Masks will again be required on Bay Area Rapid Transit, making the largest transit system in the San Francisco area the only one currently enforcing a masking requirement.
In a meeting on Thursday, the agency’s board of directors approved a temporary amendment to the Bay Area district’s code of conduct that requires riders to wear masks in the system, with limited exceptions. The decision will be effective until July 18, and could be extended by the board.
In more than an hour of call-in testimony from the community, officials said, there was extensive support for a mandate to protect transit-dependent communities, people with underlying health conditions and children under 5, who are not yet eligible for vaccination.
For the most part, riders in the Bay Area have not been resistant to mask wearing. “Most people who don’t have a mask on simply take the free mask provided by police and put it on,” said Alicia Trost, a spokeswoman for the transit system. The agency said on Twitter that “free masks are available at station agent booths and from all safety staff for those who need one.”
Dr. John Swartzberg, a professor at University of California, Berkeley, said he was “absolutely delighted” with the decision, as an a infectious disease specialist and a professor of public health — and as a grandfather. He said his teenage granddaughter uses the transit system to get to and from her high school in San Francisco, 40 minutes each way.
The reinstatement came 10 days after a federal judge in Florida struck down a nationwide mask requirement for public transit systems and airlines, leaving those entities to set their own rules. The Justice Department is appealing the Florida ruling. Like other transit agencies in the Bay Area, BART’s previous mandate had been based on the federal directive.
“We believe we are the only transit agency in the country to adopt their own mandate,” Ms. Trost said. A state mandate requires riders to wear masks on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in New York City, and a county mandate enforces masking on the Los Angeles Metro Rail.
After the Florida ruling, the California Department of Public Health updated its guidance to strongly urge rather than require riders on public transit to wear masks. In an order last week, Los Angeles County retained the mask mandate for travelers aboard public transit and in indoor transportation hubs, like airports.
Barbara Ferrer, the Los Angeles County health director, said the county was extending the mask requirement because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had not changed its guidance that face coverings were still necessary on public transit.
“We obviously have a very dangerous virus that is still in circulation that can really wreak havoc,” Dr. Ferrer said in a news briefing last week. She added, “I think we have carved a very sensible path for the county right now, which is that we have denoted some settings where there is much higher risk, and are layering in more protections in those settings.”