Riverside Transit Agency Maintains Mask Requirements

City News Service

RIVERSIDE (CNS) – Despite a federal judge today invalidating the
mandate requiring the use of masks in public transportation, the Riverside
Transit Agency will keep mask requirements in place, awaiting word from legal
counsel or the Federal Transit Administration on what policy changes to make
for riders.

“Things are changing quickly, and this judge’s ruling is really
new,” RTA spokesman Brad Weaver told City News Service. “At this point, we
are going to see what direction we get on the legal side, or further direction
from the FTA.”

Weaver said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s
recent extension of the mask mandate on public rides to May 3 was the guideline
that the RTA was adhering to, but that could be adjusted.

RTA receives roughly 50% of its funding from federal sources,
according to Weaver.

U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle in Florida issued a ruling
against the Biden administration and in favor of the Health Freedom Defense
Fund and several other plaintiffs joining in the organization’s lawsuit. The
judge said that the CDC had exceeded its authority by acting outside the scope
of the federal Administrative Procedure Act, as well as had predicated its
transportation mask mandate on “arbitrary” criteria.

Mizelle pointed specifically to the CDC’s justification for mandating
masks under the Public Services Act of 1944, which gives the agency regulatory
authority to ensure “sanitation” of spaces where communicable diseases might
spread, according to published reports.

The judge said sanitation refers to “measures that clean something,
not ones that keep something clean,” according to her ruling.

“Wearing a mask cleans nothing,” she said.

The CDC first issued an order mandating masks on public conveyances in
January 2021, saying “traveling on public transportation increases a
person’s risk of getting and spreading COVID-19.”

“Air travel often requires spending time in security lines and busy
airport terminals,” the agency stated. “Travel by bus, train and other
conveyances used for international, interstate or intrastate transportation
poses similar challenges.”

The agency, however, dropped its masking directives for public and
private school buses in February, saying that it was relying on “updated
guidance.”

It was not immediately known whether the Biden administration intended
to appeal Mizelle’s ruling.

According to Weaver, RTA has not documented instances of riders being
kicked off of buses for removing masks, and he said there have not been any law
enforcement actions or penalties related to masking requirements.

“Most people are respectful,” he said.

Each bus contains a public address system with automated messages
stating that riders are required to put on a mask as a condition of using the
bus service.

In its most recent tally from February, RTA recorded 314,000 riders
utilizing the agency’s buses, which have routes throughout western Riverside
County, going as far as Banning to the east, Corona to the west, Eastvale to
the north and Temecula to the south. One route additionally goes into downtown
San Bernardino.

Copyright 2022, City News Service, Inc.

CNS-04-18-2022 15:21

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