Transport agencies and companies across Portland are dropping their mask requirements just one day after a federal court ruling struck down a national requirement that they enforce them.
On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle struck down a nationwide requirement that employees and riders of transportation like airplanes, buses and ferries wear masks, saying that federal health officials had overstepped their bounds.
That ruling made it so agencies and private companies across the country could decide for themselves whether they wanted to require face coverings. By the end of Tuesday, nearly all transport agencies within the Portland area were not requiring them.
Greater Portland METRO was among the last to announce the change, saying late Tuesday afternoon that it along with Biddeford-Saco-Old Orchard Beach Transit, the city of South Portland’s bus service, Portland’s Regional Transportation Program and the Casco Bay Lines ferry service would be dropping their mask requirements beginning on Wednesday.
The decision came due to both the federal court ruling and decisions by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Transportation Security Agency to no longer enforce the mandate after that ruling, the statement said.
Masks continue to be welcome for passengers who want to wear them, METRO’s statement noted. The agency also said that policy could change in the future, either due to a new local, state or federal requirement or because of an internal decision done to protect employees and passengers.
Maine’s largest airport, Portland International Jetport, lifted its mandate on Tuesday after the Transportation Security Administration informed officials that it would no longer enforce it across domestic airports, said Zach Sundquist, assistant airport director.
Portland-based Elite Airways is no longer requiring masks on its fights. All other airlines that provide flight service at the jetport – American Airlines, Delta, Frontier, JetBlue, Southwest, Sun Country Airlines and United – have also all said they would also no longer require masks.
The Downeaster Amtrak train that has stops from Wells to Brunswick will no longer require employees or riders to wear masks following Amtrak’s announcement it will drop masks across its services, said Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, which manages the Downeaster train.
Quinn noted that Amtrak had said that riders are welcome to still wear masks and that they continue to be an important measure against COVID-19.
Noting that the Downeaster was at around 79 percent of 2019 passenger numbers this year and had been busy over the Patriot’s Day weekend, she said it remained to be seen how the mask announcement would affect ridership given the differing views on masks.
However, it did seem to her that most passengers were ready for the announcement.
“People certainly can choose to wear a mask,” Quinn said. “Hopefully that choice will encourage more people to ride the train.”
Bus services Greyhound, Megabus and Concord Coach Lines, all of which operate in Portland, also said they would be dropping their mask requirements.