Haven’t seen the yellow posters in the subway telling you to wear a mask? That’s because the MTA has started taking down its pandemic-era signs, amNewYork Metro has learned.
The omnipresent notices became a part of the city’s landscape during the COVID-19 crisis over the last two years, but transit officials decided to remove them from platform walls and inside trains last month.
Masks are still required on mass transit in New York, and the MTA will continue to feature the messaging on its 7,500 digital screens and remind straphangers of the rule via automatic announcements every 10 minutes on platforms and on board by train crews, according to an agency spokesperson.
“Paper mask reminders were removed last month to create space for multilingual informational messaging about fare discount programs,” said Dave Steckel in a statement Thursday.
The simple and playful designs of the masking initiative joined New Yorkers on their commutes and included guides on how to wear the covering properly.
MTA workers and volunteers also regularly donned similarly-themed yellow shirts when they did their regular so-called “Mask Force” campaign, handing out free coverings to riders at stations.
Subway trains are now once again filled with paid advertising, which brings in a healthy amount of cash for the agency.
The MTA earned more than $135.2 million in advertising revenues in 2021, up from $77.7 million in 2020 during the early days of the pandemic, according to agency board documents.
The change hasn’t hit every single train car yet in the sprawling subway system, and amNewYork Metro spotted an F-train still boasting the signature posters in Long Island City, Queens, on Thursday.
New York State’s mask mandate remains in effect for mass transit, and Governor Kathy Hochul this week said she intends to keep her COVID measures in place for now.
“We’re not changing our policies at this time,” she told reporters during an unrelated press conference Tuesday. “You still want everyone to wear a mask on their public transportation, on the trains and on the subways.”
Compliance with the rarely-enforced transit mask rule has slipped steadily since city and state officials began lifting requirements for the coverings as well as vaccines in other public settings like restaurants and entertainment venues.
The MTA stopped collecting and publishing regular data on the number of people donning a face covering back in April, when nearly a quarter of all subway riders had no mask on, down from 90% following the rules a year before.
The agency also lifted its in-house weekly testing requirement last month for employees who refused to get the COVID-19 vaccine, with MTA Chairperson and CEO Janno Lieber saying during the agency’s monthly board meeting on June 29 that the decision came “as we move into this last phase of the pandemic, hopefully.”
COVID-19 infection and hospitalization rates have climbed again in recent weeks driven by the highly-contagious BA.5 subvariant of Omicron.