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RTC to keep mask mandate on buses despite federal judge’s ruling (updated)

By Bob Conrad
Published: Last Updated on

Update April 19:

RTC officials on Tuesday said that based on updated guidance from the Transportation Security Administration masks are no longer required on transit, including RTC buses. Riders are welcome to continue wearing masks if they choose.

The CDC still recommends that masks be worn in indoor public transportation settings.

Original Story:

A federal judge in Florida today struck down masking requirements for transit that includes air, train and bus travel. 

But Washoe County’s Regional Transportation Commission today said it will keep mask requirements on local buses until it hears more from the federal government. The federal mandate is set to expire May 3, 2022.

“Anyone who refuses to comply with the condition of mask wearing is – in a sense – detained or partially quarantined by exclusion from a conveyance or transportation hub under authority of the Mask Mandate,” U.S. District Court Judge Kimball Mizelle wrote in a 60-page ruling.  “The Mandate exceeded the CDC’s statutory authority … and failed to adequately explain its decision.”

Two people and the Health Freedom Defense Fund sued last year the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention and government officials alleging the mask mandate was unlawful.

Washoe RTC’s Lauren Ball today said RTC will maintain the mask mandate on local buses until further guidance is received from federal agencies. 

“For now, the mask mandate will remain in place on RTC transit vehicles, and at RTC transit facilities, as we await further direction from the [Federal Transportation Administration], CDC and TSA,” she said.

The mask mandate on area buses has been the source of contention among riders and passengers. The union representing local bus drivers and other workers has filed dozens of complaints against bus operated Keolis Transit North America for failing to comply with the mandate, among a number of complaints. 

An independent arbitrator found Keolis – just as Teamsters Local 533 officials alleged – failed to adequately protect bus drivers from unmasked passengers during the pandemic.

“The Union has proven that in failing to make every reasonable effort to protect bargaining unit Coach Operators from the threat to their health and safety caused by unmasked passengers riding RTC buses, the Company has violated, and presumably continues to violate … the Collective Bargaining Agreement,” Stephen Hayford, the arbitrator, wrote.

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