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Masks will be required on L.A. Metro buses and trains starting Monday

Worker cleans subway station
Metro will begin requiring face masks for all train and bus passengers starting Monday.
(Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times)

After pushback from bus drivers and elected officials, Los Angeles County’s transit network — the busiest on the West Coast — will require all passengers to wear masks on board starting Monday.

For the first seven weeks of the coronavirus crisis, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority had balked at requiring masks, saying enforcing the rule on the vast system would not be practical.

The policy change follows criticism from Metro bus drivers, who said the lack of masks on board made them scared for their health and for the well-being of essential workers on board.

“We want our bus operators to know that we are listening to them,” Metro said in a statement on its website. Officials said they are “acutely aware that some employees have been on social media and telling the news media that this is a change they want.”

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In a Monday letter urging Metro to adopt the mask policy, Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn said that allowing passengers without face coverings to ride “threatens to compound the spread” of the coronavirus because workers at grocery stores, restaurants and other essential businesses rely on public transportation.

L.A. County has required masks inside essential businesses since April 16. Masks or cloth face coverings, such as a bandanna or a neck gaiter, can help prevent the transmission of the coronavirus, health officials say.

Here is where masks are currently required, as well as proposals that would dramatically increase face-covering requirements.

Metro officials said they had not made masks mandatory because people with disabilities and with some health conditions, including difficulty breathing, have been advised not to wear masks. The agency, officials said, “seeks to protect the civil liberties of all riders to the greatest extent possible.”

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Metro said on its website that enforcement will be a “work in progress,” adding that they don’t want to put bus drivers or police officers in “an untenable position where confrontations with riders escalate — as we’ve seen happen in other cities.”

Hahn had pushed Metro to provide masks to any rider who did not have one. Metro said officials “will be looking at ways the agency can help riders obtain face coverings while protecting our own supply of coverings that are needed for our employees.”

Similar face covering requirements go into effect on Amtrak trains, on Los Angeles city buses and at Los Angeles International Airport on Monday.

Major airlines, including Delta, American and United, have said they will require masks starting this month.


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