federal mask mandate

Masks to Remain Required for Public Transportation in City, Chicago's Top Doc Says

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Chicago's top doctor said masks remain required for public transportation in the city despite a recent ruling voiding a federal travel mask mandate.

Speaking in a Facebook Live Tuesday, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said the city will continue requiring masks on public transportation through at least the end of the month, citing an order from Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

The local order, which is in effect through April 30, is different from the federal mandate at the center of the judge's ruling, Arwady said. The governor's office, however, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the matter.

In a 59-page ruling Monday, a Florida judge voided the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's current national mask mandate on airplanes and mass public transit, saying the CDC failed to justify its decision and did not follow proper rulemaking procedures that left it fatally flawed.

The CDC had recently extended a federal mask mandate on public transit and in public transportation hubs until May 3, to allow more time to study the BA.2 omicron subvariant of the coronavirus now responsible for the vast majority of cases in the U.S.

The judge's ruling however has since caused confusion across states lines and agencies, leaving many wondering exactly what the decision means, and whether or not they need to continue wearing a mask on public transportation, on airlines, airports, in rideshares or more.

A White House administration official on Monday said, "agencies are reviewing the decision and assessing potential next steps. In the meantime, today’s court decision means CDC’s public transportation masking order is not in effect at this time.

Therefore, TSA will not enforce its Security Directives and Emergency Amendment requiring mask use on public transportation and transportation hubs at this time."

But for Chicago and Illinois, things may be different.

"We're of course watching what's happening at the federal level, but I want to be clear that in Illinois, the Governor's Executive Order 21-22 does remain in place," Arwady said. "And that order explicitly includes a requirement for universal masking on public transit and in public transit hubs."

She added that the order remains in place through the end of the month, but may be extended.

According to a statement from the Chicago Department of Aviation, which administers all aspects Chicago O'Hare and Midway International Airports, the department plans to follow and enforce "all current and future guidance by federal, state and local health and security authorities."

O'Hare and Midway Airports said that includes the executive order.

A number of airlines, including United Airlines, which is based out of Chicago, have said that the ruling means masks are no longer required on domestic flights, however.

In Chicago and Illinois, some agencies are requiring them, and others are not.

The Chicago Transit Authority said in an email to NBC Chicago Monday that "masks are still required on CTA trains and buses."

"If that requirement changes, we will notify customers," the agency said.

Metra also said it is not "making any immediate changes to the mask requirement while we assess the situation."

Pace also said the requirement remains in place.

The South Shore Line, operated by the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, however, said it will eliminate its mask mandate after the court ruling. Amtrak also announced passengers and employees are no longer required on board trains or in stations.

Both Uber and Lyft also released statements saying masks are now optional for riders and drivers.

It remains unclear if any of the agencies not requiring masks will change their guidance locally based on state guidance.

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