The Multnomah County public health director is strongly recommending that people continue masking on public transportation including planes, trains and buses.

Last week, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended masks on public transit continue at least until May 3 because of an increase in COVID-19 cases nationwide and the need to monitor the impact on hospitalizations and health care.

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A TriMet Green Line MAX train approaches a station in southwest Portland, Ore., on Friday, March 20, 2020. The public transportation agency reported widespread dips in ridership due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

A TriMet Green Line MAX train approaches a station in southwest Portland on Friday, March 20, 2020. The Multnomah County public health director is strongly recommending that people continue masking on public transportation including planes, trains and buses.

Bryan M. Vance / OPB

On Monday, a federal judge in Florida ruled that the CDC had overstepped its authority in issuing the original health order, however, overturning the mandate. She also said the order was fatally flawed because the CDC didn’t follow proper rulemaking procedures.

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Since then Portland International Airport and TriMet have lifted their mask requirements.

Multnomah County Public Health Director Jessica Guernsey on Tuesday issued a statement strongly urging people to continue wearing a mask in indoor areas with limited air circulation, especially those who have compromised immunity, or who live with someone who does.

“Locally, Multnomah County COVID-19 case counts are inching up after tremendous declines in the last two months,’’ Guernsey wrote in the statement. “The ruling has changed what can be enforced at the federal level however it does not change the potential for reducing your risk of getting or spreading COVID-19 by continuing to mask on transportation particularly when you are in close contact for prolonged periods of time.”

Currently, 19% of all Multnomah County residents are unvaccinated, having not received any dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Only 44% of those who have received vaccines have been boosted. And children under age 5 have not been authorized to receive vaccines at all.

“Masking on public transit is a small effort with potentially large yield in protecting our community,” Guernsey said.

The U.S. Department of Justice said it will only appeal the ruling that ended the nation’s federal mask mandate on public transit if the CDC believes the requirement is still necessary.

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