The masks are coming off travelers everywhere following a Monday ruling from a federal district court judge in Florida voiding the Biden administration’s requirement that riders on planes, trains, buses, and rideshare vehicles cover their faces.
One JetBlue crew member reportedly declared that the mandate was no longer in effect. Other airlines from American to United dropped the mandate in less dramatic ways. The Transportation Security Administration indicated that the agency would no longer enforce the rule in the light of the ruling.
The traveler in America’s biggest city will have to breathe harder. The state’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA)—which runs bus and train service in the wider New York City area—has said that its mask mandate will remain firmly in place. New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission stated that riders in cabs and Ubers will have to continue wearing masks. The New York Times.
Eric Adams, New York City’s mayor has approved this. Adams said today that masking continues to be necessary because of the increase in caseloads and New York City’s exceptional levels of urban density.
“We need to have masks in the subway. New York is a unique city. Adams said today at a press conference that New York is densely populated.
Eric Adams, NYC mayor (D) after a Florida judge ruled in favor of the repealing of the federal transportation mask mandate.
“We need to have masks in the subway. New York is a unique city. Our city is densely populated.” pic.twitter.com/8wFtHzlbtE
— The Recount (@therecount) April 19, 2022
The idea that dense New York City was particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 was an early, oft-repeated idea at the onset of the pandemic when the Big Apple was slammed with the nation’s first major outbreak.
Then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo tweetedIn March 2020, “there’s a NYC density level that is dangerous.” It must end immediately. NYC needs to develop an immediate plan for reducing density.” This Los Angeles TimesA few weeks later, an oped boasting of the many prophylactic advantages of sprawl in the city ran.
Although this idea was not completely unreasonable, it did not match the reality of the pandemic. New York City’s lower density suburbs, like Westchester County or Nassau, were first to suffer serious pandemics. Manhattan, however, fared slightly better during the initial pandemic.
Nolan Gray, looking through the evidence City Journal a year later, found remarkably little support for the idea that density—that is, more people living within a given square mile—was the problem. By contrast, there’s been ample evidence that housing overcrowding—more people living within the same housing unit—did aid the spread of COVID-19.
Similar results were seen with New York’s subway system. An April 2020 study found that most outbreaks occur along subway lines. It also showed that transit ridership fell the fastest.
A closer examination of the data showed that there is almost no relationship between actual ridership of transit and COVID-19 infectivity.
As the pandemic progressed from Los Angeles sprawl to South Dakota, more COVID-19-related outbreaks began to appear. This was further evidence that your city’s density didn’t make it uniquely dangerous.
Adams cited New York’s denseness as an excuse to continue requiring masks on subway lines. This seems especially outdated. Also, it’s absurd when you consider that New York City’s other environments don’t need masks.
The subway isn’t for everyone. It’s there to take them somewhere. This may be an anonymous office or private residence. Not wearing face covers while commuting between these locations is an effective way to protect yourself from infections.
The mandates pose a challenge for both the riders who have and must follow them, as well transit agencies that have to enforce them. For months, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) has been asking the Biden Administration for a lifting of its transportation mandate. They cite the high costs associated with enforcement.
Adams’ support for mandatory subway masking is therefore more reactionary.