Ending the MTA mask mandate: another pathetic Hochul move

“Starting today, masks will be optional,” Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Wednesday — cheerily oblivious to the fact that they already were

Only a third of the straphangers wore masks on our D train that morning; compliance has been steadily dropping since the MTA last tried to measure it in April (64%, it found).

After all, no one’s even been pretending to enforce the rule, and the pandemic has been over for months.

Not that everyone gets that. Most of the MTA’s masked haven’t even been doing it because of Hochul’s rule. Some feel it makes them safer or is somehow virtuous: A fifth to a quarter of any given NJTransit train is still masking, months after it became optional.

And never mind that most masks do next to nothing to stop COVID spread. (You need an N95 or better.)

All of which makes Hochul’s move long overdue — comically so, or perhaps tragically.

Commuters and tourists exit a subway car
Hochul announced that masks are now optional on Wednesday.
Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

The rule was a holdover from 2020, when then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo was riding pandemic alarmism to fame and fortune. We’ve long since learned that most mandates do nothing to stop the spread. And New York’s last significant peak in COVID deaths was back in January; the emergency is long over.

Heck, Hochul herself admitted in July that the last remaining justification for the rule was pure theater, claiming it gave straphangers a “sense of security.” In what Bizarro World does an order for everyone to mask, which at least a third of people disobey (again, as of April, per the MTA), make anyone feel safer?

In the same alternate reality, we guess, where Hochul has already fixed the no-bail laws —and where dumping a billion bucks in taxpayer cash on building a new Buffalo Bills stadium that benefits her husband’s employer is bold leadership. And where her Penn Station plan actually renovates the station, rather than just clearing the way for a donor’s megaproject.

Commuters wait on the platform of a subway station
Commuters will no longer have mask mandates while they travel.
Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Heck, Hochul still wouldn’t definitively end the MTA rule, warning that officials will “continue watching the numbers.” Even when she’s finally doing the right thing, she can’t resist her trademark weaseling.

And her delays in ending mandates (she’s dithered for months before following the science every time) does real harm, feeding the fear and uncertainty that have slowed New York’s recovery and left us us well behind the rest of the nation.

It takes real principles to do the right thing at the right time, and this governor doesn’t have any. 

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