Uber announced that effective today, masks are no longer required for riders or drivers in the U.S. This change in policy comes after Florida federal judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, a Trump-era appointee, voided a federal mask mandate on transportation yesterday, which applied to airplanes, airports, taxis, buses and other forms of mass transit.
“Remember: many people still feel safer wearing a mask because of personal or family health situations, so please be respectful of their preferences,” the company said.
Some public transit systems like Philadelphia’s SEPTA, the Washington, D.C. regional train system and New Jersey Transit have lifted mask requirements too, so for immunocompromised riders, there are fewer ways to get around town if you don’t want to be in close quarters with unmasked people. Lyft also changed its guidelines today to make mask-wearing optional.
Uber said on its website that “if you ever feel uncomfortable, you can always cancel the trip.” But for riders, there’s no way to know if your driver will be masked or not, and cancelling a trip often means you get stuck with a fee.
Uber also relaxed its no-front-seat policy, which required riders to sit in the back seat to give drivers more space during the pandemic. But Uber requested that riders only use the front seat if it’s necessary due to the size of their group. The company also reminded drivers to roll down their windows for extra air flow and use hand sanitizer.
Uber added that the CDC still recommends that people wear a mask if they have certain personal risk factors or high transmission levels in their area. But even if one of two people in a car are wearing a mask, there is still a higher chance of transmission than if both people were masked.
In the U.K. and Ireland, Uber has already begun relaxing mask policies in accordance with local government guidelines.
Other private travel companies like American Airlines, Amtrak, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit and United Airlines have removed their mask mandates this week. Notably, some public transit services like New York City’s MTA have upheld their mask requirement.
Update, 4/19/22, 6:18 PM ET: When this article was published, Lyft had not yet announced that it will also make mask-wearing optional. This article was updated to reflect Lyft’s change in policy.