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Public transit mask mandates lifted

LIHU‘E — Mask use became optional for The Kaua‘i Bus riders on Tuesday, one day after a Florida judge nixed a national requirement for mass-transit travelers.

The County of Kaua‘i announced the policy change on social media Monday afternoon, hours after the U.S. District Court ruling that voided a mandate issued by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We have always followed the CDC’s guidance, along with state and federal requirements for wearing masks on buses,” county Transportation Agency Executive Celia Mahikoa told The Garden Island.

“Now that the mask mandate has ended we continue to follow suit, and have made wearing masks optional on The Kaua‘i Bus and our county’s paratransit service. The Transportation Agency’s cleaning and disinfection practices remain in place, and we plan to keep these protocols until further notice.”

Residents aired mixed opinions while waiting at bus stops along Eiwa Street in Lihu‘e on Tuesday afternoon.

Christopher Sheffer, of Lihu‘e, thinks a mask mandate would remain appropriate for the time being.

“It is a public service taking travelers going to the airport and back,” Sheffer said.

Kapa‘a resident Ky McCollough is comfortable going without a mask on the bus, but worries about the elderly and immunocompromised.

“I’m not opposed to the mask mandate being lifted,” McCollough said. “But I don’t know if that would be valuable for them or a good idea, because the seats are so close together. It could have people feeling uncomfortable.”

Glen Gruenhagen, also of Kapa‘a, will continue to mask up while riding The Kaua‘i Bus.

“I always wear a mask,” Gruenhagen told The Garden Island. “I haven’t been sick yet, and you can quote that in your paper.”

Mask use is no longer required at Lihu‘e Airport or any other state airport, according to the state Department of Transportation Airports Division.

The HDOT cited the U.S. District Court ruling in a statement published Monday.

“Federal agencies are reviewing the decision and will provide future guidance so there may be further updates,” the HDOT said. “In the meantime, the CDC recommends that people continue to wear masks in indoor public transportation settings.”

Many airlines, including Alaska, Delta, Hawaiian, United and others, have already debuted mask-optional policies.

Just last week, the CDC announced its mass-transit mask mandate would extend through May 3.

More time was needed to assess the potential impact of the omicron variant’s BA.2 subvariant, the dominant coronavirus lineage in the United States, the federal agency claimed on April 13.

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Scott Yunker, reporter, can be reached at 245-0437 or syunker@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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