After a somewhat confused day of messaging, all local transit agencies jointly lifted their mask requirements after a federal judge knocked down the CDC’s rule. David Kroman in the Times:

Immediately after the Monday ruling, Seattle-area agencies largely kept their current policies in place, albeit without strong enforcement mechanisms. By late Monday and early Tuesday, however, that shifted.

Eight Seattle-area transit agencies — Community TransitEverett TransitKing County MetroKitsap TransitPierce TransitSeattle Department of Transportation, Seattle Center Monorail and Sound Transit — said in a joint statement Tuesday that masks are now optional.

The rule was set to expire on May 3. The administration may appeal.

103 Replies to “Local agencies lift mask requirements”

  1. Mandatory masking on empty bus routes like the 249 never made sense. It’s about time this ended.

    On more crowded routes, I may continue to wear a mask, but it will be my decision, not the president’s.

    1. Or the CDC’s. Call me crazy, but I think public health decisions should be made by the experts, not the individual.

      1. The federal rule was necessary because of states and cities that abrogated their responsibility to provide safety for their residents. Since it was a federal rule it couldn’t get into city-specific details. The pandemic isn’t over: annual deaths are still several times higher than flu. There’s also long covid, which is my biggest concern about getting. It’s still new so we don’t know what the long-term effects will be, and I don’t want to find out they’re worse than we’ve known so far. Appealing the ruling is about making sure the CDC has the tools available for when a worse disease outbreak occurs. I don’t want the US to turn into Brazil where the government didn’t take covid seriously and the death rate was higher and longer-lasting.

  2. Good to see common sense finally prevailing. An appeal would be political suicide with the midterms coming up – see the many videos of plane passengers cheering when their pilots announced this. Time to get back to normal.

    1. So having people hospitalized in unusually high numbers is normal, but wearing a mask during a pandemic is not? Gotta love that American attitude. We cheer the hospital workers initially, but eventually we simply don’t give a shit (not my job). Kinda reminds me of how we treat the military too (thank you for your service, as there is no no way in hell I would do that). No wonder we are so screwed up — we have no empathy, let alone sympathy.

      1. We had four endemic coronaviruses circulating thoughout modern history, now we have five. We have effective vaccines and treatments. The pandemic is over no matter how much that troubles some folks who are having difficulty giving up their moral high ground.

      2. 4% of hospital beds in Washington are occupied by people with this disease that is apparently “over”, and children under 5 can’t be vaccinated.

  3. To put things in perspective, the CDC was asking for an extension of the mask mandate on certain public transportation from April 18, 2022 to May 3, 2022.

    The CDC had already revoked its mask mandate on indoor settings of any size, and so had nearly every city and state. The CDC’s rationale for the two week extension was to allow it to gather additional evidence of transmission on public transportation when that evidence has been available for well over a year, and the evidence strongly suggested there is no greater risk on an airline or in an airport than in any other indoor setting.

    What the CDC should have done — over a year ago — is commence a proper rule making process under the Administrative Procedure Act that published the proposed rule and how it would be applied based on the medical science, publish the scientific data and evidence the CDC was relying on, allowed public comments and testimony and contrary evidence, how the rule would be applied and amended based on objective evidence, and then adopted a rule that would be subject to a legal action. Long ago.

    Instead the CDC has lurched from one emergency rule to the next (as have mayors and governors), often contradictory, and so ended up in April 2022 with no legal framework to support a sudden two week extension in the mask mandate, which on its face is very questionable when the CDC could cite no evidence for keeping the mask mandate past April 18 or May 3, claiming two weeks would be sufficient to gather this evidence.

    The burden is on the administrative agency to prove a rule is necessary, limited in scope to address the issue (labor, clean water, Sulphur in coal plants, ect.), and subject to contrary evidence and an appeal. Instead during the pandemic this burden has been thrown out the window, and emergency rules have been repeatedly promulgated that naturally tend to mirror the political beliefs of the mayor, governor or President at the time even though legislatures were back in session and hearings were being conducted by Zoom in all areas of government.

    The appeal of the judge’s ruling is simply political. If the administration is hoping for a ruling on appeal (the Biden administration is not requesting a stay of the judge’s ruling so the appeal may be found moot anyway) that the CDC — or any agency — has the authority to issue such a rule agencies have had that power since the 1930’s if the proper procedures are followed, both emergency powers and ordinary powers to promulgate rules under the APA. The CDC just never did that despite going into the third year of the pandemic, and my guess is the CDC does not have the evidence to support a special mask mandate only on certain public transportation.

    1. Well said, Daniel. Thank you for moving past the emotional responses many have had. The mask rule and the general reliance on emergency powers are a major governance issue, whether or not one agrees with them.

    2. If we waited for the lawyers before we responded to pandemics, it would go a long way towards population control.

      But the rest of covid’s victims just aren’t part of the master race, I guess.

      1. It’s been more than two years. Emergency rules are for emergencies, not for years after the initial crisis. This is the courts telling the agencies it’s time to do a proper rulemaking with a defensible standard or back off.

      2. “If we waited for the lawyers before we responded to pandemics, it would go a long way towards population control.

        “But the rest of covid’s victims just aren’t part of the master race, I guess.”

        So are you arguing for tyranny Jim, or just sovereign immunity across the board when it comes to agency rule making? Because right now it looks like R’s are going to sweep Congress in 2022 and the Presidency in 2024, and likely plan a lot of agency actions you might not agree with. If I remember correctly progressives were quite active in filing litigation when Trump was President.

        Just out of curiosity, how many people do you think would have died from Covid that they contracted on public transportation from April 18 to May 3, 2022 due to the fact they were not wearing a mask? Because that was the data the CDC needed to show to validate its last-second emergency extension for the mask mandate, data they had over two years to prepare and present that established transit was a hotbed of Covid infections.

        Considering 410 total deaths in the U.S. from Covid on April 19 my guess is the figure in a week or two — without the mask mandate — will be lower, which means the mask mandate on public transportation from April 18 to May 3 would have saved zero lives, although that burden was on the CDC, not the opponents of the last second emergency extension in the mask mandate.

        The judge saw the emergency extension for what it was: politics, from a CDC that has badly damaged its reputation over the last two years, and had just recently lifted mask mandates on all indoor gatherings, and what is an airport except an indoor gathering with very tall ceilings and state of the art ventilation systems?

    1. Covid is a virus, not a person. It won’t “decide” anything.

      How humans choose to deal with the virus is a decision that is made by humans. Levels of acceptable risk change as time passes. There will never be a time of zero covid infections or death (at least not any time soon), so humans will decide what level of risk is acceptable.

      1. Prior to a vaccine being developed, the case fatality rate was around 2%. (That’s the “It’s 98% survivable!” argument). That’s roughly 8 times the case fatality rate of the flu.

        If you’re still wilfully not protecting yourself, via vaccination or masking, it will find you. If you haven’t the genetics to survive it, 2% of you will die.

        That will be considered normal.


    The current death rate (compared to infections) is 1.23%.

    82% of Americans have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and infections have declined significantly from January 2022, from over 800,000/day to 37,000/day.

    I definitely agree the best step anyone can take to protect themselves is to get vaccinated and boosted, both to prevent infection and to reduce complication. Comorbidities and obesity also play a large part in mortality and hospitalization rates, so I would also recommend some physical exercise and diet moderation for those with a high BMI.

    The issue before the court however was whether the CDC had met its burden for an emergency two-week extension in the mask mandate for certain transportation, when that same CDC had lifted any mask mandate on indoor or outdoor gatherings of any size, and whether an emergency rule was appropriate.

    I am not a scientist, and like everyone else can cull certain articles from the internet, but the fact is infections have declined from over 800,000 in January when there was a mask mandate for all indoor gatherings to 37,000 today after the mask mandate on indoor gatherings was lifted.

    Some believe a mask protects the wearer from the virus, if the right mask is chosen and worn correctly. Anyone can wear a mask in any setting at any time if they feel it offers them extra protection, or offers others extra protection (which means of course you are positive on public transportation despite the free rapid tests available, and maybe better personal testing is the best way to protect others).

    I personally doubt the CDC would have been able to collect data from April 18 to May 3, 2022 to prove that transmission — let alone hospitalization and deaths — is disproportionally higher on transit than in other indoor settings (and current evidence is incorrect), and proper rule making would have proven that.

  5. Gee. Will we be able to ride transit in the nude or perhaps shirtless/ topless soon too? After all, the reason that we require clothes on people it to prevent disease. I really don’t see any difference between masks and shirts/tops.

    1. “No shirt no service” is for public health reason? I get shoes, but what do shirts have to do with public health?

    2. I’m just being facetious. I’m highlighting how certain types of people argue that compulsory masks are some kind of religious liberty issue yet would be outraged if women were topless.

      1. It was the French who came up with the idea of banning schoolgirls from wearing head coverings. The justification had something to do with promoting religious liberty. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  6. It was probably time. My only concern is for the segment of our population that is dependent upon transit yet is elderly (and has a weakened immune system) or immunocompromised. These folks are forced to bear the burden of substantially increased risk, or be essentially trapped in their homes, if they lucky enough to have homes. They will endure this until no longer with us or until COVID is not longer with us, whichever comes first.

    These are usually poor and minority residents who often bear the brunt of the inequities our society chooses to dole out, and this is just one more risk they must accept, or choose to be live a shadow-life hidden away from the rest of society. Perhaps at least choosing to wear a mask, to slightly soften the gauntlet of a fully unmasked, COVID-be-damned bus is the least we should consider.

    1. Again, the masks do more to protect the people around you, than they do to protect you. Everyone not wearing a mask on transit is forcing a health risk decision upon the people stuck being near them.

      One canard from the anti-maskers can be put to rest though — the claim that masks do nothing. The data on the county’s dashboard shows a pretty clear correlation between the direction cases were headed and mask policy. The indoor mask requirement was lifted on March 12. The new-case rate stopped going down, and started going up again, four days later. The new-case rate has since more than tripled.

      1. It was likely a combination of lifting the mask mandate, and the arrival of a more transmissable variant (BA.2). Unless the mask mandate can reduce Rt below 1 (and it’s pretty clear that it can’t), we’d still have a wave even with it, just a bit more spread out. The fact that we’re barely having a wave even without the mask mandate is a good sign that immunity works, whether from vaccines, infection, or both.

      2. “Barely” is in the eye of the beholder.

        By the time King County updates its dashboard on Monday, average daily new cases will have more than quadrupled since March 16. I would consider that a surge.

        If masks are not enough to bend Rt under 1, that is, of course, not an argument against masking, but an argument to deploy additional tactics.

        If you don’t like wearing a mask, offer other ideas. Pretending the pandemic is over does not count.

        That challenge goes to our elected officials, more so than anyone here. What are you doing to get the virus under control?

      3. We are having a pretty nice surge, we just can no longer see it. Because people are either not testing or testing at home and not reporting positives, we are seeing maybe 1 in 5 cases that are out there, based on some local sentinel surveillance data.

        So King is now likely closer to 1000 over 7-days per 100,000, than the 200 on its dash.

      4. “If masks are not enough to bend Rt under 1, that is, of course, not an argument against masking, but an argument to deploy additional tactics.”

        With the variants we have now, I don’t think anything short of a China style lockdown could actually get Rt under 1 without infecting enough people first to get to heard immunity. Every time a new case emerges, the entire city would have to repeat the lockdown over and over again. At that point, the cure is worse than the disease. There is reason why every country except for China has given up on this approach.

      5. There are certainly things we can do. Improve ventilation and filtration in schools and other indoor venues with high-density gatherings. Focus efforts on places (like buses) that the most vulnerable can’t sometimes avoid.

        There’s even some fancy UV sterilization techniques we can start exploring. I

        This stuff takes money and will, however. We seem to be pretty tapped out of both.

      6. “Unless the mask mandate can reduce Rt below 1 (and it’s pretty clear that it can’t), we’d still have a wave even with it, just a bit more spread out. The fact that we’re barely having a wave even without the mask mandate is a good sign that immunity works, whether from vaccines, infection, or both.”

        Spreading it out is good in itself. You’re less likely to get it if fewer people around you have it at a time. Hospitals aren’t as full and medical staff aren’t as stressed.

        King County’s dashboard and its Seattle page have been pretty moderate since its Feb 20 leveling off. I’m only concerned when it rises steeply, not when it keeps bubbling at a low level. Hospitalizations have taken a concerning rise in the past week, but even that has moderated in Seattle (although not the county).

      7. Unfortunately, we can’t trust our case surveillance data anymore. The vast majority of positives are no longer being reported. So it could very well be steep. We just don’t know.

      8. “Unfortunately, we can’t trust our case surveillance data anymore. The vast majority of positives are no longer being reported. So it could very well be steep. We just don’t know.”

        The Seattle Times had an article on this issue, and the disparity in reporting and testing among states (with New Jersey being one of the least tested states). That is why epidemiologists are moving to tracking hospitalizations and deaths rather than infection rates, and comparing those two to virus rates in waste water in sewers.

        My guess is infections have been much higher than reported from the beginning because of asymptomatic infections, especially after the Delta variant was replaced by the milder Omicron variant and citizens began to get vaccinated. The U.S. agencies did a miserable job in providing mass rapid testing, much worse than other countries.

        I also imagine that underreporting is true for many viruses, from the cold to the flu. The key is serious illness, hospitalization, and death. We just don’t perform mass testing on those viruses, and the vast majority of those infected don’t have symptoms serious enough to be hospitalized, or even worry about it. I wonder if the Omicron variant had come first the pandemic would have faded away long ago (or if it hadn’t spread in our nursing homes, or America wasn’t so frickin obese and psychosomatic).

        I think Mike said it first a long time ago: it was a real risk to stigmatize public transit as a heightened source of infection. First because of the scope of transit, from planes to airports to trains to buses, and second because it really wasn’t true, except it played into the narrative that public transit users are a dirtier and lower class of people so best to never return to transit. The surges usually had to do with reopening restaurants and bars, pre-vaccine, or large indoor gatherings.

        Our society is based on immunity, because it is based on socialization, from work to play to travel. The psychological toll from the isolation during the pandemic will have a much longer shelf life than any putative “long hauler” disease, and public transit has probably been permanently damaged.

        My guess is the vast majority of mask wearing had very little effect because the masks were poor or worn incorrectly, and instead they became a form of tyranny in the eyes of many. As usual, it was the vaccines, and people’s underlying health, that had the biggest impact in ending the pandemic. Taking off masks for many is moving past the pandemic, and a growing sense the masking was not all that effective.

      9. “Spreading it out is good in itself. You’re less likely to get it if fewer people around you have it at a time. Hospitals aren’t as full and medical staff aren’t as stressed.”

        I wouldn’t necessarily say that. It’s good for hospitals. But, it doesn’t make any individual less likely to get it. The risk is just spread over a few months rather than a few weeks.

        Also, for those that hunker down during case surges, it’s better to get the surge over and done with, rather than having it just continue on and on, seemingly forever.

  7. Evidently, there isn’t much difference in SARS2 viral spread between states that required the use of masks, and those that did not. So if you’re counting on masking to keep you safe from that virus, you are likely to be disappointed.

    There is a good chart in the link comparing states that required masks and those that did not, and different countries. In the U.S. infections dropped from over 800,000/day in January 2022 to around 37,000 yesterday, several weeks after the mask mandate for all indoor venues was lifted. Deaths have declined as well.

    Had there been evidence that public transit presented a heightened risk of infection — either due to those who ride public transit or some other factor like the enclosed space, although it is hard to compare the inside of a bus with the inside of an airline terminal — the CDC should have already collected that data since it had mandated masks on public transit for over two years, and it should have presented that evidence to the court or in a formal rule making process begun when the first mask mandate on public transit was imposed.

    I understand that some think public transit riders (excluding airplanes) are a dirtier sort of citizen and more likely to avoid vaccinations or common hygiene, but the evidence just does not support that. At a time when the country is desperate to return workers to offices, and riders to transit, it was unproductive for the CDC to suggest –without any evidence, and in fact evidence to the contrary — that public transit provides some kind of heightened risk of infection due to who rides transit, or transit in general.

    Because the only real solution to the statement, “They will endure this until no longer with us or until COVID is not longer with us, whichever comes first” is to eliminate public transit if you truly believe it presents a heightened risk of infection over other indoor venues, because Covid and many other viruses will be with us forever.

    I think the special treatment transit received during Covid will damage transit ridership for a long time, because what the CDC told citizens and riders and workers is that transit has a much higher risk of infection from any virus than society at large, including packed bars, restaurants, sporting events, movie theaters, and especially your own car. With citizens much more sensitive to the risk of viruses today I have no doubt that the delay in returning transit ridership (except planes) compared to other indoor venues has to do with the fact the CDC basically stigmatized transit, and those who ride it, without the evidence to support that.

    1. I don’t think public transit presents a heightened risk. That is a strawman. Quite the opposite. I think decent ventilation, which much of transit has, decreases the risks substantially.

      The difference is that transit is something that transit-dependent people can’t avoid if they want to live their lives. That is not true of bars, restaurants, sporting events, or most any place else.

      That is the difference, and it’s a huge one.

      1. What about grocery stores, hardware stores, clothing stores, government buildings, and other indoor venues (including work) where folks must go?

        If transit presents a lesser risk than other indoor venues as you state, and the mask mandate was lifted on those, then you have made my point.

        If there was really a meaningful risk someone with heightened risk would get covid on transit and die don’t you think it makes more sense to get them other subsidized transit like this rather than telling them their lives depend on the quality of the mask someone is wearing and how well they wear it, when mask adherence was not really enforced on buses and light rail anyway.

      2. Let me give you a tip. There is this thing called Amazon. It’s a website, and it sells things. And they deliver them to your door. It’s truly miraculous. Levis. Hammers. A head of lettuce. Anything your heart desires.

        If I had a compromised immune system, as a friend of mine does, I would not step foot into any of those places, if I could help it. And she hasn’t.

      3. The one place that people can no longer avoid going is to court. I can see some small rational for in-person jury to provide a perhaps a more fair representation for the accuesed. The judges insisting on in-person voir dire during the peak of omicron were imbeciles or egoists of the highest order.

    2. “there isn’t much difference in SARS2 viral spread between states that required the use of masks, and those that did not.”

      But the death rate was much higher and hospitals were overwhelmed for much longer periods of time in states that didn’t require masks or rescinded them early. Washington State and the Puget Sound region had one of the lowest covid counts and people were relatively safe from the virus, and Seattle even more so, because of the high rate of mask use, the sensible state guidelines, and high vaccination rates.

  8. I’m not going to teach a course on biases inherent in poorly done ecologic studies, or point out the absurdity of linking to a pop article called “Maskaholics” in lieu of, you know, science. For those who do read the primary literature, the evidence is pretty clear that masks help decrease the transmission of COVID-19. Not perfect, and it depends on many variables how effective they are, but they do work.

    So wearing one decreases the likelihood that you will kill a vulnerable individual. For the cost of, well, really nothing. They are free on entry.

    1. Your logic dictates that citizens wear masks forever, in all venues, because there are many, many viruses, and a total mask mandate might save one life.

      The point I was making was public transit does not present a heightened risk over other indoor venues. With over 80% of Americans now having received at least one shot, and infections down from over 800,000 to 37,000 and deaths under 500/day in a country of over 330 million despite the lifting of the mask mandate weeks ago there wasn’t the evidence to support a special mask mandate for public transit when the mandate had been lifted for every other venue, because infections and deaths were too low, and public transit does not create a heightened risk of infection.

      “So wearing one decreases the likelihood that you will kill a vulnerable individual.” That was basically the ad hominem argument the CDC made at the last second after lifting the mandate on indoor venues, but was unable to prove.

      The evidence today is that wearing a mask on public transit will not save any lives, and the CDC was unable to present any evidence to the contrary, which is why its last second mask mandate extension was invalidated. Unless you have some data or science the CDC does not.

      1. The reason you can’t do that study and provide evidence on transit specifically, unless you have the ethics of Mengele, is that it is extremely difficult to impossible to verify an epidemiologic link, identifying an outbreak as having occurred on a bus. If Public Health were properly funded and staffed, it occurs to me as I type that we might be able to mine Orca Card data and link it up to the state testing database. But it’s not. Every public health agency, from local to state to federal has been barely trying to keep it’s head above water for the last 2 years. We don’t have those kinds of resources to do those fun, interesting studies, for the most part.

      2. The one group we could track, and did, was the transit agency staff. And boy did it ever run through them.

      3. “Your logic dictates that citizens wear masks forever, in all venues, because there are many, many viruses, and a total mask mandate might save one life.”

        This is exactly what I plan on doing. For my own health and the health of others. I like keeping flu deaths low, and not catching the cold every year. I consider masking in public to be doing my part when living in a society at this point. Just a common courtesy really.

      4. Some places that have good quality contract tracing and other pandemic response measures did try to include transit.

        I believe it was France was never able to show any sort of spreading event happening on transit. Churches, restaurants, bars, shopping centers, and some flights, many offices? yes.

        There were some theories as to why. One is that many modern bus and train designs in Europe have air flow patterns that provide air at the windows and a return duct running the length of the vehicle, so air doesn’t travel over 50 people on its way to the return air vent.

        I’d still not ride transit just yet without a mask, considering the spread still going on, but ground transit seems to be better than flying based on the spreader events they’ve been able to trace.

        Of course, relatively speaking all are fairly safe compared to other stuff. At one point over half the Oregon hospitalizations were traced to a single church service. It’s similar to transit: nobody sells tickets to a church service but if you get a bunch of hospitalizations and that is the only common location then you’ve got a strong correlation.

        It turns out packing a bunch of people real close together and having them all singing and shouting at once is a bad idea. Keep our fingers crossed for whatever happens in two weeks after the results of Easter weekend.

      5. For decades US society has taken the position that the annual flu rate is acceptable and the public does not need masks in winter. Thousands of people die, yet thousands of people also die from traffic fatalities, cancer, and other things, and we can’t stamp out all of them. For several severe diseases, vaccinations are required for schoolchildren. So if covid gets down to the level/severity of the flu, we can treat it that way.

        But covid still has a death rate several times higher than the flu. It overtook all other causes of death, and the US population dropped for the first time in decades. Maybe it’s only the second-leading cause of death now, but that’s still second-leading. Then there’s long covid. I’ve never heard of long flu. Society and individuals still don’t know what the long-term effects of long covid will be on lost productivity, higher medical expenses, higher insurance rates, and stresses on relationships and mental health.

        Then there’s the fact that immunocompromised people are no longer safe in society, to an extent they weren’t before.

      6. Another thing that’s happening is the resistance to masks and vaccines may go beyond covid to everything. States may repeal their entire school vaccine requirements. And if another covid spike or a new severe virus appears, they may just skip masks and let ‘er rip. Because freedom.

        The most frustrating thing is it didn’t have to happen this way. If covid had appeared in the mid 20th century, people would have considered it their civic duty to get vaccinated and wear masks, and the mandates would have seemed like “of course”. Even in 2015 or 2018 it might have been that way. There were always anti-vax supporters but they were small. But by a quirk of fate, the president and a few other politicians and TV pundits, who could have gone either way, landed on the negative side, and large parts of society followed them. If they had gone the other way, covid would have been much less severe, and we might have been closer to eradicating it.

      7. I think Dems don’t want to play up the former president’s role in Operation Warp Speed or his continued support for the vaccines. Count me relieved that Operation Warp Speed happened, and that Trump is belittling his followers who are trying to urge people not to get vaccinated.

      8. “If they had gone the other way, covid would have been much less severe, and we might have been closer to eradicating it.”

        A higher vaccination rate would have certainly resulted in fewer people dying. But, it wouldn’t have impacted cases much. There is plenty of evidence from other countries, such as Canada, New Zealand, and South Korea, where COVID policy is much less polarizing. Even China, with its draconian lockdowns, is still not able to fully eradicate the virus within its borders.

        I think Skylar explained things well. If more people wear masks, it causes the cases to be spread out over a longer period of time, but the total number of people that need to be infected to achieve enough population immunity for the wave to actually end remains unchanged. Spreading cases out over a longer period of time is good for reducing the burden on overflowing hospitals, but it doesn’t actually prevent infections – it just postpones the inevitable.

      9. The contrast between places with extensive mask use (Eg, Taiwan) and spotty mask use (Eg, the USA) is pretty strong, so I don’t see why it would be inevitable?

        As far as infecting enough people to create immunity goes, this has never happened with any disease. Smallpox was only eradicated by an extensive global vaccination effort conducted in an era when public health wasn’t controversial.

        Infection with Covid19 has repeatedly proven to create very low immunity compared to the vaccines, so there’s definitely no way to stop the spread by infection alone.

  9. I’m not too worried about covid at this point. But it seems less than optimal that this mask mandate was overturned by a judge. If we get another dangerous disease spreading around like this in the future, will we be able to take the necessary precautions to limit the spread?

    The whole system of mask and vaccination mandates seems to have been rather clumsy. Like, my kids are vaccinated, and I’d guess most of the kids at their school are vaccinated (because the student body is majority Asian). but there is no requirement, and it doesn’t look like there will be next school year either. And at most schools, even in King County, most students will never be vaccinated until we make it a requirement for enrollment.

    In general we seem to be making these decisions based on personal risk (e.g. kids don’t get very sick from covid), rather than societal risk, as we should (kids seem to spread covid just as well as anyone else).

    1. The judge is a Trump appointee, was rated unqualified due to little experience, and has apparently made other outrageous decisions.

    2. Given the long list of vaccines already required for attending public schools in Washington, I think the state is just waiting for the CDC/FDA to give the COVID-19 vaccines permanent use authorization for everyone 5 and up. I am at a loss as to why they haven’t done so for students 16 and up.

    3. LA tried. The just didn’t have the resources for teaching the unvaxxed 10% remotely. On the positive side. 90% of their teens are vaxxed through the attempt.

    4. It’s not just the spread among kids. Even people who show no symptoms have been found to have extremely severe organ damage (kidneys, blood vessels, pancreas, etc.). At least one medical office was showing a near 200% increase in diabetes incidence among children that had been infected.

      We won’t know the full long term impacts for some years, but nothing I’ve seen so far indicates we should just let ‘er rip through the child population.

  10. > After a somewhat confused day of messaging

    And Metro bus reader boards still say masks required. Of course nothing is actually required. Laws/fares/rules in King County are merely suggestions.

    1. “Signage may take some time to update, the agencies said.” — Times article in first link.

      When Metro shifted from “Essential Trips Only”, it took months for all the bus displays to be changed.

      I’m looking forward to removing public health messages from bus displays. The alternating messages means it takes longer to determine which route it is, and if you can only see it for a second as the bus passes by, you don’t know whether it’s your route or not. These messages don’t need to be on bus displays now that everybody knows about covid. A paper sign on the door would suffice.

      1. Gone are the days when the driver just cranks the knob to the appropriate message I guess.

      2. In those days Metro couldn’t add new messages without updating the rollers, so for many years short-run termini and new destinations were in a separate sign to the left of the door. The regular destination sign was blank or had something generic like ‘Express”. The short-run 3’s to 23rd or Bell (?) Street said “First Hill” or “To Downtown Only” or were blank if I remember, with no specific sign about where they terminated. The short-run 73’s said whatever neighborhood 65th & 15th was. (I don’t remember now but I don’t think it said Roosevelt or Ravenna. The fixed sign on the side may have said “to NE 65th Street Only”.) Does anybody remember any others?

      3. @Mike Orr

        When they terminated at NE 65th and 15th Ave NE the signage said Cowen Park.

  11. The last 2 days I took Link to and from work. I work at night so not very full. Was on a 4 car train 3 out of 4 trips. I would guess over 90% masked on all trips. Dispensors full and no masks littered anywhere. And no delays or disruptions due to The President’s visit. All on time. Pretty positive experience for not riding since October 5th.

    1. Thanks for the surveillance!

      I haven’t been on the train for over a week (i.e. since a federal district judge tossed the mask mandate for the whole country). Every time I check out a mask dispenser on the train, they are empty or nearly empty.

      But then, I’ve been wearing N95s exclusively for about a month and a half, since the CDC spelled that recommendation out. It doesn’t seem like it would cost much more per mask to bulk order these instead of the rectangular blue masks (that some passengers have had trouble keeping up above their nostrils) and distribute them on trains and buses. They just don’t neatly fit the design of the dispensers.

      It should also be a simple matter of the county council pushing forward an ordinance to require the wearing of face coverings on public transit (and include essential businesses like grocery stores, while they are at it), and keep that in place until the pandemic is actually over.

      Please, county council, bring some semblance of normality back.

    2. I’m on vacation in LA right now, and taking transit everywhere we can’t walk (it’s a big place, so that’s pretty often). In Seatac and on the flight down, mask use was ~20%. On transit, mask use has been over 80% despite no mandate. Today, the county imposed its own mask mandate, which basically changed nothing given the public attitudes. We had been wearing masks since we had already been planning on wearing them, and out of politeness, and will obviously continue to wear them while we’re here.

      We’ll be taking Coast Starlight (Amtrak) back, where there is no mask requirement, and it will be interesting to see how the attitudes shift as we travel north. When we took Empire Builder to see family in WI back in August, it was pretty clear what the political climate was in the stations as we passed through even with a mandate in place.

      1. I’ve seen a difference between Seattle on the one hand and Bellevue, Kent, and Renton on the other throughout the pandemic. Seattle has more mask-wearing outside and in shops. I’m not sure about transit; that may be more uniform across the county.

        People driving to other states have reported wide differences in mask-wearing in the areas they travel through and to, so I’d expect the same on Amtrak. Especially since trains have more space per person than airplanes and have more access to outside air. Hopefully your train won’t be packed full so you can get a socially-distant seat. Tell us how ridership is.

        I haven’t been on transit since the mask mandate ended, but I will today.

      2. I’ve gotten advice from a relative who rides Amtrak for business that the safest option (safer than flying) is to get a roomette on the train.

        I’m planning on doing that in July when I visit my parents, along with carrying a supply of test kits.

      3. It should also be possible to have the meal that is included with your Amtrak room delivered to your room. At least, as of 2 years ago it was still an option.

        For obvious reasons, it became popular to not eat in the diner or lounge.

      4. If the concern of infection on the train to Seattle is so great you plan to rent a room on the train and take your meals in your room why not just drive? If you own a car you avoid public transportation to the train station, crowded train stations on both ends —twice — coming and going — and the cost is the same or less, and you will have zero interaction with the public. Plus it will be at least 90 minutes faster door to door.

      5. Who are you asking? If it is Skylar, I’m guessing it would be far more than 90 minutes difference from LA. But having recently done the drive, it’s a bear.

        If you are asking me about my trip yesterday, it’s 2 hrs, and 4 minutes via car from Tacoma to Vancounver, and 2 hours and 12 mins via train. I’m a 10 minute bike ride from the station. So the time difference is about what it would take to fill up at the gas station or if you ran into a slowdown at JBLM.

        Plus I could read a book on the way down, get a little excercise on the way to the station, have a couple beers while visiting my sister down there, and then take a nap and not worry about killing myself or someone else on the return trip. Not killing the planet is just a bonus.

        No brainer.

        And as for covid, well, I’m not too concerned. Wearing a decen N95, I didn’t feel particularly unsafe, and I’m vaccinated and boosted, so downside is minimal, even though I was one of the few masked on the train.

      6. I was responding to Glenn. His primary concern was exposure. There is no exposure in your own car. Getting to and from the train station, waiting for the train to depart, is around 60 to 90 minutes longer than driving from your garage if the trip is Portland to Seattle.

        From LA I would definitely fly, if exposure was not my number one concern.

        If someone prefers the train and is comfortable with public transportation to and from the station then by all means take the train, although I think around 5% of all trips to and from Portland are by train.

        But if exposure is the primary concern — as it was for most before the vaccine — then drive and/or work from home.

        On Thursday I am flying to Hawaii. We also went there pre-vaccines. We will Uber to the airport. I am vaccinated and boosted and not really concerned with exposure. We regularly go out to bars, restaurants and social gatherings.

        If a majority of flyers are wearing masks so will I out of courtesy to them, not for my own safety. Of course if I was afraid of public transportation I wouldn’t make this trip to begin with. But nothing is safer than driving your own car if exposure to Covid is your main concern.

      7. Agreed. While we don’t know everything about long covid, the chance of death or disability hurtling 75 mph down I-5 is likely a somewhat greater danger than catching covid on the train for those up to date on their vaccine.

      8. You can’t wear a mask while eating. Thus, if you are going to get a roomette, which includes meals in the price, it is useful to know that it is possible (or at least was possible) to get them sent to the room.

        This seemed useful to point out since getting a room was being discussed.

        Exposure in the waiting room doesn’t represent the same problem as you can sit on the waiting room for as long as you want without eating.

        As for the advantages of driving, I’m sure there’s plenty of other web sites out there where that is discussed, rather than a transit oriented one.

      9. Glenn, at-seat/room dining was an option pre-COVID, and definitely was still an option back in August on Empire Builder. There’s a lot of good non-COVID reasons for it, including the fact that the dining car is not wheelchair-accessible, and that it lets Amtrak serve more people than its limited seating in the dining car can accommodate.

        Back in August, they were not doing communal seating which meant that they couldn’t serve coach passengers at all. I’m not sure what it’s going to look like on the Starlight, but we’ll eat in the dining car if it’s an option. It was height of Delta back in August, which was much more dangerous to vaccinated people than any of the Omicron variants, so we’re not terribly worried about it at this point.

      10. What were the food options? Bad overpriced bistro hamburgers? There must be some food on a 30-hour trip from Seattle to LA.

        One thing I liked about Amtrak in the 2000s when I made several trips to Chicago, Oakland, and San Jose, was the dining car, where you met random people at your table, the food was pretty good, it was a complete meal with salad and beverage, and you got real silverware and plates rather than disposable plastic and paper. I was sad when I read that was discontinued in the late 2010s, because it was one of the things that made me choose Amtrak over bus and plane, along with the larger seats and an electric outlet at every seat.

      11. Mike, the dining car options depend on the route, but there’s always at least one vegetarian option for each meal (one of the perks of Amtrak over flying for me). Amtrak has a page with links to the menus.

        It’s been a while since we’ve been in coach on a long-haul route, but the cafe car options tended to be more fast-food, particularly in the grease component. Beyond having meals included, we also appreciate being able to sleep — having 90 close neighbors makes that difficult in coach if you’re going to be on the train overnight, though the seats are certainly far better than even first class on a plane.

      12. Update from the train – coach passengers are allowed to go to the dining car now, where it’s prix fixe $20 for breakfast, $25 for lunch, and $45 for dinner.

    3. Starlight just had the counter service for coach underneath the observation car. Maybe the overlords at the front of our snow piercer had white tablecloths. Dunno. They were calling people up, so I suspect so, but don’t know if it was stale PBnJ or Salmon Filet.

  12. Local indoor venues are 99% maskless, about a month after the mask mandates indoors was lifted. I am flying this Thursday and have been told masking in airports and on airlines has been dropping about 10%/day. I will carry a mask and probably wear it into the airport to figure out mask adherence. If 50% or more are wearing a mask I will wear a mask. I also plan on taking a rapid test just before heading to the airport.

    1. The indoor venues I go to most, grocery stores, are majority masked up, regardless of grocer. Amazingly, Target is the store with the best mask rate among employees, close to 100%, well above any other grocers. Target has become my go-to grocery store.

      Of course, restaurant patrons all have their masks down at some points. If the staff aren’t wearing masks, that’s a good reason to avoid a restaurant like the plague. If you want to show the staff you care about their well-being, consider doing the following:

      1) Wear a mask when you are moving about the restaurant, including entering, waiting for a table, and leaving. Presumably, you are not eating or drinking at that time.
      2) Wear a mask at the table when you are not actively eating or drinking.
      3) Tip the waitstaff well, like well above 20%, as they are putting themselves much more in harm’s way than when 18-20% was a considerate tip before the pandemic. I try to get my estimate in the 30-33% range. If you want the staff to stick around under the current circumstances (which got a whole lot worse a month ago), 20% tips probably aren’t going to convince them to stick around. I also like to write “Namaske” next to the tip line, so they know why I chose that restaurant and that their mask-wearing is noticed and appreciated.

      At the very small handful of restaurants I still eat at occasionally, I’ve heard from the owners that cooking and waitstaff are hard to find and hard to hold onto. This is why I think lifting the mask mandate has pulled the rug out from under the restaurant industry. One of my favorite restaurants is going out of business at the end of the month. It was basically the mask mandate lift that did made it impossible to continue. Last time I was there, I saw customers not being mindful at all about the safety of the staff.

      1. On the contrary, I think there are many restaurant owners and wait staff that are relieved at no longer needing to order people to put their masks on who don’t want to (and dealing with bad behavior from people who refuse).

        A lot of what you’re describing, I feel, is more virtue signaling than actually stopping virus transmission. If you go to a restaurant while infected, whatever viral particles you emit while eating have already spread around the restaurant anyway. Even Joe Biden was caught on camera once, walking out of a D.C. restaurant without putting his mask back on.

        With or without a mask mandate, immune compromised people should really not be working restaurant jobs, period. But, for the rest, it’s probably safe enough for the vaccinated and boosted. If the mask mandate was helping some high risk people feel safer, it was probably providing them with a false sense of security.

      2. Masks are definitely not a virtue signal. They are a device for impeding your ability to infect other people, and, to a lesser extent, to protect other people from infecting you. If you don’t believe the virus is spread from one person’s respiratory water droplets to another’s respiratory system, I don’t know what to say at this point. Enjoy traveling without a mask, and do be careful when you try to step off the edge of the world.

        There is no black-and-white division between a population of immune people and immunocompromised people. Nobody is 100% immune from this virus, even with up-to-date vaccination. Nobody is 100% guaranteed to have a merely asymptomatic experience if they get infected. The vaccines improve the odds, but none of them are perfect. Still, they are definitely not a virtue signal.

        Waving the American flag to support one’s side of a debate or invoking the word “freedom”, when one is pushing one’s right to hurt other people through their own laziness, I think that better meets the definition of “virtue signaling”. A friend of mine likes to say “Without freedom of speech, how could we tell who the idiots are?”

  13. I rode route 60 yesterday. It was sometime after last bell when we passed by Cleveland High. About a dozen students boarded, all wearing well-fitted masks.

    Once we got into the CD, the boarders tended to be more of the appearing-to-be-homeless variety, and masking dropped off significantly.

    When there was adequate space, passengers sat one behind the other, usually window seats, rather than the zigzag closed-seating pattern Metro deployed back in 2020.

    Later on, I rode the train to Northgate. About 20% were maskless, with no obvious demographic correlation.

    I rode the train south again later. It was mostly empty. Roughly 20% unmasked, and hard to tell who was experiencing homelessness among the individuals. A family of four with young children was masked up with well-fitted masks. They did not seem fazed when an older gentleman sat across from them maskless, facing them in the mid-section.

  14. King County Metro webpage top bar: “Masks recommended on transit.”

    Port of Seattle’s Sea-Tac front page: “Masks now optional”.

    Amtrak’s front page: “While Amtrak passengers and employees are no longer required to wear masks while on board trains or in stations, masks are welcome and remain an important preventive measure against COVID-19. Anyone needing or choosing to wear one is encouraged to do so.” plus additional useful and informative links

    Washington State Ferries’ bottom of front page: “Find out how COVID-19 is affecting Washington State Ferries and how we’re restoring service as we recover from the pandemic.” … following link … “Masks are optional for the public inside our vessels and terminal; however, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to recommend people wear masks in indoor public transportation settings.” btw, Do they give out free masks?

    Sound Transit’s front page: a picture of Sounder at Sumner Station, and nothing about masks

    Monorail second bullet in rotating frame: “MASKS ENCOURAGED All passengers are strongly encouraged to wear a face mask while on the Monorail platform and on the trains”

    Seattle Streetcars page has nothing to say on the pandemic.

    Community Transit News: “Face coverings no longer required on transit and in transit facilities”

    Pierce Transit News: “Masks Now Optional on Transit”

    Kitsap Transit’s sixth bullet on the rotating frame: “GET VACCINATED / RIDE OUR BUSES & FERRIES FREE FOR A MONTH”

    Everett Transit: “COVID Update” (in top masthead) links to long-winded letter

  15. Oh.


    I can’t use transit anymore.

    Thanks a fucking lot, people. I guess your right to be selfish fuckheads *is* more important than my right to not die.

    1. If you can’t use transit because they switched from masks required to masks recommended, that must mean you can’t enter any business or setting where masks aren’t required, correct?

  16. I just flew into Seattle last night. Wore a mask while boarding the plane and at the TSA line. Took it off to eat dinner shortly after departure, and never put it on again. 24 hours later, no noticeable symptoms.

    About 90% of passengers had no mask on.

  17. Covid is booming in WA right now. Up 125% over the past 14 days. Hospitalizations up too. The new wave is just gathering steam.

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