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Masks come off at airport, on buses

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneTravelers check in for their flights at the Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport. The airport is no longer enforcing mask-wearing after a federal judge threw out a Biden administration mask mandate on public transportation.
Federal mask mandate for public transportation overturned

People can now choose whether to wear masks at the Medford airport or on Rogue Valley Transportation District buses after a federal judge tossed out the Biden administration’s mask mandate for public transportation.

The federal government adopted the mask rule in a bid to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport announced Tuesday it has adopted a voluntary mask policy for public areas of the airport. The airport’s three-letter airport code is MFR.

“The federal mask mandate on public transportation has come to an end, which means travelers at MFR can enjoy the freedom to choose whether or not wearing a mask is in their own personal best interest,” Airport Director Jerry Brienza said Tuesday. “Please be reminded that this applies to the public areas of the airport only and you should contact your airline to find out if they are maintaining a mandatory mask company policy for their passengers.”

Following the ruling by U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle in Florida, a slew of airlines across the country announced this week they will no longer require masks on flights.

All the airlines that serve the Medford airport issued announcements or posted on social media that they would no longer enforce mask usage. They include Delta, United, Alaska Airlines, aha!, American Airlines and Allegiant Air.

Requirements may be different for international flights.

The Medford airport said it will continue safety precautions such as cleaning and disinfecting.

The Rogue Valley Transportation District learned it was able to stop enforcing the mask requirement Tuesday after the Federal Transit Administration lifted the rule. RVTD had to wait for that formal action, said Paige West, senior planner for RVTD.

RVTD spent Tuesday notifying bus drivers and other frontline staff they no longer have to enforce a mask requirement. The district needs to remove signs posted on buses that notify passengers of the mask requirement, West said.

“We’ll remove those over the next several days,” she said. “We’re making sure mostly that our drivers are aware they no longer have to enforce a mask being worn at the time of boarding.”

In the Rogue Valley, West said, passengers were mostly compliant with the mask requirement when it was in effect.

“We had a few instances where drivers have needed to request that the passengers do comply. But we have not seen any major instances like in other parts of the country,” she said.

West noted some passengers who are senior citizens or have medical conditions would have liked the mask requirement to remain in place for all passengers.

Age and a variety of health conditions put people at greater risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19.

West said anyone is welcome to continue wearing masks voluntarily.

“We do certainly have part of our passenger ridership who may continue to want to wear masks, and that’s encouraged,” she said.

Some mask requirements may remain in place for transportation services such as Valley Lift and TransLink, which tend to serve a more fragile population. TransLink provides nonemergency medical transportation.

“Those are issues we’re still needing to understand and explore as we move forward,” West said.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.