Alaska ferry system won’t require passengers to wear masks…for now

The state ferry Tazlina docked near the site of the proposed cruise dock in Ketchikan. (Eric Stone/Alaska’s Energy Desk)

Masks and other face coverings won’t be made mandatory for passengers and crew aboard state ferries.

In a statement, the Alaska Marine Highway System says it puts the health and safety of employees and passengers first and will continue to work to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It says cloth masks are available for crew but not currently required.

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“Right now passenger numbers on AMHS vessels are very low, and social distancing is easily attainable for employees and passengers,” state transportation spokeswoman Meadow Bailey said in a statement.

Alaska Airlines recently announced that masks are now required for any crew members coming within six feet of passengers. The mask requirement will be extended to passengers on May 11.

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Since March, the state ferry system says it’s been turning away passengers with flu-like systems. The measure is designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 between communities.

There are currently two vessels running: the Tazlina connecting the northern panhandle and the Lituya that shuttles between Metlakatla and Ketchikan.