Confusion and conflicting information coursed through the morning commute for travelers at Penn Station Tuesday after a federal judge on Monday tossed the national mask mandate for mass transit.
New Jersey Transit and Amtrak lifted their mask requirements ahead of the morning commute.
New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority — which governs the city subways and buses as well as state commuter rails like Metro North and LIRR — did not.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey — which runs the PATH train and oversees the Port Authority bus terminal and regional airports — said its masking requirements were still in effect for New York locations but not New Jersey locations.
The morning confusion follows a ruling from a federal district court judge in Florida, overturning the Biden administration’s mask mandate for public transportation recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The national Transportation Security Administration announced it would no longer be enforcing the mandate in public transit hubs on Monday night.
But the orders from New York State’s health department mean masks are still required on transit facilities governed by the state. The conflict comes in spaces like Penn Station which is a hub for trains governed by New York, New Jersey and the federal government.
As commuters filtered through Penn Station Tuesday morning, most were still wearing masks and many said they had no idea the rules had changed, yet again. Some said they were excited about the end of the mask mandate, like commuter Ray Jackson who was waiting for an NJ Transit train.
“I guess it’s a sign of progress, a step in the right direction,” he said. “I’m elated about that.”
Teacher Gloria Pastorino said she planned to keep her mask on while riding public transit indefinitely.
“There’s a pandemic going on,” Pastorino said. “Because omicron is contagious, because we’re not over it because it’s stupid to be in an enclosed space with a bunch of people who are breathing on me.”
One Amtrak worker at Moynihan station said she didn’t know the rules had changed, and then realized the mask signs typically scattered around the lounge were no longer in place.
Several NJ transit workers said they had received no information about any change in policy from their supervisors and signs were still up around the hall saying masks were still required, though an overhead announcement from Amtrak said the rules had changed.
COVID-19 infection rates had been on the rise in recent days after sinking to a low of just over one percent in early March following the omicron surge.
Who has lifted mask requirements:
Amtrak trains and concourses no longer require passengers to wear masks, a spokesperson confirmed.
While New Jersey Transit tweeted on Monday night masking rules were still in effect, by Tuesday morning Governor Phil Murphy announced the rule had been reversed.
Uber and Lyft told customers their masking requirements were no longer in effect, though this only applies to riders outside New York City — the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission clarified that app-based and yellow taxi riders within the five boroughs were still required to wear masks.
Who is keeping mask requirements for now:
The MTA’s subways, buses, Metro-North and Long Island Railroad trains still have a mask mandate in place, according to agency spokesperson Tim Minton. Both he and Gov. Kathy Hochul said the mandate remain in effect due to a March 2nd determination by the New York State Department of Health, which requires indoor mask usage for health care settings, adult care facilities, correctional facilities, homeless shelters, public modes of transportation and transit hubs. School buses and vans are exempt.
Who is doing both:
The Port Authority, which is governed by officials from New York and New Jersey, is applying different rules for different facilities since the two states have taken different tacks in the wake of Monday's ruling. The Port is still requiring masks at its Midtown bus terminal, on PATH trains and inside JFK and Laguardia Airports — but not at Newark Liberty or Teterboro airports in New Jersey.
This story has been updated with additional information. Stephen Nessen contributed reporting.