Mask Mandate for Transportation Extended

Help Support Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum:

Anderson

Engineer
Joined
Nov 16, 2010
Messages
9,728
Location
Virginia
I personally would love for the broad mask mandate on interstate & public transportation to be lifted, BUT:

1) there's evidence that having antibodies from being exposed to Covid does not convey the same protection as being fully vaccinated.

2) I say "broad" to refer to requiring masks regardless of vaccination. I would have no problem having to show my vaccination card or a photograph of it as a condition of traveling Amtrak (or an airliner or intercity bus) without a mask and crews booting off maskless passengers who can't show proof of vaccination. In other words, "vaccinated need not mask, unvaccinated must mask" like a lot of store signs say, but with real "teeth". I also have no problem with a broad mask mandate on public transit for the time being because enforcing an "unvaccinated must mask" rule is effectively impossible on a transit bus or light rail train and highly inconvenient at best on a commuter train.

3) I really don't relish the idea of SCOTUS or another court striking down the mask requirement.

The authority of the Federal government over interstate transportation is broad, as it its authority to impose conditions on transit systems that accept Federal funding (which is essentially all of them). Courts don't find statutes or regulations invalid just because someone believes them to be imprudent or excessive or a "bad idea"; that's an argument for the body that imposed the regulation to repeal it, or to Congress to override the regulation by statute. Unless you're talking about either a fundamental right (free speech, religion, etc.) or discrimination on race, sex, religion, etc. grounds, a government regulation with authority and any rational basis survives judicial review.

The fact that there's a population that at the moment can't be vaccinated -- children under 12 -- sure sounds like a rational basis to me. Whether you personally feel that's enough is irrelevant, if any rational person can make a rational argument for it, it's not legally invalid. Again, if you think a regulation is a bad idea but it has authority and a rational basis, your argument that it's a bad idea has to be "pitched" to the President or the Dep't of Transportation, or maybe Congress, but not the courts.

SCOTUS ignoring all that and striking down the interstate/public transport mask mandate (which I consider unlikely for the reasons just stated) would IMHO be a political decision rather than a constitutional or legal decision, and the shenanigans that would be caused in various fields of governance and politics by SCOTUS acting like a super-legislature rather than a court in such an egregious manner more than outweigh (understatement!) any momentary comfort I would get by not having to wear a mask on a train.
So, a few observations:
(1) We're probably lucky that some red-leaning areas haven't just used this as a pretext to, say, kill off the local bus system. I think they might even have a case for using "You must enforce this new rule" as grounds to evade one of those 20-30 year operating agreements.
(2) Building on (1), I feel like a local system could probably evade enforcement if they were willing to go to court over it...the general basis I'm thinking of is the striking-down of the requirement to implement Medicaid expansion as a term of keeping the original Medicaid funding (which is arguably at loggerheads with the drinking age mandate being allowed to stand). Brightline might also be able to duck it if they wanted to on the grounds of being solely intrastate transportation (though if I had to guess, their attitude might well be "We'll state it as a policy but refuse to do more than post a sign").
(3) The 12-and-under crowd presents a lot of issues. There's an area on the low end there where compelling compliance is occasionally problematic (I'm thinking 3-5 year olds, who might be just as happy to get thrown off the plane they don't want to be on in the first place and to hell with visiting Great Aunt Hilda and/or who just don't "get it"), but at the same time using VA's data, folks under 20 comprise six deaths and about 600 hospitalizations to date (the rates vs cases here gets odd because I think a lot of testing simply hasn't been happening for kids, both because they're low-symptom/no-symptom cases and because they weren't necessarily going "out and about" for a good chunk of this, so the reasoning behind testing was a bit more limited).
(4) The fact that the government is compelling a mandate in certain situations (e.g. "in the airport") but not even recommending it in a number of analogous situations (e.g. "at a sporting event") is where the rule has room to get hung up. Honestly, there's enough of a mixed set of requirements/recommendations that this would be a plausible way for the courts to chip away at Chevron deference.

Again, my guess is that they might narrow the mandate but not throw it out entirely. Striking it down insofar as "local" public transit is concerned seems like it could happen (particularly given how negligible the impact there would be in general vis-a-vis other local policies...expect some noise about the Federal gov't "not being entitled to forcibly deputize local police in pursuit of a one-size-fits-all national policy" or "the presence of federal funding is not a blank check to mandate various and sundry policies"). Likewise, constraining the mandate within terminals (versus on the transportation itself) and perhaps requiring more clear allowances for younger children, etc. seem like decisions I could "connect the dots" on.


A woman sitting across from me on the Northeast Regional to New York City did not wear a mask for the entire trip - including when the seat next to her was taken. Nobody said a word.

What a jerk!
I mean, if her seatmate didn't care (which I presume was the case), this sounds like it managed to fall into the category of "a service which is not requested nor wanted is not a service".
 

flitcraft

Conductor
Joined
Jan 10, 2018
Messages
1,157
My guess is that something here will be taken up. There's at least one case pending out of Florida and one out of Texas IIRC:
-The FL one is based on the fact that the person was taking a flight from (IIRC) Orlando-Miami with no connection, so trying to argue "not interstate commerce". My guess is that's a bad line to argue with a major carrier. With a "local" carrier you might be able to argue it...but I don't think there are any significant single-state carriers in operation since the defense is simply "Look, the staff and most of the pax are moving between states".
The Florida case right now is at the filing stage. Not clear whether there is an attorney involved in the filing or not, but, as you noted, t it is pretty clearly a doomed theory--the issue isn't whether a particular flight is 'in" interstate commerce but whether a rule 'affects' interstate commerce. Presumably the crew and quite a few of the passengers were on their way to or from someplace out of Florida at the time of the plaintiff's flight. Also, the plaintiff is refusing to present his case before a magistrate judge, so that will slow down the case waiting for a hearing before an Article 3 judge. By the time the case gets out of district court--probably by dismissal-- and into an appellate court, the case will be moot and dismissed on that grounds. I don't know anything about the Texas case, but at this point as a betting person, I'd put my money on dismissal as moot by the time challenges get to any circuit court, let alone the Supreme Court.
 
Joined
Jul 8, 2015
Messages
6,042
Location
NYC/Queens
One thing that works against a SCOTUS review is the timeline. If the mandate is allowed to expire in September, there is a good chance it never gets near SCOTUS before that, and they render it moot. I don't see them taking it on an emergency/expedited basis over the next 2 months.
 
Joined
Jul 7, 2020
Messages
1,182
I mean, if her seatmate didn't care (which I presume was the case), this sounds like it managed to fall into the category of "a service which is not requested nor wanted is not a service".
Her seatmate got up and moved as soon as she realized that the mask was staying off. Nobody else wanted to sit in that seat.
 

Anderson

Engineer
Joined
Nov 16, 2010
Messages
9,728
Location
Virginia
One thing that works against a SCOTUS review is the timeline. If the mandate is allowed to expire in September, there is a good chance it never gets near SCOTUS before that, and they render it moot. I don't see them taking it on an emergency/expedited basis over the next 2 months.
I think it depends on whether there's a further extension. If the mandate expires (or is severely curtailed) in September, you're right. If not (there's a general extension), I could see an expedited hearing being kicked off at that point.

Also, as I indicated, you might get a review if you manage to get a circuit split of some sort, since conflicting case law is one of those things SCOTUS sort-of tries to avoid AFAICT.

But I agree that the most likely outcome, if someone files in a timely manner, is stuff getting, at most, to the circuit level before things expire.

(Also, Amtrak in particular might be fertile ground if they keep the policy in place...

Her seatmate got up and moved as soon as she realized that the mask was staying off. Nobody else wanted to sit in that seat.
Noted. The initial phrasing was unclear as to whether they'd moved or stayed put (e.g. the other pax was a short-hop rider from [say] PVD-NHV or PHL-NYP).
 
Joined
Jul 16, 2010
Messages
4,810
Did you bring it to the attention of the conductor?

  1. He/She might tell you to mind your own business or just ignore you - in that case, you can take it up with Amtrak as a complaint but don't expect compensation as you can move.
  2. He/She might tell you to find another seat - see above for the action you can take with Amtrak but note you would need to move to another seat.
  3. He/She might say something to the person and if she temporarily puts on the mask but then takes it off, you could complain again since the conductor knows she is a problem. If the conductor does nothing or she only takes it off temporarily again, then see #2 above.
Now if there no more seats, you can probably get compensation from Amtrak and/or file a complaint with the STB, FRA or whoever set the mandate.
 

JoeBas

Conductor
Joined
Dec 30, 2011
Messages
1,178
I posted awhile ago on the Amtrak forums that the mask mandate for vaccinated travelers and those with antibodies who had the virus before is absolutely ridiculous and Senator Rand Paul proposed a bill for such in congress. Unfortunately it seems unlikely to pass. Hopefully the SCOTUS will be receptive to the arguments. I personally have avoided taking the train and flying due to the mask mandates. I am hoping this will be changed in the foreseeable future.
I know what you mean. Asking people to put a piece of cloth over their face to prevent others from getting sick and dying? RIDICULOUS!!!!

Oh, and... :rolleyes:
 

Bob Dylan

50+ Year Amtrak Rider
Joined
May 31, 2009
Messages
23,864
Location
Austin Texas

Devil's Advocate

‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎
Joined
May 24, 2010
Messages
12,955
Location
EOTL
First decent thing he's done since he has been on the Court!
Acts bored and disinterested during oral arguments then writes fire and brimstone rulings. He's the closest thing I've seen to a real Manchurian Candidate.
 
Joined
Feb 27, 2019
Messages
3,999
Location
Somewhere in Southern Ontario
The sidebar to the whole discussion of masks on public transportation is economic. Without masks, returning to full capacity on Amtrak, airlines and other transit might not have been possible, and a mask mandate is also reassuring to those who might otherwise be reluctant to return to travel. Both factors increase the companies' bottom lines. It will be interesting to see how quick they are to remove the requirement even when the government says it's okay.
 

Anderson

Engineer
Joined
Nov 16, 2010
Messages
9,728
Location
Virginia
The court didn't comment, but I think the proper response is that nobody is compelling him to fly. If I were writing the opinion there, even if I nibbled at the "transportation hubs" side of thing, I would probably note that (with notice) one can either rent a car or presumably hire a driver (and I'd likely opine as dictum that the federal government directing a mask mandate on a single-driver/single-rider private car booking was a bit of a stretch, but also that enforcement was likely to be nigh on impossible).
The sidebar to the whole discussion of masks on public transportation is economic. Without masks, returning to full capacity on Amtrak, airlines and other transit might not have been possible, and a mask mandate is also reassuring to those who might otherwise be reluctant to return to travel. Both factors increase the companies' bottom lines. It will be interesting to see how quick they are to remove the requirement even when the government says it's okay.
I'm not sure it would have mattered. If I'm not sorely mistaken, the capacity constraints were company decisions driven by getting pax onto flights/trains, not federal mandates.
 

flitcraft

Conductor
Joined
Jan 10, 2018
Messages
1,157
Getting an emergency injunction at the Supreme Court on a case like this would have been extraordinary. The plaintiff needed to show a probability that, if the case proceeded, he would win on the merits and that if he were forced to litigate in the courts below, he would suffer irreparable injury. So, back to district court the plaintiff must go.... National Law Journal's report on the district court case indicated that in his complaint he is asking, among other remedies, for attorneys' fees if at some point later in the case he retains counsel. Maybe some lawyer will step forward to represent him pro bono, but if I were interested in challenging the transportation mask mandates, I think I might be inclined to look for a client with better facts.
 
Last edited:

neroden

Engineer
Joined
Feb 23, 2014
Messages
9,207
Location
Ithaca, NY
I have never put any faith in the efficacy of face masks. Social distancing made much more sense to me and I took it upon myself to practice that, pretty much alone as I realized many people had no notion of the concept of six feet. This is still true for me though I have relaxed a little🙄.
I have done the actual research into the scientific literature. N95 face masks are far more effective than social distancing, though social distancing does help. Ventilation is also very important.

The key thing is to understand that the virus spreads by aerosols -- basically, think of it as moving like clouds of odorless, invisible smoke. It's very easy for smoke to hang around even after someone leaves an indoor location -- same with clouds of virus. It's quite possible for smoke to travel more than six feet -- same with clouds of virus -- but it is better to be further from the source of the smoke.

A good mask will massively reduce smoke exposure. A mask over the source of the smoke is *extremely* effective, more effective than anything else, which is why I wish people would do that.

As for ventilation, good, strong breezes will eventually blow all the smoke to the ground.
 

neroden

Engineer
Joined
Feb 23, 2014
Messages
9,207
Location
Ithaca, NY
IF you get close enough to catch it from someone who is contagious and IF they spread their germs to you
All prevented if they wear their damn mask

and IF it takes hold
36% chance here, not safe, so wear the damn mask

and IF you then get to close to and spread your germs to and IF you pass it on to a child,
All prevented if you wear your damn mask.

they MAY get the disease. But if you have at least half a brain (which you proved you had when you got vaccinated), you'd probably tend to avoid situations like that
Yes. The way you avoid situations like that?

By (1) wearing your mask and (2) avoiding people who don't wear masks.

You simply refuse to listen to the scientists on how the virus actually spreads. This is frustrating.

Covid-19 spreads by aerosols. Anyone who is a carrier and who is breathing out without a mask leaves a cloud of Covid-19 behind (like a cloud of smoke, but invisible and odorless). Anyone who walks through that cloud later and isn't wearing a mask is exposed.

and take care to wash hands and avoid touching your face
Now demonstrated to be irrelevant with Covid-19. This is not a method by which Covid-19 spreads. The emphasis on handwashing early in the pandemic was an error and this has been admitted now. Please, get up to date on the science.
 

neroden

Engineer
Joined
Feb 23, 2014
Messages
9,207
Location
Ithaca, NY
After reviewing the literature, I am now comfortable in any space where everyone is consistently wearing their masks, but I am not comfortable in any space where potential carriers may be breathing out clouds of Delta-Variant Covid in the air. Frankly we now know that we could reopen everything (except eat-in restaurants) if we could get people to just consistently wear the masks.

It is infuriating that an infantile resistance to wearing masks by supposed adults is resulting in our hospitals being overloaded, Covid taking over the country again, and, frankly, will lead to more lockdowns and business closures.
 
Joined
Jul 16, 2010
Messages
4,810
All prevented if they wear their damn mask


36% chance here, not safe, so wear the damn mask


All prevented if you wear your damn mask.


Yes. The way you avoid situations like that?

By (1) wearing your mask and (2) avoiding people who don't wear masks.

You simply refuse to listen to the scientists on how the virus actually spreads. This is frustrating.

Covid-19 spreads by aerosols. Anyone who is a carrier and who is breathing out without a mask leaves a cloud of Covid-19 behind (like a cloud of smoke, but invisible and odorless). Anyone who walks through that cloud later and isn't wearing a mask is exposed.


Now demonstrated to be irrelevant with Covid-19. This is not a method by which Covid-19 spreads. The emphasis on handwashing early in the pandemic was an error and this has been admitted now. Please, get up to date on the science.
Unless one has an N95 MEDICAL mask, the mask does not STOP the virus completely. Worse, since many wear masks wrong, it is less effective. But it is effective at REDUCING transmission.
 

Anderson

Engineer
Joined
Nov 16, 2010
Messages
9,728
Location
Virginia
By the way, I think the only way you could have someone credibly challenge the mandate along the lines of that guy who tried to get an emergency injunction would be to make a claim between either Hawaii or Puerto Rico and the mainland US (or perhaps Guam or another territory) since the response with the mainland or the mainland-to-Alaska is that you can get there via a method that doesn't require extended mask usage.
 
Joined
Jun 30, 2021
Messages
10
Location
Columbus, OH
If this has been previously discussed in this thread or elsewhere in this forum, my apologies, but, what are your collective opinions on the mask mandate being extended past 9/3?
My understanding is that the feds have issued the mask mandate for all transportation sectors through 9/3.
We are contemplating a Vermonter trip in late September for leaf peeping but 9-10 hours from NYP to ESX wearing a mask is not terribly appealing.
We would probably opt out of such a trip, or at least the Amtrak portion as that would just be too uncomfortable for us.
Any constructive thoughts, comments, and advice are welcome. Non-constructive thoughts, comments, and advice are more just accepted than welcome.
Thank you.
 

Bob Dylan

50+ Year Amtrak Rider
Joined
May 31, 2009
Messages
23,864
Location
Austin Texas
If this has been previously discussed in this thread or elsewhere in this forum, my apologies, but, what are your collective opinions on the mask mandate being extended past 9/3?
My understanding is that the feds have issued the mask mandate for all transportation sectors through 9/3.
We are contemplating a Vermonter trip in late September for leaf peeping but 9-10 hours from NYP to ESX wearing a mask is not terribly appealing.
We would probably opt out of such a trip, or at least the Amtrak portion as that would just be too uncomfortable for us.
Any constructive thoughts, comments, and advice are welcome. Non-constructive thoughts, comments, and advice are more just accepted than welcome.
Thank you.
Seeing as how COVID Cases are increasing rapidly in various areas of the US( my County and City just upped the Alert Status to Stage 3 ( Yellow)even though we're 75% Vaccinated, Cases and Hospitializations have tripled!) are Increasing due to the Delta Variant, and LA just reinstated the Mask Mandate for Indoor Spaces, I think that President Biden ( aka Amtrak Joe)will extend the Mandate, unless and until the Numbers go back down!

It's not over by any means, and Scientists are urging Caution and for Everyone to get Vaccinated that can!
 
Top