NJ Transit is urging riders to wear masks, taking its prompting from Centers for Disease Control guidance issued on Friday to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

The new guidance encourages people, especially in areas hit hard by the spread of the novel coronavirus, to use rudimentary coverings like T-shirts, bandannas and non-medical masks to cover their faces while outdoors.

Such masks aren't as effective as the N95 masks New Jersey is scrambling to provide to health-care workers and first-responders, but health officials say they're better than nothing. They still urge people stay at least six feet apart, wash their hands frequently and try to santize surfaces before touching them.

The guidance was a reversal for the CDC, which earlier downplayed the effectiveness of mask. Under the previous guidance, only the sick or those at high risk of complications from the respiratory illness were advised to wear masks.

Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams went so far as to write "STOP BUYING MASKS" on his Twitter account at the end of February.

In a message on its Twitter account on Sunday night, NJ Transit wrote, "it’s an additional, voluntary public health measure that CDC says can #SlowTheSpread. The tweet linked to a video by Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams showing how to make a face covering in a few easy steps.

Strips have been placed on the ground in front of ticket machines at stations to designate six feet, the prescribed distance for proper social distancing. Ticket windows had already been closed at stations to eliminate contact between ticket agents and commuters.

NJ Transit, which has already made schedule adjustments to its rail and bus service, said it put the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail on a weekend schedule on Monday. It has seen a system-wide 90% decline in ridership, officials have said.

The light rail will run approximately every 20 minutes, according to NJ Transit.

The Newark Light Rail was already running on a Saturday schedule and the RiverLINE has been operating on a Sunday/holiday schedule.

NJ Transit said it continues to disinfect its vehicles every 24 hours using cleaning agents deemed effective for killing coronavirus, and that contain anti-viral components such as bleach/water mixes.

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Its enhanced cleaning regimen in stations includes additional disinfecting of frequent customer touchpoints such as ticket vending machines, handrails and door handles. In major stations and terminals, this occurs once every shift.

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Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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