Off Campus College Transport’s (OCCT) mask mandate is officially in the rearview.
On Wednesday, Sept. 7, New York State Governor Kathy Hochul announced the end of the statewide mask mandate for all public transportation. The mandate had been in place since April 2020 at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, OCCT, alongside BC Transit, made their mask mandates optional the same day.
According to Daniel Croce, a junior majoring in business administration who serves as both the chief financial officer for OCCT and the vice president for finance for the Student Association, the OCCT’s decision was made like many others during the pandemic — in lockstep with public health guidance and regulations.
“Throughout this entire process we have continued to stick by the guidance that is provided by both the [Center for Disease Control] and the governor’s office,” Croce said. “We continue to do that to the very end. We kept masks and we made that clear through public announcements on the OCCT Instagram and the SA Instagram, as well as the website, that we would continue to abide by it while it was still in place. Now that it’s no longer in place, we are going to continue to abide by all the regulations and the suggestions.”
In the weeks leading up to the mandate becoming optional, OCCT sent out multiple announcements and reminders that the mask mandate was still in place in response to less students following the policy. Croce explained how such pushback had been anticipated.
“As we’re trying to follow all guidance, especially with the transition away from other campus requirements to wear masks, of course naturally there is going to be a little push back there, and a little bit of difficulty in enforcement,” Croce said. “It happens. It was actually pretty straightforward after we made an official announcement and really got through those news lines especially through the SA and [Transportation and Parking Services] on campus announcements. It did alleviate a lot of students concerns about wearing masks.”
Across the campus, several students responded positively to the new policy.
Toni Stefanakos, a senior majoring in business administration who serves as public relations coordinator and a driver for OCCT, expressed a belief that most student drivers will be glad to hear that the mask mandate has been lifted for public transit, since it has created some discomfort between drivers and passengers in the past.
“I think I speak on behalf of all of the drivers when I say that we are relieved that we no longer have to enforce the mask policy because it occasionally created some discord between drivers and passengers,” Stefanakos wrote in an email. “Now drivers are able to put [100 percent] focus on safely transporting our passengers rather than sharing that focus with maintaining mask compliance or the lack thereof.”
Others had a more neutral response. Juli Berman, a junior double-majoring in biology and statistics, said she does not believe the mask-optional policy will change much in OCCT buses, since most passengers had already been abiding by those guidelines.
“It’s a little bit better for me that the mandate has been lifted since I forget to wear it a lot,” Berman said. “I don’t think that lifting the mask mandate is going to change much, since no one wore their masks on the bus anyways. Maybe that is why everyone is getting or has gotten [COVID-19].”
While there is no longer a mask mandate, Croce emphasized that OCCT riders should still follow the rules drivers tell them.
“Respect the drivers if they do ask you to do something,” Croce said. “They are not trying to be mean about it. They are just trying to enforce all applicable policies and keep everybody safe. What I said in the beginning I will always stand by — the safety and happiness of drivers and of students on this campus, the ability of them to get from point A to point B successfully and safely is the most important factor to me personally.”