On May 11 of 2023, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that the Covid Public Health Emergency was over.

"We are now in a better place in our response than at any point of the pandemic and well-positioned to transition out of the emergency phase and end the COVID-19 public health emergency," the department said at the time.

This is why you are no longer being asked to wear masks, even at healthcare facilities.

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It's also why I found it strange to see SRTA buses here on the SouthCoast continuing to recommend the wearing of masks. It's been well over a year since airlines required passengers to wear masks. Neither schools nor school buses recommend masks.  There's been no Covid surge since the official end of the emergency back in May.

So why are Southeastern Regional Transit Authority buses still recommending the wearing of masks?  And who, exactly, is making this recommendation that masks be worn on SRTA buses?

We caught up with the administrator for the Southeast Regional Transit Authority, Erik Rousseau, to ask why the buses are still advertising the suggestion on the front and back digital signage on the vehicles.

"I would say we've simply left it there," he said.

When asked why there has been hesitation to remove it, Rousseau said, "We've talked to our union and we haven't felt like taking it off just yet."

We couldn't find any state or national guidelines that still recommended that the general public wear masks in any setting, indoor or outdoor, but as recently as July 31, SRTA still had buses driving with the masking message.

"Obviously things have changed dramatically, so we're talking with them about the best way to go forward with that, but it's not necessarily a state thing," Rousseau said.

We asked Rousseau where numbers need to be before SRTA buses would lose the mask messaging.

"I would say it will probably be coming down pretty soon," he said. "We're working with our people to do that.

Rousseau added that it is not a union sticking point.

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