This story was reported by Robert Brodsky, Catherine Carrera, Alfonso A. Castillo, Matthew Chayes, Jesse Coburn and Candice Ferrette. It was written by Brodsky.
New York State will begin issuing $50 fines to passengers of the Long Island Rail Road, and city subway and bus systems who refuse to wear a mask to prevent coronavirus spread, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Metropolitan Transportation Authority leaders announced Thursday.
The emergency rule, which will go into effect on Monday, is designed to increase the state’s mandatory mask compliance rule on the region’s public transportation, while providing a level of assurance to commuters that the transit system is safe.
“We have to be able to say to the riding public, ‘yes everyone will be wearing masks,'” Cuomo said in a conference call with reporters. “If they don’t have a mask the MTA will give them a mask to wear. If they refuse to wear a mask they will be evicted from the system … We have to be able to say that to give riders comfort to reengage the system.”
Pat Foye, chairman of the MTA, which oversees train and bus service in the New York City, Long Island and suburbs north of the city, said compliance with the state’s mask order is already high, including more than 90% on the LIRR and 96% on city buses.
“Achieving universal mask compliance is our goal … It’s a matter of respect for one’s co-commuters and MTA employees,” said Foye, adding that the MTA has distributed four million masks across its system.
Sarah Feinberg, interim president of New York City Transit, said if commuters forget their masks or it breaks, they will be available for free at subway booths and from conductors and police on buses and railroad.
Enforcement of the new rule, officials said, will be conducted by MTA police and will not focus on riders incorrectly wearing a mask.
Anthony Simon, general chairman of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers, the LIRR’s largest union, said the fine “may be helpful in ensuring compliance as long as there are ample resources in place to actually enforce it. If the MTA is unable to police and enforce this fine, all it does is put front-line workers on the train at further risk of abuse.”
Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), who raised concerns at a recent legislative hearing with MTA officials about some LIRR commuters not complying with the mask policy, said he was glad there finally would be consequences for those who refuse to cover up.
“At that point, there’s no excuse not to wear a mask,” he said, adding that riders should first be given a warning and offered a mask. “And if you’re just going to decide that you’re not going to wear one, then you shouldn’t be on a public commuter rail.”
As schools reopened for in-person classes throughout Long Island, a student at W.T. Clarke High School in the East Meadow School District “self-reported” having tested positive for COVID-19, Superintendent Kenneth Card said in a letter to the school community Thursday. Individuals who had direct contact with the student without following safety protocols are required to quarantine, Card wrote.
Cuomo said the state continues to make steady progress in its battle against COVID-19, with 76,813 tests conducted Wednesday and 757 reported positive — an infection rate of 0.98%. It was the 34th consecutive day that New York had an infection rate less than 1%.
Across the state, 482 individuals remain hospitalized with the virus, including 120 in intensive care, while seven people died Wednesday from COVID-19, bringing the state’s total to 25,377.
Nassau County reported 73 new cases while Suffolk reported 52, according to state figures. Long Island’s infection…