TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y.—Governor Kathy Hochul has announced that the mask mandate on public transportation has been lifted in New York State. Local bus agency TCAT is following suit after over two years of mandating mask wearing on buses.

During an address, the governor’s official Twitter account published the following message, including a rather strange graphic.

“Our drivers and front-line employees did a remarkable job with mask compliance, which hasn’t always been easy when you consider that some spend 8 to 10 or more hours in the driver’s seat,” said TCAT Assistant General Manager Mike Smith. “I thank our passengers too for their cooperation and masking up throughout this lengthy pandemic season. And of course, any rider still has the option to wear a mask according to their personal preferences.”

There is not the robust testing numbers that there were in years past, though the county has not reported a true boom in COVID-19 numbers since Cornell University, Ithaca College and Tompkins Cortland Community College have all returned to classes. There are currently seven people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Tompkins County, according to the health department’s most recent update.

Like other ground-level workers who had to enforce mask mandates at their job, TCAT drivers bore a heavy burden during the last two-plus years. The quick politicization of mask-wearing made enforcement an increasingly risky proposal as the COVID-19 pandemic wore on.

“We know the face-covering mandates, though sometimes challenging for everyone to follow, were key to protecting one another from the spread of the virus,” Smith said.

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Managing Editor at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.com