A judge in Florida on Monday struck down the mandate from President Joe Biden's administration that required masks on airplanes and other forms of public transportation.
Following the judge's ruling, the Massachusetts Port Authority, which operates Logan Airport, and the MBTA both announced they would lift their mask mandates. Ridesharing apps Uber and Lyft also issued statements saying that masks are now optional for both riders and drivers.
But just because the federal requirement is gone doesn't mean you're going to see masks disappear from transit altogether. Some Uber and Lyft drivers said they don't plan to stop wearing masks in their vehicles. And both public agencies and private companies are hedging just a bit by publicly recommending continued mask use.
"You can now ride without a mask and use the front seat if you need to," Uber said in a statment. "While mask usage is still recommended, we’ve updated our Covid Safety policies. Let’s move forward, safely together."
You can now ride without a mask and use the front seat if you need to. While mask usage is still recommended, we’ve updated our Covid Safety policies. Let’s move forward, safely together.— Uber (@Uber) April 19, 2022
For US riders only. pic.twitter.com/LgHYSsC4Bg
Still, out of the three Uber rides GBH News took on Tuesday, two of the drivers were still wearing masks. Two of the drivers wouldn't talk on the record, but seemed comfortable with the change.
The one driver who did talk on the record, Worku Alemayehou, 73, has been driving Uber for almost nine years. Despite the new ruling, he's still planning on keeping his mask on.
"You know, I have no objection with the passengers," he said. "For myself, I'm using the mask. ... I just have to protect myself."
Beth Griffith is the executive director and chairwoman of the Boston Independent Drivers Guild. She's heard and seen a range of reactions to the mask requirements lifting for the ridesharing apps.
"Some drivers are happy about it, some drivers could care less, some drivers are complaining," she said. "It's a mix."
Griffith believes the decisions about masking should ultimately come down to the drivers.
"So, I feel the individual drivers should decide, 'cause according to [Uber and Lyft] we're supposed to be business owners, about mask requirements, especially for passengers," she said. "The driver should be able to decide if we're OK with a passenger wearing a mask or not in our vehicle."
Following the ruling that struck down the federal mandate, there's been a patchwork of local transportation entities around the country taking up guidance as they see fit. Initially, the MBTA said it was sticking with the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and requiring masks on its vehicles and in stations. The agency changed course on Tuesday afternoon, though it is still requiring masks for anyone using The RIDE paratransit services.
"Customers are no longer required to wear a mask on MBTA vehicles, or at stations or facilities if they choose not to; however, if people feel more comfortable wearing a facemask, then by all means continue to do so," MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said in a statement.