Juneau has dropped its mask requirement for public transportation

A Capital Transit bus on Thursday morning, April 21 in Juneau. (Photo by Yvonne Krumrey/KTOO)

On Tuesday morning, the City and Borough of Juneau announced that masks will no longer be required on public transportation like city buses or at Juneau International Airport.

The decision happened fast. On Monday, a federal judge struck down the mask mandate for public transportation. On social media, people posted videos of passengers taking off their masks mid-flight when pilots announced the change.

The next day, the City and Borough of Juneau announced that it wouldn’t require masks on city buses anymore. That mask mandate had been in place since March of 2020. 

At the downtown transit center a few hours after the announcement, there weren’t any signs on the buses or in the transit center about the change. Many riders were still wearing masks — some by choice and some because they hadn’t heard about the rule change.

The city had a choice whether or not to keep its mask mandate for bus service after the federal mandate went away. Denise Koch is with the city’s public works department and has been the second in command for the Emergency Operations Center, making decisions for the city during the pandemic. 

“I’d say the country and Juneau are moving from a more emergency posture, surrounding COVID to a posture of living with COVID,” Koch said.

She says that the city’s COVID-19 leadership has been anticipating the end of the public transportation mask mandate, but a federal judge striking it down suddenly wasn’t expected, Koch said. 

Still, the plan has always been to follow federal guidelines, based on Juneau’s level of risk.

“So given that the community is low risk, it just seemed to make sense,” Koch said.

Anchorage mayor Dave Bronson announced the end of mandatory mask wearing for his city’s bus service. 

Some cities, like Seattle and Portland, have chosen to keep their mask mandate.

Correction: A previous version of this story had the wrong date on the photo caption. The photo was taken on April 21 in Juneau, not April 10.

Yvonne Krumrey

Local News Reporter, KTOO

Juneau is built on hidden and assumed layers of power and access, influencing how we interact with identity, with the law and with each other. I bring you stories of the gaps in access to power, and those who are working to close those gaps.

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