Mask mandate lifted for Eagle County public transportation
Masks no longer required on public transportation after federal mandate is lifted
Passengers are no longer required to wear face masks on public transportation in Eagle County following a Monday court ruling that voided the federal mask mandate for travelers.
Representatives from Eagle County Regional Airport, Eagle County ECO Transit, the Town of Vail Transit Department and the Avon Transit Department all confirmed that the mask requirement for travelers is lifted, and mask use is recommended but optional moving forward.
A federal judge in Florida struck down the Biden administration’s mask mandate for public transportation on April 18, ruling that the mandate exceeded the authority of the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention. The ruling came just four days after the CDC extended the federal transportation mask requirement to May 3 in response to rising cases of a new COVID-19 variant, BA.2.
Tanya Allen, the regional transportation director for Eagle County, said that the removal of the federal mandate put the decision to continue or revoke local mask requirements back in the hands of individual towns and counties.
“The way this guidance is, there’s no state-wide guidance or county-wide guidance regarding masks right now,” Allen said. “All of the transit agencies had masks in place because we were complying with that federal mandate, and so now that the federal mandate is removed it’s kind of up to all of us to decide what to do.”
Allen said that each of the transit lines have made the decision to remove the mask mandate in light of the low infection rates in Eagle County.
“We like to keep our policies aligned if we can, unless we have a major disagreement, because it just makes sense with people traveling across our systems,” Allen said.
Eva Wilson, the Mobility Manager for the Town of Avon, said that bus drivers in Avon and Beaver Creek will continue to wear masks for their own protection. Wilson said they will be monitoring infection statistics over the next few weeks to determine if and when to remove this requirement. Wilson also noted that passengers will continue to load from the back of the bus, away from the driver, to limit any potential spread and contact with the transit staff member.
Eagle County Regional Airport is also following suit.
“As of today, passengers did not have to wear a mask in the terminal, and all of our carriers — both American and United Airlines — masks are optional on their aircrafts flying domestically,” said Jodi Doney, the Terminal Operations Manager at Eagle County Regional Airport. “We would just ask folks to be kind and patient as everyone moves through the changes. Some people are going to still choose to wear a mask, and we want to support them as well.”
The announcement of the new mask protocol has already generated positive reactions, summarizing a general sentiment of relief. Allen said that making face masks optional also relieves pressure from transport drivers, who have been the primary enforcers of the mandate for the past two years.
“It’s been a really tough time for our drivers,” Allen said. “They’ve had a lot on their minds, and a lot to do, and enforcing the mask mandate was just one more task on top of everything else. So it’s a relief for them to focus on what they really want to be doing, which is moving our community safely.”
The ruling is currently under review, and local transit requirements will continue to adapt based on the federal guidelines.