RTS adjusts masking policy after Gov. Hochul lifts mask mandate for mass transit

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Update: Effective immediately, masks are optional for customers and employees on all Regional Transit Service (RTS) vehicles and in all RTS facilities. The change in this RTS policy comes after the announcement on Wednesday by Governor Kathy Hochul that the mask mandate on public transportation is no longer in effect.

“This change in the RTS policy on masks reflects our continued efforts to follow guidance from Governor Hochul, the New York State Department of Health, the CDC, and TSA, to ensure public transit is safe for our employees and customers,” said RTS CEO Bill Carpenter. “As Governor Hochul stated in her announcement today, ‘masks are encouraged, but optional.’ I appreciate our customers and employees for being respectful of everyone’s choices on this issue.”

RTS encourages all customers and employees to stay home and away from public transit if you are sick, have COVID-19, or believe you have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19.

For information, visit RTS here.

ALBANY, N.Y. — Gov. Kathy Hochul announced on Wednesday that New York State is easing its mask rules for mass transit.

Hochul said the state will still encourage masks on mass transit, but they are no longer required. Signs will be on buses, the subway, and in other places to encourage people to wear a mask and to respect the choices of others to wear mask or to go mask-less.

The governor said masks will still be mandatory in all adult care facilities and healthcare facilities run by the state. She said this is not an arbitrary decision but rather one based on the numbers. She said state health officials will continue to watch the numbers.

“We’re watching global trends, we’re watching for variants, for any updates on vaccines,” Hochul said. “But we do believe that we’re in a good place, especially if New Yorkers take advantage of this booster. That’s how we get back to not just a new normal, but a ‘normal’ normal. That’s what we’re striving for.”

The governor also says the new boosters that target two of the Omicron subvariants are going out to healthcare providers this week. Some providers are getting the boosters on Wednesday.

The rollout comes after the Centers for Disease Control approved the new shots targeting the Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration was the first to approve the new boosters, on August 31. Medical experts hope the new boosters will prevent a fall and winter surge.

As governor Hochul got her booster shot in front of the cameras, State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett encouraged all New Yorkers over the age of 12 to consider doing the same. 

“It doesn’t matter how many boosters you’ve had before, if it’s been two months since your last shot you should look into getting another booster,” Bassett said.

The booster now includes protection against the omicron variant in addition to a boost in the antibodies you already got in the original series of the vaccine. 

 “Protection wanes the further out you get so, you have a substantial segment of the population that is now reduced immunity and coming into another respiratory viral season,” said Dr. Emil Lesho, an infectious disease specialist for Rochester Regional Health.

There’s also concern that the upcoming flu season will be bad, based on what’s been happening in the southern hemisphere. 

“What’s happening in that area of the world right now suggests we could be in for an aggressive flu season. Australia and New Zealand had their worst flu season in the last five or six years,” Lesho said.

While you can get the flu shot and COVID booster at the same time, doctors say you may want to wait until mid-to-late October on the flu shot in order to get the best protection. They do hope people will consider getting both. 

 “It’s not all about you. The strain on the health care system can be quite substantial,” said Dr. Ann Falsey, an infectious disease specialist at URMC.