U.S. Planes, Trains Mask Mandate Ruled Unlawful by Federal Judge in Florida

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The judge’s ruling is a blow to the Biden administration, which had argued the mask mandate was necessary to slow the spread of Covid. But the matter is far from settled as it is unclear whether the decision will take effect immediately.

Rashaad Jordan

A Florida judge on Monday ruled that a US mask mandate on public transportation was illegal, nullifying a Biden administration effort to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

Last week, US health officials extended the mandate requiring travelers to wear masks on planes, trains and in taxis, ride-share vehicles or transit centers by 15 days, saying they had need time to assess the impact of a recent increase in Covid-19 cases.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, appointed by President Donald Trump, came in a lawsuit filed last year in Tampa, Florida, by a group called the Health Freedom Defense Fund.

Judge Mizelle said the CDC overstepped its authority with the warrant, failed to seek public comment, and failed to adequately explain its decisions.

The Transportation Security Administration and Federal Aviation Administration declined to comment. The White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) did not immediately comment.

The CDC first issued a public health order requiring masks on interstate transportation in February 2021. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) issued a safety directive to enforce the CDC order.

The judge referred the issue to the CDC. It was unclear whether the judge’s order would take effect immediately.

Industry groups and Republican lawmakers had wanted the administration to end the 14-month mask mandate immediately last week.

Airlines for America, for example, had urged the Biden administration “to look at science and research, which clearly support lifting the mask mandate. It makes no sense to require masks on an airplane when masks are not recommended in places like restaurants, bars or crowded sports facilities.

The group, which represents major US passenger airlines, did not immediately comment on Monday’s decision.

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