Local doctor worries MBTA jumping the gun on masks

BOSTON — COVID rates may be rising in Massachusetts, but that didn’t stop the MBTA from ending its long-standing mask mandate Tuesday.

The mandate, which went into place as a result of a CDC order on public transit safety in 2021, was lifted just as rush hour hit Boston — so most T riders at Park Street Station seemed unaware they could take the masks off.

“Eighty percent of the people in Massachusetts are fully vaccinated, and among those over 65, it’s more like 95 percent of people are fully vaccinated,” said Governor Charlie Baker, a few hours before the T’s announcement. “We now have therapies that we didn’t have two years ago that actually work.”

The T joined airlines, Amtrak and ride services in making masks optional after a federal judge in Florida ruled Monday the CDC had overstepped its statutory authority in issuing the masking order in the first place.

The judge’s decision is under review, but in the meantime the CDC isn’t enforcing the order.

That troubles Daniel Kuritzkes, MD, chief of the Division Of Infectious Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

“Well I think there’s a concern about transmitting the virus generally,” he said. “Even people who have mild disease end up needing to stay out of the workplace, have to isolate, or should be isolating, so it is still an inconvenience to everybody.”

And, of course, it could mean serious illness — especially for those who are unvaccinated. Kuritzkes said he was glad to hear the mandate had been extended to May — and even thought it should have gone longer.

“We’re now in this uncertain period where we just don’t know what’s going to happen with BA2 and other subvariants,” he said.

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