Milwaukee County Transit System will continue to require masks on county buses

MCTS driver walks kids across busy street after they dart in front of bus
Posted at 9:10 AM, Apr 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-19 18:41:02-04

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) announced Tuesday it will continue to require riders to wear masks on county buses.

MCTS said the decision is due to an abundance of caution as COVID-19 cases have increased in the area over the last three weeks.

Earlier Tuesday, MCTS said masks were optional before announcing the mask mandate is remaining in place.

“After careful consideration MCTS will continue to require masks on County buses at this time. Some of the most vulnerable, high-risk residents rely on our buses to travel throughout the County each day. We are still in the midst of pandemic, and it is incumbent upon local leaders to do our part to keep residents safe and stop the spread of the disease,” said Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley. “This decision helps keep both residents and our drivers safe.”

Milwaukee County Chief Health Policy Advisor, Dr. Ben Weston said Tuesday that COVID-19 is not over in Milwaukee County.

Wearing masks on public transit

“Over the last three weeks, we’ve seen a 200 percent increase in COVID cases in our area. That number is rising each day due to a combination of factors. The emergence of new, more transmissible variants and low vaccination rates throughout the County means we must remain vigilant to slow the spread of the disease,” said Milwaukee County Chief Health Policy Advisor, Dr. Ben Weston.As disease burden rises it is best to take caution with high-quality masks in high-risk settings. Residents must also consider protecting themselves by receiving a vaccine and a booster shot."

Riders had mixed reactions Tuesday when it was earlier announced that masks were optional.

"We're still not out of the woods with it. I understand it being optional, but I think I for one still wear a mask when I do take public transportation," Alice Wilson said as she waited for her bus in downtown Milwaukee.

"You don't know who's getting on the bus with what, so just for my safety and my protection, I will probably continue to wear mine," said MCTS bus operator Patricia Thompson earlier in the day Tuesday.

At Milwaukee's Intermodal Station, mask use varied in the terminal as travelers waited for their train.

"I'm wearing it more for the people who are immunocompromised. You know, somebody might be fighting cancer for example. I got a couple friends actually at the moment that are," Stephen Schuch said.

"I choose not to wear it, but I have it just in case," said Taft Smith.

A federal judge in Florida struck down the federal mask mandate Monday on planes and public transit.

While the justice department figures out what to do next, the TSA is not enforcing the rule. For the first time in several months, masks are no longer required in airports in the U.S.

At Milwaukee Mitchell Airport and across the country, people are free to board a flight without a mask.

The nation's largest carriers, including American, United and Delta, have already put out statements, saying masks are optional.

Just last week the CDC extended the mask order until May 3, because of concerns over the new COVID variant.

The judge ruled the agency had overstepped its legal authority back in February of 2021.

We don't know if the justice department will appeal or try to block the judge's order.

Also on Tuesday masks became optional in Milwaukee Public Schools. The school board voted to make face coverings optional starting April 18 at their meeting in March.

The district will revert back to mandatory face masks if cases are too high.

Milwaukee County and MCTS will continue to monitor the data and follow the scientific guidance to determine when the mask mandate for MCTS buses will be lifted in the future.

Rideshare services Lyft and Uber have also made face masks optional. However, in a letter to customers, Uber said it still recommends masks. Lyft passengers and drivers may still cancel rides, but health safety reasons like wearing a mask will no longer appear as a cancellation option.

While masks are optional, organizations, including Amtrak, are encouraging people to keep wearing masks if they wish.

You can find more information on where to receive a vaccine HERE.

Report a typo or error // Submit a news tip

Coronavirus in Wisconsin

More data on Wisconsin's vaccination progress here.

Find a vaccination site here.

Check out county-by-county coronavirus case numbers here.

More information: COVID-19 on the Wisconsin DHS website

Latest news and headlines here.