The National Public Transportation mask mandate was lifted on Tuesday, giving Vermont transportation services the option to lift mask mandates for passengers. Burlington International Airport lifted mask mandates and by Wednesday, many travelers walking around the airport without masks.
Some travelers are happy to see the mask mandate lifted while others are a little worried. For some, seeing travelers’ faces was an unfamiliar sight. “It was like the first time I had been on a plane where there weren’t masked people, and it was kind of weird just seeing it “It was like the first time I had been on a plane where there weren’t masked people, and it was kind of weird just seeing it – seeing people’s faces,” said Briar Murawski of Toronto, Ontario.
Shelby Losier, the Director of Ground Transportation at BTV says wearing masks at the airport is now a personal choice. “I think that it’s really up to everyone and their comfort level.”
Murawski said he is happy to see a return to normalcy. “Being in the airport in Toronto, I’ve had this on since 5 am. I could finally have this off because after a while it feels like its suffocating.”
The changes won’t stop some travelers from still wearing their masks. “I’ll probably wear it when I need to in the airport,” said Mark Hayward, a traveler from New Hampshire. “When it’s up in the air, then you’re really not getting any air except who’s right next to you.”
Some travelers are still skeptical about the decision. “I feel like it’s premature,” said Jamie, a Vermont worker. “I feel like we’re going to still experience some surges, there’s going to be one if not more variants that come through.”
“I don’t agree with it,” added Jake, a traveler from Chicago. “You should always be wearing your mask regardless.”
Meanwhile, Murawski is not too concerned. “I don’t feel less safe or anything.”
A public transit planner for VTrans says it was only a matter of time before they’d have to deal with the lifting of masks on transit systems. “It’s a big change for our system but one that we knew we’d have to address at some point as we move to the next stages of the pandemic,” said Ross MacDonald.
Some say the timing is questionable as COVID cases are on the rise in Vermont. The New York Times reported that Vermont is seeing the highest positivity rates in the country. In response to the NY Times article, Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine commented that it is difficult to rely strictly on national data since they are susceptible to states reporting cases differently.
He also says “because of the highly vaccinated population and the relatively milder nature of BA.2, the increases we’re seeing in case numbers and hospitalizations continue to be on a much smaller scale than the original omicron variant.” He adds to visit the Health Vermont website to learn more about what to do if you are sick.