BOSTON (WHDH) - 7 Investigates went undercover and found some MBTA passengers just aren’t masking up. Why isn’t the T doing more to enforce the mask mandate? And what is the risk to passengers and workers? Hank Phillippi Ryan has the story. 

Our undercover camera found over and over on MBTA buses, subway cars, and commuter rail trains passengers are not wearing masks. 

And workers are not asking them to.

“It’s just crazy,” Sarah Fisher, a college student says. 

Sarah relies on the subway to get to class.

She always wears a mask and is disturbed by passengers who don’t. 

“This morning, I saw people on the train, like not wearing a mask, and they didn’t seem to really be concerned about it,” Sarah says. 

A federal order requires masks be worn on public transportation to help prevent the spread of COVID.

“It’s very well known by now that masks are very effective at reducing the spread,” Dr. Varghese Mathai, Ph.D., a physics professor at UMass Amherst, says. 

Mathai demonstrated for us how a virus, like COVID-19, can spread in a bus, subway, or train. 

His simulation shows how in about five minutes, depending on airflow, a passenger who is not wearing a mask could spread airborne COVID particles throughout the inside of a public transit cabin.

Mathai points out that people closer to the unmasked person are generally more likely to be exposed to the virus than people farther away.

“By not wearing a mask, you’re actually endangering the people around you if you’re sitting in an enclosed environment,” Mathai says. 

So Why aren’t T workers cracking down on passengers with no masks? 

We found their power is limited. When Governor Baker’s emergency order ended this spring so did the T’s ability to fine riders.  

And MBTA workers might fear for their safety

In the last year, nearly 20 MBTA employees have been harassed, spit on, or assaulted after telling people they need to wear a mask. 

“It’s terrible that these workers are experiencing violence and assault on a job just for trying to make a safe work environment for themselves, and a safe riding experience for passengers,” Jeff Newton, from The Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH) says. 

Hoping for that safe riding experience, Sarah wants all T riders to wear a mask. “I just sort of like wonder why, like, why can’t you just put on a mask for the short time that you’re on the train?” 

The T says if a passenger is not wearing a face mask because of a health condition, employees can’t ask for more information or proof.  

For more information about passengers, public health, and the mask mandate click here. If you have a tip or story idea email Tell7@whdh.com

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