MTA to require employees to get COVID shot or test weekly; advocates push for mask enforcement

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(WTNH) — Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) employees are now required to get the COVID shot or submit to weekly testing beginning next month.

Passengers who ride the train are required to wear a mask. Federal and state officials are very concerned about the Delta variant spreading because of the close quarters.

So what’s being done about riders who break the rules?

“These mask rules are not a recommendation, they have been federal and state law for many months now and it’s shocking,” exclaimed Jim Cameron from the Connecticut Commuter Rail Council.

Cameron says riders are not being held responsible for bad behavior.

“We have to do something to encourage people to do the right thing,” Cameron said.

He shared a number of photos with News 8. They were snapped by fellow commuters concerned about COVID exposure. You see several passengers unmasked, including a group standing ready to exit unmasked and many riders sitting alone, casually riding without any face covering.

Cameron says he understands MTA doesn’t have a lot of Metro-North police officers but says there are other ways to enforce the rules.

“Another alternative, tell the passenger you put on the mask, or you get off at the next station,” Cameron said.

News 8 reached out to Metro-North to find out why they’re not cracking down?

In a statement, MTA official Aaron Donovan told us, “When we see someone on a train without a mask, our approach is to hand that person a mask, not a summons. As a result, we’ve had tens of thousands of positive interactions with customers, promoting the health and safety of all riders.”

MTA revealed they have issued seven citations in Connecticut.

They’re now mandating all employees get vaccinated or submit to weekly COVID testing by Sept. 7.

Should the state require its train vendor to do more?

“If people are mandated to have masks when they’re riding on planes, it’s the same on trains; you’re traveling in an enclosed space where social distancing is not possible,” said State Senator Martin Looney.

Senator Looney, who has been acting governor for the last week, is in favor of gradual punishment except for repeat offenders.

“Maybe the first time there’s a warning. Maybe the second time there is a ticket where someone has to pay a fine somewhat like when we enforce motor vehicle fines. The third offense, if it was willful, maybe it’s not just a ticket. It’s a summons where they actually have to go to court,” added Senator Looney.

Metro-North advertises “forgot your mask, just ask.”

“Hand out the masks if you want to, but if you don’t make people wear them, what good are they?” asked Cameron.

The only exception to wearing a mask is when a rider is outside on a platform.

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