Will masks soon be banned on the NYC subway?

Surgical masks would most likely be exempt from the ban which follows a number of antisemitic acts.

Anna Rahmanan
Written by
Anna Rahmanan
Senior National News Editor
NYC subway mask
Photograph: Shutterstock

Earlier this week, during a press conference, Governor Kathy Hochul revealed that she is considering a ban on face masks in the city's subway system as a result of antisemitic acts that have been committed by folks donning the coverings.

The politician revealed having already spoken about the matter with Mayor Eric Adams, specifically dissecting how the plan would be put into place and who would be exempt from the ban (think surgical masks, folks using them for health-related issues or religious beliefs).

During the event, Hochul mentioned that, earlier this week, “a group donning masks took over subway cars, scaring riders and chanting” antisemitic remarks. 

The night after, “several members [on the] board of the Brooklyn Museum had their homes vandalized,” the official also said.

Although prohibiting the use of facial coverings on the subway will not necessarily stop people from committing hate crimes, Hochul believes that the behaviors could at least partly be curbed.

“We will not tolerate individuals using masks to evade responsibility for criminal or threatening behavior,” Hochul said during the press event. “My team is working on a solution, but on a subway, people should not be able to hide behind a mask to commit crimes.”

If the measure ends up becoming law, it wouldn't be the first time that New Yorkers will be prohibited from wearing face masks in public.

According to the Associated Press, back in the 1800s, New York officials passed similar guidelines “as a response to protests over rent” and things didn't really change until 2020, when then-Governor Andrew Cuomo suspended the law in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, when masks were made mandatory for subway riders through September of 2022. 

Despite her intentions, Hochul also made clear that a potential ban would be difficult to craft and in need of input from a variety of different sources.

“I assure everyone, we understand how complex this issue is,” Hochul said during the conference. “And we're just listening to people and addressing their needs and taking them very seriously.”

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