Federal mask mandate extension means requirement remains on Springfield city buses and airport through April 18

Published: Mar. 11, 2022 at 6:41 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - The federal mask mandate for air travel and public transit will last a month longer. It had been set to expire March 18 but the Transportation Security Administration has decided that you’ll now have to wear a mask on public transportation including planes, trains and buses until April 18th.

The extension is based on a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention even though the CDC just released in its latest county-by-county COVID-19 breakdown that only two percent of the country’s population is in an elevated high level category where masks are recommended. The CDC’s community levels are divided into high, medium and low levels and are determined by three factors including the new COVID-19 admissions per 100,000 population in the past 7 days, the percent of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients, and total new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population in the past 7 days.

The latest results were released yesterday and Greene County was moved from the medium category to the low level where the only CDC guidance is that you stay up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccines and get tested if you have symptoms.

But at Springfield’s Transit Center where the city’s public buses come and go you’ll find one of the last vestiges of mask mandates even as most of the rest of the world has moved on.

“A continued masking mandate is difficult because we’re asking our bus operators to enforce something that people don’t think is necessary,” said Matt Crawford, the Director of Transit for City Utilities (who operates the city’s bus system). “People are tired of the masks. They’ve been wearing them for over a year now and they’re ready to move on from that.”

Not all passengers feel that way though.

Sandra Dehamer, who talked to us on Friday as her bus was about to leave, had COVID-19 about two months ago.

“It’s not fun,” she said.

So she’s all for everyone staying masked up.

“I think we should wear them until all this goes away completely,” Dehamer said.

The mask mandate is also still in place at the Springfield-Branson National Airport where officials pointed out it’s really more about the planes than the terminal.

“The whole idea of putting a bunch of people in a tube in the air with a closed-air system is why I think we still have a mask mandate when it comes to flying,” explained Kent Boyd, the airport’s Public Information and Marketing Manager. “It’s just a different experience than being at a shopping mall or a grocery store.”

But the flying public hasn’t always handled the mask mandates very well either as over 70 percent of the nearly 6,000 violent episodes aboard planes last year were mask-related.

“Trying to get everybody to wear a mask on an airplane can at times be challenging,” Boyd said. “So I think the federal government wants to give the airlines some time to figure out a game plan.”

As for the airport dealing with the mask requirement extension?

“The reality is that you’re probably not going to be asked to wear a mask in the airport if you’re socially distanced, if you’re eating or if you’re leaving the building,” Boyd said. “The law enforcement officers have to pick their battles and if a situation escalates, that’s when officers get involved and that’s when the federal government gets involved.”

While on Springfield’s city buses?

“If people are not compliant we will stop the bus and ask them to exit the bus,” Crawford answered. “We have had some situations where we’ve had to call police out on routes and remove people from the bus.”

This marks the third time that the mask mandate for public transportation has been extended so it may not be the last although the TSA said it was working with the CDC to come up with an appropriate exit strategy.

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