WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — Some residents of FallsRide said they are concerned about people not wearing masks on city buses during this pandemic, but city officials say it’s out of their hands.
Because many people with disabilities ride the bus, the Americans With Disabilities Act restricts public transportation from questioning people who don’t wear masks.
“We cannot refuse transportation to an individual because they’re not wearing a mask and that really has to do with the Americans With Disabilities Act,” City of Wichita Falls Director of Transportation John Burrus said.
The CDC states that masks should not be worn by anyone who has trouble breathing: examples include people with asthma, claustrophobia and other respiratory disabilities. Because people with these disabilities are covered by the ADA, drivers of FallsRide cannot make anyone wear masks.
“That limits us from asking customers about why they’re not wearing a mask. We can offer them a mask when they get on the bus but if they refuse to wear a mask, we cannot kick them off the bus at that time,” Burrus said.
Burrus said other cities are facing the same situation. Wichita Falls-Wichita County Director of Health Lou Kreidler said no one should be in public without a mask, especially people with medical conditions.
“A face shield is always an option,” Kreidler said. “It allows you to cover your face, it still does allow air to escape out the bottom. So it’s not as good protection as with a mask but it’s better than no mask at all.”
Burrus said one bus driver didn’t wear a mask for a period of time because they had an underlying condition. Because face shields can impair drivers’ vision, the driver used a different kind of face-covering that was approved by their doctor.
“Chin shields where they strap to the bottom of the chin and then the shield moves up. It’s just under their vision, those have worked good. We have staff that does spot checks going out into the field and checking on our drivers,” Burrus said.
With COVID-19 cases rising rapidly in Wichita County, Kreidler said wearing masks is key to slowing the spread, regardless of mandates.
“We really need the public’s help in continuing to wear their mask and social distance, wash their hands often. Anything that we can do to help control the number of cases that we’re seeing,” Kreidler said.
Mask compliance continues to be a hurdle for city officials as the battle against COVID-19 rages on.
Burrus said while they cannot enforce masks, they are still strongly recommended.