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Planes, trains and ferries: Where are masks still required while traveling in Washington?

Masks are no longer required on public transit throughout the Puget Sound region effective immediately, according to a press release from Sound Transit.

SEATTLE — Masks are no longer required on public transit or in transit facilities around the Puget Sound region effective Tuesday, according to a news release from Sound Transit.

Tuesday’s announcement comes a day after a federal judge in Florida struck down the federal mask mandate, ruling it exceeded the authority of U.S. health officials during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) previously extended the federal transportation face mask requirement through May 3 in response to an uptick in COVID-19 cases. The order was previously set to expire on April 18.

The mandate had been in place since President Joe Biden took office in January of 2021. There was no immediate word on whether the federal government will appeal the ruling.

Below is a breakdown of where you may or may not be required to wear a mask while traveling. The federal order applied to all public modes of transportation, including airports, buses and ferries.

Washington transit agencies not requiring masks

Tuesday morning, Sound Transit said masks were no longer mandatory on transit agencies throughout the Puget Sound region after the Transportation Security Administration said Monday it wouldn’t enforce a January 2021 security directive that applied to airplanes, airports, taxis and other mass transit.

According to Sound Transit, masks are no longer required for the following agencies:

While masks are no longer required, Sound Transit said riders are “welcome to continue wearing face coverings if they wish.”

The agency said it would take time to update all of the signs and other communication methods regarding the federal mask mandate.

On Monday afternoon, Washington State Ferries (WSF) announced mask requirements would remain in place on WSF boats and buildings pending further review of the ruling or guidance from the CDC or the Transit Security Administration. However, at 9:50 p.m. the agency tweeted masks would no longer be required onboard vessels or inside terminals. 

In a statement, Amtrak said while employees and passengers are no longer required to wear masks, face coverings are still welcome and remain an important preventative measure against COVID-19.

Uber, Lyft drop mask requirement

Uber and Lyft dropped masking requirements for riders and drivers in the U.S. Tuesday.

Uber updated its policy early Tuesday morning, saying, “if you ever feel uncomfortable, you can always cancel the trip.” However, the company noted on its website the CDC “still recommends wearing a mask if you have certain personal risk factors and/or high transmission levels in your area.”

Lyft updated its policy a few hours after Uber announced it was dropping the mask requirement. The company said riders and drivers can cancel any ride they don’t wish to take, but “health safety reasons – like not wearing a mask – will no longer appear as cancellation options in the app.”

Both companies said riders and drivers are also no longer required to keep the front seat open. However, Uber asked riders to “only use the front seat if it’s required because of the size of their group.”

“Wearing masks on transportation may still be required by law in some areas, and we encourage riders and drivers to check their local public health requirements before using Lyft,” a statement on Lyft’s website reads.

Alaska, Horizon Airlines repeal mask requirement

Sea-Tac Airport said Monday evening that masks will be optional as the TSA would no longer be requiring face masks on public transportation or in hubs such as the airport.

Earlier in the afternoon, Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air announced they were dropping the mask requirement for passengers after the federal mandate was struck down on Monday.

In a statement, Alaska urged passengers to be kind to each other and keep in mind that wearing a mask while traveling is still an option. Sea-Tac also noted that the CDC was still recommending mask-wearing in indoor public transportation environments.

The airline said some guests who were banned over non-compliance with the mask mandate will remain banned from flying if their behavior was "particularly egregious." 

"It has been a long 24 months with nearly constant change. I could not be prouder of our frontline employees who have handled every pivot focusing on safety and the care we’re known for,” said Max Tidwell, VP of safety & security at Alaska Airlines. “We’re also thankful for our guests who remained considerate, patient and stood by us throughout every twist and turn.”  

Alaska also said the company will remain "vigilant and prepared for whatever may come next," including a future wave of COVID-19. 

American Airlines, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines and Delta Airlines have also lifted their mask requirements.

Rules will also be different for some international flights. For example, Alaska Airlines notes that passengers will still need to wear masks on flights to and from Canada.

Click here to see a full list of major U.S. airlines and their masking policies. 

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