Starting Monday, bus riders will be expected to wear face coverings in King County during their commute. That change comes from a directive announced by Public Health — Seattle & King County that requires people to wear masks in most indoor public spaces.
King County Metro won’t be enforcing the requirement or turning away passengers without masks, according to a recent blog post from the transit agency. Rob Gannon, general manager for King County Metro, said it’s important to keep transit accessible to the community.
“We want people to continue coming to the transit system, we want them to ride safe, we want them to feel like it is a safe environment,” Gannon said. “But we don’t want to erect an artificial barrier that prevents them from getting to where they need to go.”
Instead, King County Metro will be reminding riders about the rule through a recording that will play over the vehicle’s public address system and offering additional information on its website, Gannon said.
King County Metro also has suspended fare collection, instructed passengers to board through the back doors when possible and placed limits on how many passengers can be on a bus at one time to allow for social distancing.
Ken Price is the president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 587, which represents about 4,000 King County Metro employees. He said riders have followed social distancing measures, and expects the same will happen with the new directive.
“The social distancing part is telling us that folks, if they have a mask, are probably going to wear their mask,” Price said.
King County’s directive also does not include enforcement or penalties for not following the directive. Some won’t be expected to follow the requirement, including those who are deaf or hard of hearing, people who have been advised not to wear masks due to a health condition and young children.
In addition to public transit, the county’s directive also applies to most closed or confined public spaces where it’s challenging to practice social distancing. That includes grocery stores, farmers markets, retail spaces and carry-out restaurants. Face coverings generally are not required outdoors, as long as it’s possible to maintain distance from others at all times.
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport also is requiring all passengers, workers and visitors to wear face coverings starting Monday, with exemptions similar to King County’s order.
Public Health requests that people wear fabric masks and save medical masks for health care workers and those with certain health needs. King County's face covering rule does not yet have an expiration date. According to the directive, it will end when public health officials determine there is no longer a need for face coverings due to COVID-19.