DeKalb public transit drops mask mandate


Northern Star file photo

NIU bus driver waits at the bus stop on University Circle. NIU public transit, which includes the Huskie Line busses will no longer require masks.

DeKALB ― DeKalb’s public transit will be following an updated federal mask mandate that means that passengers will no longer be required to wear masks on DeKalb public buses. 

The mandate discontinues the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2021 order for passengers to stay masked on public transportation and in transportation hubs, according to the Federal Transit Administration. The CDC still recommends that people remain masked in indoor public transit settings. 

“We’ve moved to masks (being) optional, even if signage (on the buses) says otherwise,” said DeKalb transit manager Michael Nueunkirchen.

DeKalb’s public transit includes NIU’s Huskie Bus line, along with public Greyhound buses that serve a wider area of DeKalb, according to the city of DeKalb’s website.

Bus operators and other staff members will also not be required to wear masks while operating their vehicles. 

While the mask mandate is no longer in place, there are still measures being taken to keep public transit safe for all passengers.

“There’s still sanitation procedures going on with the vehicles, but it’s come a long way from the beginning,” Nueunkirchen said. 

The sanitation procedures, which last for up to one minute per vehicle, allow the vehicles to be sprayed with cleaning solutions, Neunkirchen SAID. 

Additional masks will also be provided to vehicle operators for their safety. 

“(Wearing a mask) is an individual choice, (but) a lot of staffers are wearing masks,” Nueunkirchen said.

The mandate could be appealed and reinstated if the CDC determines that masking on public transportation is still necessary, according to The Washington Post

In a statement posted on the CDC’s website, the CDC remained in favor of requiring masks on public transit.

“At this time an order requiring masking in the indoor transportation corridor remains necessary for the public health,” the statement reads. 

Biden reportedly told the public that masking while on public transportation is “up to them,” according to The Washington Post.

This could cause some confusion if the mask mandate is ever reinstated.

“If the ruling is reinstated, we will have to communicate that through press releases (and) signage,” Nueunkirchen said. 

If reinstatement of the mandate occurs, passengers who refuse to wear a mask will not be allowed on public buses, Nueunkirchen said. Passengers may also be given a mask by the vehicle operator if they are available. 

“The biggest thing now is just what people are doing to keep themselves safe,” Nueunkirchen said.