to convince riders to wear masks focused on public education.
During the first two years of the pandemic, the agency sponsored regular events where transit officials and volunteers gave free masks to straphangers, and it launched ad campaigns informing commuters about the mask mandate.
The MTA unveiled a new advertising campaign on Wednesday, stating that “masks are welcomed, but optional.” Let us respect each other’s decisions.”
According to MTA spokesperson Tim Minton, free masks will still be accessible at subway token booths for riders who request one.
Hochul stated that her decision to withdraw the mandate was influenced by the recent approval of new vaccinations targeting the omicron version of the COVID-19 virus by the Food and Drug Administration.
During her press conference, she was given one of the new shots.
According to city data, only 40% of New York City residents have had a COVID-19 booster shot since they were available last year.