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File photo by Mark Hallum

Operation Respect is underway.

That’s what the MTA is calling its new effort to enforce mask requirements on subways and buses in the coming days, and if a rider does not have a face covering they may be handed one by transit workers in stations to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Interim New York City Transit President Sarah Feinberg says the state has given them fodder for this in the form of 1 million masks “donated” from the state to the state agency and that the new mask PSA featuring actor Rosie Perez will begin this week. One of the more surprising announcement’s from the MTA’s Monday press conference in the Fulton Street Station is a pilot program to dispense homemade masks on board buses.

New York City Transit Vice President Craig Cipriano says lack of compliance with mask requirements is not a major issue with the agency estimating 95 percent to 98 percent of straphangers wearing a face covering of some form. Despite this, Feinberg says 160 Bridge and Tunnel Officers will be deployed to buses this week to enforce this measure that is required to enter systems operated by the MTA.

“I think we always want voluntary compliance. We always want to give New Yorkers every ability to do the right thing. If you don’t have a mask, you can get one in the booth … You’ve got folks coming through subway cars giving you the opportunity to take one,” Feinberg said. “That’s the way we want to get to 100 percent compliance, not through enforcement.”

According to Cipriano, daily bus ridership continues to hover around 1.2 million customers.

“One thing I want absolutely clear: We need 100 percent compliance,” Cipriano said. “If a bus operator tells you to put on a mask, he or she is doing it out of respect for us all. So please do the right thing. There have been a recent number of incidents regarding customers assaulting our operators over mask usage.”

The mask dispensers pilot will start on two unannounced routes in the Bronx and expand as necessary.

This story originally appeared on amny.com

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