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MTA Holds 13th Mask Force One Year After Launch of ‘Operation Respect’

Updated July 20, 2021 5:15 p.m.
Mask Force 13

Masks Still Required Onboard Subways, Buses, Commuter Rails and Paratransit  


More than 750K Free Masks Distributed Since Mask Force Began 


See Photos of Today’s Mask Force Event  


The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) held its 13th ‘Mask Force’ event today, with MTA leaders, local elected officials, staff, and volunteers distributing thousands of free masks throughout the Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North Railroad and NYC Transit subway system. Since its inception, approximately 1,100 New Yorkers have volunteered for the MTA Mask Force, handing out more than 750,000 masks. 

MTA leaders and volunteers held a pop-up ‘Mask Force’ event at Penn Station during the evening rush. MTA Chief Safety Officer Patrick Warren, Chief Customer Officer Sarah Meyer, MTA Police Chief Joseph McGrann, Creative Director Joe Chan and employee volunteers handed out masks to LIRR riders on the main concourse, on platforms and on trains, while reminding them that masks continue to be required throughout Penn Station and on all MTA-operated trains. 

Photos from the pop-up can be seen here

The 13th Mask Force comes at a time when mask usage has once again become prevalent  amidst the rise of the Delta variant across the globe. Masks are still required onboard trains, buses, paratransit vehicles, and at indoor stations regardless of vaccination status.  

On this date last year, the Authority launched ‘Operation Respect’ to promote universal mask usage on trains and buses. As part of the multi-layered launch, the Mask Force made its debut. Volunteers sporting bright yellow shirts distributed free masks to customers onboard trains and buses, as well as at major transit hubs throughout the operating region. The Mask Force has been a monthly mainstay ever since and has expanded beyond the MTA’s operating region. In November 2020, the MTA partnered with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ), NJ TRANSIT, Amtrak and Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) to create a regional Mask Force. 

“Today I joined hundreds of my fellow New Yorkers to remind people of the importance of wearing a mask in the transit system, both in stations and on trains and buses,” said Sarah Meyer, MTA Chief Customer Officer. “If anyone needs a mask, please remember to visit one of our station booths or look for a volunteer in a yellow shirt. We recently increased the frequency of mask announcements in the system and posted thousands more signs reminding us where masks are required.” 

“New York has made strong progress in the battle against COVID-19, and mask usage played a vital role in doing so,” said Patrick Warren, MTA Chief Safety Officer. “Today’s Mask Force day is a good reminder that masks are still required at indoor stations and on trains, buses and paratransit vehicles, and wearing one is just as important today as it was a year ago.” 

Mask Force volunteers and MTA staff today are at the following stations:     

Long Island Rail Road  

  • Atlantic Terminal 
  • Jamaica 
  • Penn Station   

Metro-North Railroad  

  • Grand Central Terminal 
  • Mount Vernon West 
  • New Rochelle 
  • Yonkers 

New York City Transit  

  • 145 St/St. Nicholas – 
  • Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr  
  • Broadway Junction-ENY 
  • Coney Island-Stillwell Av 
  • Grand Central-42 St  
  • Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Av/74 St 
  • Jamaica-Sutphin Blvd/Archer Av 
  • St. George 
  • Times Square-42 St 

The MTA has acquired for distribution to employees and customers 32.6 million masks to date. In addition to the more than 9.5 million masks available for customers, the Authority has also made available 750,000 2-oz bottles of hand sanitizer. Additionally, the Authority has distributed to its workforce 23.1 million masks, 23.3 million pairs of gloves, 132,000 gallons of hand sanitizer, 275,000 7-oz and 2-oz bottles of hand sanitizer, 15.4 million individual sanitizing cleaning wipes, 315,000 gallons of cleaning solution and 20,000 face shields. 

The MTA first launched its Mask Force in July 2020 in order to supplement its existing distribution of masks in the transit system and acknowledge customers who are already compliant. Wearing a face covering on public transportation in New York was required by law under Executive Order 202.18 issued by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo effective April 17, 2020. A $50 fine was implemented on Sept. 14, 2020 for violations.   

Under updated CDC guidance, masks are no longer required on outdoor NYC Transit platforms, outdoor Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North Railroad and Staten Island Railway stations and platforms, and bus stops. 

More About Operation Respect 

In July of 2020 'Operation Respect' was launched to bolster mask usage on subways, buses, commuter rails and paratransit. The campaign featured the launch of the ‘Mask Force’, a group of volunteers who distribute free masks to riders in an effort to achieve universal mask compliance on transit, and built on the Safe Travels PSA campaign. 

Safe Travels launched in March of 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic arriving in the New York. The robust, multichannel campaign has become ubiquitous across the Authority's vast transportation network. The highly visible yellow and black campaign visuals can be seen throughout the MTA’s operating region on digital signs, floor decals, posters, subway and bus advertising cards, merchandise, and social media. The goal of the campaign was to educate riders on proper mask usage, social distancing in stations, and, at the peak of the pandemic, educated riders on what essential travel is. 

‘Safe Travels and Operation Respect’ have found their footprint extend beyond the New York metropolitan region; the campaign has been shared globally, inspiring others in both public and private sectors to create similar designs and ideas. Learn about the full scope of the campaign by visiting its dedicated webpage.