Masks designed to curb COVID-19 in public places are now optional for travelers who climb aboard planes, trains and buses, operators said Tuesday.
Cheers reportedly went up among airborne passengers in some parts of the country as pilots announced that a Tampa federal judge had struck down a public transportation mask mandate created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Spirit Airlines, the South Florida-based discount carrier, said in an email that masks are now optional for employees and customers. Tri-Rail, the three-county commuter line serving 18 locations between Palm Beach County and Miami International Airport, and Brightline, which serves the downtowns of Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Miami, quickly dropped their mask mandates.
“We understand some guests may want to continue wearing face coverings on flights, and that’s perfectly fine under our optional policy,” Spirit said. “For our guests traveling internationally, please remember to check country-specific airport requirements before traveling.”
Delta Air Lines and Alaska Airlines, which along with Spirit also serve Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, issued similar statements.
Late last month, 21 states including Florida sued the U.S. Government to force an end to the mask rule.
“Great to see a federal judge in Florida follow the law and reject the Biden transportation mask mandate,” Gov. Ron DeSantis wrote on Twitter. “Both airline employees and passengers deserve to have this misery end.”
But the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority, which operates Tri-Rail, said it is still recommending that its customers and workers wear masks in public.
“Effective immediately, SFRTA is no longer enforcing face masks onboard Tri-Rail trains, nor in the SFRTA Operations Center,” said spokesman Victor Garcia in an email Tuesday morning. “We are reminding passengers and staff that the CDC still recommends wearing face masks while indoors at public transportation settings.”
Brightline, the regional rail line which required masks aboard its trains and stations, is also suggesting the continued use of masks.
“Today Brightline alerted guests and teammates that wearing masks is now optional, but still recommended for anyone in high-risk categories,” spokeswoman Vanessa Alfonso said.
A letter to customers noted the CDC “continues to encourage those considered high-risk [unvaccinated, medical issues, etc.] to wear masks.”
Amtrak, the national passenger rail service that serves Florida, urged the use of masks by passengers and workers.
“While Amtrak passengers and employees are no longer required to wear masks while on board trains or in stations, masks are welcome and remain an important preventive measure against Covid-19,” the company said in a statement. “Anyone needing or choosing to wear one is encouraged to do so.”
Broward County Transit, operator of the countywide bus system, was still publishing an outdated website post Tuesday announcing the May 3 expiration of the CDC mask mandate.
But the site also contains a link to a CDC notice that Monday’s court ruling had canceled the mask requirement.
Reporting from The Associated Press supplemented this report.