OAKLAND, Calif. - Bay Area Rapid Transit has had a mask mandate in place for most of the coronavirus pandemic, but on Thursday, officials announced the mandate would end on October 1.
The BART board of directors approved the resolution in a vote at Thursday's director's meeting. They based their decision on regional public health officials who are currently not requiring masks be worn indoors.
BART briefly did away with the mask mandate over the summer, but many criticized the move as premature with many cases of infections, stemming from the contagious omicron variant, prevailing throughout the region.
BART Board President Rebecca Saltzman said the rule had been difficult to enforce.
"While I plan to continue to mask up for the foreseeable future, our compliance has gotten worse and worse and I think it’s challenging to uphold a requirement so many people are flouting," said Saltzman.
BART's general manager still has the authority to amend the resolution to require masks be worn on trains and at station platforms if the conditions change; such as a spike in cases, or if local health departments in areas served by BART, reinstate an indoor mask mandate. They would also reinstate the mandate if Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or Transportation Security Administration required them to do so.
California's overall COVID-19 data has vastly improved in the past month or so. On Thursday, California Department of Public Health said the state's positivity rate was at 5%; markedly different from the 16% and upwards seen earlier in the summer.
Some BART riders, like Clare Stack at Walnut Creek station told KTVU they agreed with the board’s decision. "Personally I don’t think it’s needed," said Stack. "We don’t need them in grocery stores or in companies, so I’m for it. I can understand older people wanting to wear it or vulnerable people. With everything opening back up now I feel like it’s a good decision to get back to real life and normal life and not have to be masked up."
The latest state health department data shows 283 patients are in ICU with COVID and average daily deaths from the disease is now 26.
BART encourages riders to continue wearing masks throughout the system once the mandate expires. The transit agency will still provide free masks at station agent booths and from BART police personnel.