BART Reinstates Mask Mandate for All Riders, Asks VTA, Others to Follow Suit

BART riders will once again be required to wear a mask while on BART property after the transit agency's Board of Directors approved its own mask mandate Thursday.

The board voted 7-0, with Directors Debora Allen and Robert Raburn abstaining, to require masks within BART's paid areas through at least July 18, 2022. The vote came just over a week after a federal district court judge struck down the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's mask requirement for public transit and airplanes.

The California Department of Public Health also announced last week that it would align with the CDC and drop its own mask requirement for public transit and transit hubs like bus stations and airports.

After BART said in a statement April 20 that it would make masks "optional but strongly encouraged" throughout its system, BART Board President Rebecca Saltzman and Directors Janice Li and Bevan Dufty announced they would propose adding a mask requirement to the transit agency's customer code of conduct.

On April 25, Saltzman also sent letters to health officials in the five counties in which BART operates to urge them to issue their own requirements to wear a mask on public transit.

“As you are aware, the requirement to wear masks on trains and buses as well as within bus terminals and trains stations, helps protect everyone from COVID-19, especially those who are immunocompromised, people with underlying health conditions, and children under 5 who cannot be vaccinated,” Saltzman wrote in the letters.

On April 28, Saltzman said enforcement of the new requirement will be focused on education rather than penalizing riders.

BART police officers will only give warnings to those without masks for the first week of the new requirement. Masks will also be available for free at each BART station.

The mask requirement will also not apply to people who have a disability or medical condition as well as children aged 2 or younger, under the updated code of conduct.

“The intention is not to have a permanent mask requirement on BART,” Saltzman said. “The reality is we're still in the midst of a public health crisis, and in the past three weeks cases have been going up every day in the Bay Area.”

Almost all riders throughout the BART system have complied with previous mask requirements. Mask audits conducted four times per month in the first three months of the year found 97 percent compliance in January and 98 percent in both February and March.

Some riders who refused to comply with mask requirements after an initial warning were given citations starting at $75 and climbing as high as $250, but BART Police Chief Ed Alvarez told the board Thursday that it has been exceedingly rare for officers to cite riders.

Alvarez estimated BART police officers have given just seven citations for failing to wear a mask over the last two years, and said officers have been very successful by just reminding riders that masks are required.

Alvarez also said he did not have data immediately available on how many riders have been ejected from the system over the last two years for refusing to put on “Our officers and anybody wearing a BART police uniform always carries free masks for giveaways and that's where we've pretty much gotten most of our compliance,” Alvarez said.

Director Liz Ames suggested doing away with the citations in general in an effort to prevent BART police officers from potentially receiving pushback from non-compliant riders.

“I just think we should just give them a mask and not even do the citation,” she said. “I mean, just don't even get into a big conflict because right now, the country's in conflict over this, and we don't need more.”

While Allen and Raburn both said they actively wear masks aboard BART trains and plan to continue doing so, Raburn suggested BART's requirement would undermine the authority of public health officials while Allen argued BART police officers simply have more pressing issues to deal with throughout the system.

Allen also said she felt the board did not have enough data and information on the efficacy of the different types of masks to consider whether a requirement would keep riders safe en masse.

Allen and Raburn both advocated for BART to continue strongly recommending the use of a mask in lieu of requiring it.

“The fact is, today, most passengers are masked,” Raburn said. “Enforcement without a health department mandate is problematic.”

Allen and Saltzman also suggested BART police should change the kinds of masks they give to riders. According to Alvarez, officers have been giving cloth masks to riders, which have been less effective than surgical masks and high-quality masks like N95-grade respirators at preventing the spread of recent COVID variants.

While BART police have given out cloth masks, Alvarez said, station agents continue to provide surgical masks to riders who request them.

Board Director Janice Li argued that the mask requirement aligns with the first sentence of BART's customer code of conduct, which states the agency's policy “to help ensure the safety, security, comfort and convenience of all those who use its services.”

Li also argued that the prior federal and state mask requirements have not negatively affected the agency's ridership and that the use of masks is a modest way of trying to keep others from getting sick.

“If the science bears out that we were wrong and mask mandates on public transit show no data-based evidence affecting COVID transmission rates," she said, "it means the worst-case scenario is that we continue a very simple masking requirement for a couple more months.”

 

7 Comments

  1. April 28th, update:

    For the April 2022 cases MTD is 7,686. in comparison to May 2021, which was PRE-DELTA AND PRE-OMICRON, MTD was 1,101 which means we are 6.98 times of the May cases when we had a supposedly safe level. Our current daily average is 176. In March 2022, we were at 4,354 but on a downward trend, we had in total that month 5,244, in March 2022 we were 170 cases per day. In fact 6 out of the last 10 days we had more than 400 cases and we had 600 cases one day and our daily MTD average is currently 285.

    For the month of April MTD we have tested 270,101 and in May of the same sample MTD we tested 303,974 which means our sample size is 11.2% less than May. But yet we have INCREASED POSITIVITY. The positivity rate is 3.49% but the May MTD Average was .57% meaning we are about 4.15TIMES higher than May 2021. In March we had 1.55% and we are 2.25 times that today

    We are currently reporting only 90 ICU beds available (yesterday it was 105, what happened?) which is only 14.4% available beds in the county. We are at a 7 day average of 81 positive cases and 15 suspected cased at total of 96. And we are back to the level of hospitalizations of 90 that we were in December 2021, but in July 2021 we were at 32 patients, and in May 2020 we were at 51 patients.

    The current Stanford and Packard hospital nurse actions have artificially reduced the hospitalizations because people are going to different hospitals close by, which are in other counties.

    That does mean we are not in very good shape, are we?

  2. April 29: Wastewater Update CDC Monitoring on April 26, 2022, these are cases resulting in exposure to the people in the county, this is not limited to Santa Clara since many people travel in and out of the county. All sites had a major update of scares up!! AND MOST IMPORTANTLY I AM USING A WHOLE MONTH TO AVERAGE WHICH IS MAKING MY AVERAGES LOW!!! The 14 day averages are about 15% higher

    From Site 305: The last reading was 63.47. During March 2022 the viral scale was 26.89 with an ave. of 170 case per day. And this month so far, we have an ave. of 55.44. (+91.4%).

    From Site 352: The last reading was 46.67. During March 2022 the viral scale was 20.48 with an ave. of 170 cases per day. And this month so far, we have an ave. of 36.35. (+77.5%)

    From Site 353: The last reading was 49.80. During March 2022 the viral scale was 19.67 with an ave. 170 cases per day. And this month so far, we have an ave. of 38.37.(+95.1%)

    From Site 354: The last reading was 58.93. During March 2022 the viral scale was 19.19 with an ave of 170 cases per day. And this month so far, we have an ave. of 46.31.(+141.3%)

    The Current Viral Scale for Santa Clara County is 432.1266 and yesterday it was 42.66 a daily increase of 1.0% and this is rising. In comparison to March which was 21.20 and increase of 103.41%.

    Our MTD cases regarding the CDC correlation for April is an average of 301 in March it was 170 (+78.3%) and it is still increasing, yesterday Aprils ave was 274 (+9.8%)

    The rate of covid is increasing steadily and if we reach an average of 50.00 viral scale our average day rate will become at about 323 cases per day. But that depends on what SAFE behaviors people are practicing.

    This is data that is from 3 days ago.

  3. April 29th, update:

    For the April 2022 cases MTD is 8,241. in comparison to May 2021, which was PRE-DELTA AND PRE-OMICRON, MTD was 1,123 which means we are 7.33 times of the May cases when we had a supposedly safe level. Our current daily average is 294. In March 2022, we were at 4,972 but on a downward trend, we had in total that month 5,244, in March 2022 we were 170 cases per day. In fact 6 out of the last 10 days we had more than 400 cases and we had 2 days with about 600 cases one day

    For the month of April MTD we have tested 287,103 and in May of the same sample MTD we tested 312,766 which means our sample size is 92% less than May. But yet we have INCREASED POSITIVITY. The positivity rate is 3.52 but the May MTD Average was .41% meaning we are about 8.67 TIMES higher than May 2021. In March we had 1.54% and we are 2.29 times that today

    We are currently reporting only 97 ICU beds available (59 adult and 39 chilr) which is only 15.5% available beds in the county. We are at a 7 day average of 81 positive cases and 16 suspected cased at total of 97. And we are back to the level of hospitalizations of 90 that we were in December 2021, but in July 2021 we were at 32 patients, and in May 2020 we were at 51 patients.

    The current Stanford and Packard hospital nurse actions have artificially reduced the hospitalizations because people are going to different hospitals close by, which are in other counties.

    That does mean we are not in very good shape, are we?

  4. There’s no real science behind the renewed mask mandate for BART. Any masks other than N95 do little to nothing. If anyone wants to limit their exposure to COVID-19, they should either just stay home if they can or wear an N95. Forcing perfectly healthy people to wear a useless face covering in public is senseless and political.

  5. May 3 SCC DPH update

    For the April 2022 cases MTD is 9,845. in comparison to May 2021, which was PRE-DELTA AND PRE-OMICRON, MTD was 1,163 which means we are 8.45 times of the May cases when we had a supposedly safe level. Our current daily average is 328. In March 2022, we had in total that month 5,244, in March 2022 we were 170 cases per day. In fact 7 out of the last 10 days we had more than 400 cases and we had 6 days with greater than 500 cases one day

    For the month of April MTD we have tested 326,648 and in May of the same sample MTD we tested 320,983 which means our sample size is 1.8% more than May. But yet we have INCREASED POSITIVITY. The positivity rate is 3.86 but the May MTD Average was .41% meaning we are about 9.59 TIMES higher than May 2021. In March we had 1.54% and we are 2.51 times that today

    We are currently reporting only 104 ICU beds available (68 adult and 36 child) which is only 16.6% available beds in the county. We are at a 7 day average of 85 positive cases and 15 suspected cased at total of 100. And we are back to the level of hospitalizations of 90 that we were in December 2021, but in July 2021 we were at 32 patients, and in May 2020 we were at 51 patients.

    That does mean we are not in very good shape, are we?

    Starting a new month with the same problem.

  6. In the last week CA hospitlizations are +10% and climbing, this is NOT going to stop if people do not behave safely.

    In the lowest time we had only abouut 1,300 cases in a 7 day avereage in early april, but now it is 6,200 and climbing. that is about 4 times what we were. Are we going to see an omicrton surge? I cannot say for sure, but our medical research cannot rule it out, and it looks more than 65% likely.

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