Students, staff adjusting to CTA mask changes


Now that the mask mandates have been lifted on the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), students are finding that it has become a challenge to navigate when to a wear a mask.  On April 19, 2022, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced that masks would no longer be required on public transit or in travel hubs. This includes airports, trains, train stations and buses.

Wearing a mask has become commonplace for many people around the world due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Mask mandates have been lifted around the United States, despite the number of cases increasing.

The mask mandates were lifted for public transportation in the city of Chicago on April 19 in accordance with Pritzker’s announcement. The CTA no longer requires masks to be worn on any of their trains or buses around the city. Most DePaul students use the CTA to travel between campuses for classes or to explore the city. Commuter students and staff also ride the Metra trains to go home to family or on vacations.

Mary Omelina, a professor in the College of Computing and Digital Media, must use public transportation to teach classes. Omelina believes that the mask mandates being lifted may be positive.

“I think it’s a good thing, but it is taking some getting used to,” Omelina said.

DePaul does not require masks for students and staff anymore, but people on and off campus are still wearing masks. As the city slowly lifts mask mandates, more people are taking their masks off in public.

“There are people still wearing masks everywhere I go — trains, the station, dining establishments, school, but the number is very low,” Omelina said.

Omelina still wears her masks in more crowded conditions, but she is excited that the mandates are being lifted. She has become more comfortable without a mask because of the recent statements by the CDC stating that some masks do not provide much protection.

“I thought the mandates were specious,” Omelina said. “Especially since cloth and surgical masks offer little protection against Covid.”

Despite being excited that the mask mandates are going away, Omelina still has concerns about catching Covid-19.

“I am concerned, though my concern is waning,” she said. “I have multiple conditions that are cause for concern and I am my elderly parents’ primary caregiver. I get tested several times a month. I have been purchasing and wearing N95s and KN95s since the very beginning when they were very hard to get. I still wear them, though less frequently as time goes by.”

DePaul junior Skylar Benninghoff is still concerned about Covid-19. She said she was surprised when the mandates were lifted because she is still worried  for herself and others who could catch Covid-19. As someone who uses public transportation to get to school and work, she notices that the change is affecting her.

“I was honestly surprised the mandate was lifted, even though it was lifted in other places in the city,” Benninghoff said. “I rely on public transit for everything; going to work, classes and recreationally as well. I am lucky, however, that I do not work or go to school in an environment where I am surrounded by a susceptible group.”

Just like many people, Benninghoff is looking forward to a normal life, but she recognizes that public spaces like the CTA are not always clean and safe for everyone.

“Of course, my pre-pandemic self was happy [the mask mandate] was lifted, but Covid is still a very prevalent issue, especially in a high-density city like Chicago,” she said. “I was a bit apprehensive because public transit is already not the cleanest place, as any public area would not be, because it is covered in surfaces being touched by hundreds of people.”

The daily average cases in the City of Chicago is down to 1,640 cases per day, which puts the city at only a medium risk. Despite this, Benninghoff is still using public transportation. She said that it seems like people are still wearing masks, but she is seeing more people without one.

“For some reason, it feels really wrong not to wear it,” Benninghoff said. “I have noticed that the large majority of people are still wearing their masks, but a good handful are not.”

DePaul sophomore Renee Zhou noticed that people have started taking the CTA without their masks. She personally still wears her mask in most spaces for comfort and to keep herself and her loved ones safe.

“I see mostly students wearing masks on the train,” Zhou said. “When I take the train at a time that coincides with a Cubs game, I see massive amounts of people without their masks on the trains.”

Zhou believes that the crowding on the buses and trains can still be dangerous, but she understands that some people’s preferences differ when it comes to wearing a mask.

“Things are looking better,” Zhou said. “As we go into warmer months, it’s understandable that people are trying to push for this.”

As the mask mandates are lifted around the city, it is becoming more common to see people without a mask in public spaces. According to its website, CTA still encourages customers and employees \ to wear masks, but masks are not required as pandemic conditions improve.