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New York drops mask requirement on public transportation

Gov. Kathy Hochul getting a booster shot of the COVID-19 vaccine
Don Pollard
/
Office of Gov. Kathy Hochul
Gov. Kathy Hochul gets a COVID-19 booster shot

NEW YORK — (AP & WXXI News) New York state is dropping its mask requirement on public transportation thanks in part to the availability of new booster shots targeting the most common strain of COVID-19, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Wednesday.

Masks will be encouraged but not required on buses and trains including the New York City subway system, Hochul said.

Compliance with the subway mask requirement was high early in the coronavirus pandemic but has dropped steeply in recent months. Masks will still be required in health care settings, including hospitals and nursing homes, Hochul said.

Federal officials approved booster shots last week that target the most prevalent strain of the COVID-19 omicron variant.

Hochul, a Democrat, got the booster herself at her news conference in New York City and urged others to follow her example.

"We do believe that we're in a good place right now, especially if New Yorkers take advantage of these boosters," she said.

The decision by the state to drop the mask requirement on public transportation will have some impacts in the Rochester area.

Two of the local transportation operations that will be affected are the RTS bus system and the Frederick Douglass Greater Rochester International Airport.

For RTS, effective immediately, masks are optional for customers and employees on all RTS vehicles and facilities, such as the downtown transit center.

RTS CEO Bill Carpenter said that, “I appreciate our customers and employees for being respectful of everyone’s choices on this issue.”

RTS encourages all customers and employees to stay home and away from public transit if they are sick, have COVID-19, or believe that they have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19.

A similar advisory came out Wednesday from officials at the airport. They are also dropping the requirement that masks be worn inside the terminal.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.