ORCA Business Choice news - May 2020

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O R C A Business Choice

New public health Directive requires masks or face coverings on transit


Starting Monday, May 18 until further notice, passengers are required to wear masks or face coverings while riding transit. Additionally, Executive Dow Constantine has directed that all King County employees, including transit operators and crews, wear masks or face coverings when in public indoor spaces or outdoors when they are unable to social distance

According to Public Health – Seattle & King County, a face covering may prevent further community spread of the COVID-19 virus by blocking infectious droplets from spreading when someone with the infection coughs, sneezes, or speaks. It’s the latest move to promote safety across our fleet for operators, crew, and passengers 

The new directive requires voluntary compliance, and Metro operators will not prevent passengers without face coverings from boarding. We trust that all riders will comply to the extent they can, acknowledging that wearing a face covering poses unique challenges for some, such as those with disabilities or respiratory issues, or individuals who use facial movements as part of communicationsThese individuals, along with children under the age of two, are exempt from this directive. It is not always apparent who has an exemption, so other riders should avoid the temptation to police other passengers who aren’t wearing a mask.  

Metro will reinforce the directive through recorded reminders played on the vehicle’s public address system. Transit security officers will continue to provide safety support as well as offer guidance on social distancing and other public health recommendations. Additionally, King County Metro is making 75,000 masks available to vulnerable populations through community organizations. 

As masks and face coverings become the norm, King County remains committed to sharing accurate information and confronting discrimination. Wearing a mask or face covering does not mean a person is ill, and ethnicity has nothing to do with an individual’s vulnerability to this disease. We recognize that CDC-approved face coverings, such as bandanas, cloth face masks, masks scarves, and veils, can result in harassment and create safety concerns for people of color. King County, Metro, and the Metro Transit Police condemn racial profiling in the strongest terms across the transit system and throughout our community, and harassment based on race is illegal and will not be tolerated.

Wearing a mask or face covering does not replace frequent handwashing, avoiding touching one’s face, and staying apart from others whenever possible. These are the most important steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 illness. 

Public Health – Seattle & King County has developed a full FAQ about the Directive. Transit-related questions and answers are below.