coronavirus illinois

Metra Makes Masks Optional on Trains Following Announcement That Illinois Will Lift Travel Mandate

Illinois lifted its travel mask mandate Tuesday to align with a federal judge's latest ruling

NOTE: NBC 5 will have breaking coverage of the travel mask mandate changes beginning at 4 p.m. Watch live in the player above.

Metra said Tuesday that masks will now be optional on train lines, following an announcement from Gov. J.B. Pritzker that face coverings will no longer be required in Illinois while traveling on public transportation.

"Given Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s announcement, starting immediately, masks will be welcome but not required while traveling on Metra trains. They remain an important preventive measure against COVID-19. We are asking everyone to please be courteous and kind toward your fellow riders and understanding of their needs and choices. This has been a difficult period for everyone – let’s all do what we can to help each other on the way back," Metra said in a statement.

One day after a judge voided a federal mask mandate for travel and public transportation, Pritzker announced that Illinois will align with the ruling, removing travel masking requirements from a statewide mandate.

The governor said he will revise his executive order to lift travel mask requirements across the state and "align with the ending of the enforcement of the federal mask mandate on public transportation."

The change means masks will no longer be required on public transit, in public transit hubs or in airports in Illinois, though they could remain in place in some locations as "local municipalities retain the right to establish their own mitigations, including masking requirements on public transportation," Pritzker said.

“I’m proud of the work our state has done to fight COVID-19 and protect our most vulnerable,” Pritzker said in a statement. “I continue to urge Illinoisans to follow CDC guidelines and, most importantly, get vaccinated to protect yourself and others.”

Illinois health officials said they were closely monitoring COVID metrics across the state and urged vaccinations and booster shots, particularly for those at increased risk.

The shift comes just hours after Chicago's top doctor said masks remain required for public transportation in the city, citing the governor's executive order. It remains unclear if city guidance will also change following the governor's announcement.

The local order was slated to remain in effect through April 30.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle voided the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's national mask mandate on airplanes and mass public transit. In a 59-page ruling, the Florida judge said 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.

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 included the governor's executive order, though it remained unclear Tuesday afternoon if their guidelines would be changing.

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.

In Chicago and Illinois, some transit agencies are requiring them, and others are not as of earlier Tuesday.

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.

Pace also said the mask requirement remained 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.

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