At about 4:15 on Tuesday afternoon, Ryan Bince, a graduate student at Northwestern University, was waiting at the Davis Street L station for a Purple Line train to Chicago.
He could hear a loudspeaker announcement that masks were still required on all CTA vehicles.
And, he could see an electronic sign saying the same thing.
Bince was aware of a federal judge’s ruling on Monday in Florida, throwing out the nationwide mask mandate for transportation. But he also knew that Illinois had its own requirement for buses, trains, and indoor transit facilities.
So Bince had on his mask, as a reporter (okay, that was me) asked a probing question:
“What would you do if the mask mandate is lifted five minutes from now?”
Bince replied that if the train car was close to empty, he’d probably go maskless. But if it was crowded, he’d likely cover up.
Since COVID, he said, “I’m so aware of other people.”
And by the time Bince’s L train had reached, say, the Addison stop for Wrigley Field, the no-mask option was official.
Late in the afternoon, Gov. J.B. Pritzker modified his mask policy, lifting the transportation mask requirement, to keep the state in line with the federal decision.
Almost immediately, CTA, Metra, and Pace said masks are no longer required on buses and trains, however, they are still recommended, due to the ongoing presence of the coronavirus.
Maggie Daly Skogsbakken, spokesperson for the Pace suburban bus system said in a statement that passenger should “Please be courteous and kind to your fellow riders, as this has been a difficult period for everyone. Let’s do what we can to help each other on the way back.”
And, back at the Davis Street L stop, we encountered Myra Breeding, and her daughter Rivers, waiting for a train to the Loop.
The pair, from San Antonio, Texas, had wrapped up a visit to Northwestern (Rivers is a high school senior), and were heading to Union Station, for an Amtrak train to Michigan, as Rivers continued her tour of colleges.
Texas was always far more lax about masking than Illinois. Rivers said she would wear one if COVID numbers in her school started going up.
In Evanston, mom and daughter were not 100% sure what the requirement was on transit.
“We’re wearing a mask just in case,” Myra said.
That was shortly before the governor lifted the Illinois face covering rule.
So now, mass transit is no longer mask transit, at least not as a requirement.
But as Ryan Bince noted, you might just want that mask in a crowded train or bus when somebody sneezes.