Metro today is revising its policy on face coverings for riders. Beginning on Monday, May 11, Metro will require all riders on buses and trains wear face coverings to help prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. Up to now, Metro has been recommending face coverings.
The agency will enforce this requirement to the extent that is practical — and we’ll be considering the best way to enforce this rule going forward. In addition, Metro 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. Metro will also commence an educational campaign to inform the public of the requirement to wear face coverings in public and on our system.
Some quick background to help explain the update in policy. In early April, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention amended its position on face coverings and began recommending face coverings as a way to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
On April 6, Metro began strongly recommending that riders wear face coverings but haven’t made it a requirement because of concerns about who would enforce such a rule. We don’t want to put our bus operators in harm’s way. Nor we want to put our law enforcement officers in an untenable position where confrontations with riders escalate — as we’ve seen happen in other cities.
We are also well aware that face coverings are not advised for some riders with disabilities or with certain non-virus health conditions, including difficulty breathing. There are also civil liberties issues. All these are reasons why we’ve been recommending but not requiring face coverings.
That said, we also recognize that our region will be reopening from Safer-at-Home orders in the coming weeks and months. As we prepare to restore bus and rail service that has been reduced due to the pandemic, we want transit to be as safe as possible. And we want our riders and employees to feel safe. Of the 58 Metro employees or contractors who have tested positive for COVID-19, 16 are bus operators.
We want our bus operators to know that we are listening to them. And while we have been engaging employees constantly, we’re a big agency with nearly 11,000 employees and we’re acutely aware that some employees have been on social media and telling the news media that this is a change they want.
As we said above and we want to emphasize, the enforcement piece of this will be a work-in-progress.
Metro has also taken other important steps to protect our bus operators. Specifically, we began rear-door boarding in March and at the same time mandated all bus operators to use the plexiglass shields that help seal the driving area. Metro has also constantly been ordering more personal protective equipment. To date, we have supplied employees with over 715,000 pairs of gloves, more than 385,000 masks and over 40,000 personal hand sanitizers.