SEPTA riders no longer required to wear masks despite Philadelphia's reimposed mandate
PHILADELPHIA - On the day Philadelphia reimposed its indoor mask mandate, SEPTA announced that it's no longer requiring masks aboard vehicles or inside stations or concourses.
The decision comes hours after a federal judge in Florida struck down the national mask mandate covering airlines and other public transportation. The White House said the court ruling means that for now the mask order "is not in effect at this time."
The ruling appeared to free operators to make their own decisions about mask requirements, with several airlines announcing they would drop mandates but the New York City subway planning to keep one in place.
SEPTA announced in a tweet Monday night that "the wearing of masks aboard SEPTA vehicles and in SEPTA stations & concourses is recommended but no longer required of customers or employees."
In a statement, SEPTA spokesperson Andrew Busch said SEPTA employees working inside offices, districts and shops within Philadelphia must continue to wear masks until further notice. This decision is in accordance with Philadelphia's indoor mask mandate, Busch said.
Meanwhile, Philadelphia is under an indoor mask mandate that was brought back amid an uptick in new infections. The city announced a week ago that it would reimpose the mandate after metrics no longer met the ‘All clear’ tier of Philadelphia's COVID-19 response.
Health officials use four key metrics, COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, test positivity rates and the rate of increase in cases, to determine the move from one response tier to the next.
FOX 29 reached out to the Philadelphia Department of Health for clarification on the guidelines but has not heard back.
The decision by U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle in Tampa, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, also said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention failed to justify its decision and did not follow proper rulemaking procedures that left it fatally flawed.
In her 59-page ruling, Mizelle said the only remedy was to vacate the rule entirely across the country because it would be impossible to end it for the limited group of people who objected in the lawsuit.
The judge said "a limited remedy would be no remedy at all" and courts have full authority to make a decision such as this — even if the CDC's goals in fighting the virus are laudable.
The Justice Department declined to comment when asked if it would seek an emergency stay to block the judge’s order. The CDC also declined to comment.
"This is obviously a disappointing decision," White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters. "The CDC is recommending wearing a mask on public transit."
The CDC had recently extended the mask mandate, which was set to expire Monday, until May 3 to allow more time to study the BA.2 omicron subvariant of the coronavirus that is now responsible for the vast majority of cases in the U.S.
Major airlines also began dropping mask mandates Monday after the judge overturned the CDC's decision.
- White House: Federal transportation mask mandate 'not in effect at this time'
- These major U.S. airlines are dropping mask requirements
- Philadelphia mask mandate: City begins reinforcing indoor mask mandate Monday
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