Though life is slowly but surely returning to pre-COVID norms, there are some safety policies still in place.
One, is of course, proof of vaccination requirements for indoor spaces and activities in NYC. Another is the requirement of face masks, which is still a federal requirement in places like public transportation.
Though this has been a policy since last year, things have gotten a bit lax in recent months, but now the MTA is cracking down on mask enforcement.
After Labor Day, the MTA said they vastly increased mask distribution, handing out tens of thousands of free masks in subway, railroad hubs, and bus terminals. Even within the last two weeks, 25,000 free masks were handed out during phase one of their “Mask Blitz.”
Now, beginning Thursday, Sept. 23, they have announced that they will be “stepping up mask enforcement” yet again, and that “those who do not comply with mask requirements will be more likely to face a $50 fine.” Customers refusing to wear masks are also subject to receive a summons.
The $50 fine was first implemented on September 14, 2020, when former Governor Cuomo issued an executive order directing the transit authority increase face mask compliance on NYC public transit. “While mask compliance in the MTA system remains very high, we want to make sure that people feel comfortable coming back to public transportation,” he said at the time. “I have asked the MTA to come up with an enforcement regimen so people know that not only are the cars clean and the stations clean, but the riders will be acting appropriately. We have to be able to say to the riding public that everyone will be wearing masks – and if they refuse to wear a mask they will be penalized.”
Right now, mask compliance is 87 percent on subways, 94 percent on buses, 92 percent on the LIRR and 95 percent on Metro-North. They are hoping to return to 2020 and early 2021 numbers, when compliance was nearly 100 percent.
The fines and summons will only be issued for refusal to comply; there are free masks available for riders who simply forget theirs.