DeKALB ― The Federal Transit Administration announced that masks would no longer be required on public transportation starting April 18. The updated federal replaced the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2021 mandate requiring passengers to stay masked while riding public transportation, according to the Federal Transit Administration.
DeKalb’s public transit has been following the updated mask guidelines since the announcement, and has since reversed their Feb. 28 order for anyone on campus to wear a mask while using public transit.
NIU students have mixed reactions to the latest mask mandate.
“Every time I have used the Huskie Bus, people have been respectful of (mask requirements), and if they’re not, the bus driver kind of yells at them,” Alannis Munoz, a junior political science major, said.
With the updated mandate, passengers and bus operators are no longer required to wear masks on board.
“Most people are not wearing masks (on the Huskie Bus), I (only) see a few of them, nowadays,” said Christopher Padilla, a sophomore computer science major who regularly takes the Huskie Bus. “Me, for example, I don’t use my mask there anymore, but if the bus driver needs me to, then yeah, I’ll wear one.”
Even with laxer requirements, some students still prefer wearing their mask in public places.
“I didn’t know the (mandate) was going to be effective right away, but personally, I barely took the Huskie Bus,” Munoz said. “But I know every time I have been on it, I have a mask on.”
Khaldon Elhelo Jr., senior political science major, agrees with Munoz.
“I drive here, so I don’t use the Huskie Bus as much as other people do, but I still wear a mask, personally, because I’m surrounded by a lot of people,” Elhelo Jr. said.
For Elhelo Jr., wearing a mask when using public transportation on and off-campus is still a must.
“I take some public transportation when I go visit family and stuff, but I would still wear a mask,” Elhelo Jr. said.
Not all students agree that masks should be worn on public transportation.
“Now that vaccinations are a thing in mandatory Illinois, and booster shots are a thing, most people (are safe) from COVID, which leaves less need for the masks,” Padilla said.
Currently, 56% of DeKalb County’s population is fully vaccinated, including NIU students;however, with masks coming off, some students are glad for the sense of normalcy.
“I mean, it’s nice to be able to see people’s faces again,” Kent Hiltenbrand, a junior computer science major, said. “It just kinda feels (more) natural, I guess.”
Other students agree that the waning need for masks on campus brings a sense of normalcy with it; but there is still some hesitancy that this could still be too soon to completely forget about wearing a mask.
“It could lead to even more cases down the line if we’re not careful, but I like to think positively about it,” Padilla said.”It’s getting better, and (it’s) looking like (things are) going back to normal .”
Currently, the NIU campus has a cumulative positivity rate of 1.49%, according to NIU’s COVID Dashboard, a dramatic difference from the beginning of the semester.
“(On) the brighter side of things, I think it’s a start in getting back to normalcy,” Padilla said.
The CDC still recommends wearing a mask on public transit and in indoor transportation hubs, according to the Federal Transit Administration.