The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) has received from the federal government the face masks it promised to hand out to passengers two months ago.
WMATA General Manager Paul Wiedefeld confirmed to WAMU on Friday that a total of one million masks are now ready to be given to the public.
Metro had announced back in July that it was planning to start distributing the masks at major stations and bus transfer points in August.
The US Department of Transportation (DOT) delivered 500,000 masks to the transit agency in late July in its first shipment.
According to Wiedefeld, the reason why it was delayed is because the masks arrived unwrapped and WMATA staff had to individually wrap each one of them.
The agency received another 500,000 masks during the wrapping process.
“This Administration is committed to protecting our people and reopening the economy; distributing these facial coverings will help boost public confidence as we begin to resume our normal lives,” US Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao said about the move when it was first announced.
Despite the practice, passengers will still be responsible for having their own facial covering according to guidance from airlines, airports, transit agencies, and passenger rail authorities, the federal government noted.
“In response to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) public health emergency, DOT has focused on keeping transportation systems safe and operational so America’s economy can come back strong. Response measures have included stakeholder outreach and guidance, expanded federal financial assistance, and regulatory relief,” a statement from the federal government said.
Metro riders have been required to wear masks since May 2020.
The US DOT has provided nearly 90 million masks to airports and 10 million masks to over 400 transit agencies and Amtrak to be delivered to passengers.