Mask compliance falls in NYC subway stations as COVID infection rate rises

Coronavirus update for NYC

Wednesday, July 21, 2021
Mask wearing falls in NYC subways as COVID rate rises
MTA officials have been watching the trend for the past several weeks. Fewer people are wearing face coverings in the New York City transit system.

FORT GREENE, Brooklyn (WABC) -- Volunteers were out distributing masks in Brooklyn Tuesday, urging the public and police officers who work in the subways to wear them.

MTA officials have been watching the trend for the past several weeks. Fewer people wearing face coverings in the New York City transit system.

"Based on my anecdotal looking around, yes, from my perspective, compliance has gone down slightly," New York City Transit Chief Customer Officer Sarah Meyer said.

Meyer joined MTA volunteers on Tuesday, handing-out masks at the Atlantic Terminal subway station, where several riders could be seen without them -- both on the platforms and in the trains.

"I think, when they're on the platforms, maybe they forget. But when they get on the trains, the vast majority remembers," Meyer said. "Unfortunately, as we see across the country, there are still those that refuse to wear masks and don't find them to be medically necessary."

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After months of decline amid soaring vaccination rates, coronavirus cases are once again on the rise in the Tri-State area.

The distribution of masks was part of a larger effort by the MTA, who labeled the day as its 13th 'Mask Force' event.

MTA leaders, local elected officials, staff and volunteers distributed thousands of free masks throughout the Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North and the NYC Transit subway system.

It comes one year after the launch of 'Operation Respect,' an initiative to promote universal mask use on trains and buses.

Public transportation is one of the few places left in New York where face coverings are required.

For much of the pandemic, virtually everyone wore masks.

But a recent Transit Authority survey found that compliance among subway riders is falling below 90%. And it comes as the citywide vaccination rate has stalled and the infection rate is rising again for the first time in months.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has resisted a new mask mandate for the city, fearing it would remove the incentive for the remainder of city residents to get vaccinated. Nearly half have yet to receive a single dose.

"I don't want to see people say, 'Oh, well, we're doing masks so we don't need to deal with vaccination.' A lot of people, I fear, if they're saying, 'Well, we're going to wear a mask, so we're not gonna get vaccinated.' That's crazy," the mayor said.

ALSO READ | More mass vaccination sites close, mayor says no to mask mandate

Diana Rocco has the latest on COVID in New York City and the mayor's update on mask guidance.

Riders wearing masks today told Eyewitness News, it's an extra margin of safety.

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