NJ Transit is looking at keeping the mask mandate in place on portions of all of its trains, even when the federal mask mandate is lifted.

The mask mandate for trains, busses and airplanes was due to expire today, April 18, but the Biden administration announced it was extending mask rules until May 3.

White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is studying infection rates to determine if the masking rules will be extended again.

"This is a CDC call," Jha said on ABC's 'This Week,' "CDC scientists made it very clear that they needed 15 days to asses the impact of BA-2 on hospitalizations and deaths to see if there's a substantial increase in severe disease."

However, NJ.com reports a NJ Transit rider and commuter advocate asked board members on April 13 to consider setting aside one car on all trains that would still require masking.

Face coverings have become a highly polarizing issue throughout the pandemic. They are largely voluntary in all areas of New Jersey. Even as COVID cases have been rising over the last several weeks, Gov. Phil Murphy has resisted imposing a new statewide mask mandate.

When Murphy lifted mask restrictions for all but medical settings in New Jersey, that did not include mass transit. Federal rules require masking on all mass transit and airplanes and in airports, transportation hubs, rail and bus stations and on train platforms.

At least one NJ Transit commissioner was open to the idea of having a 'mask only' rail car.

It would be similar to the so-called 'quiet cars' where cell phone use is prohibited.

No vote on the issue was taken, but NJ Transit staff members have been asked to report back to the board on the feasibility.

There are concerns about how accepted the cars would be among riders as well as enforcement.

There has been an increase in rude behavior toward conductors asking for enforcement of existing mask mandates and that has also translated into a sharp rise in the number of assaults against NJ Transit crew members.

Eric Scott is the senior political director and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at eric.scott@townsquaremedia.com

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