A federal judge in Florida has ruled against the federal mandate requiring facial coverings on all forms of public transportation, including on airplanes and in airports.
According to The Associated Press, United States District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle in Tampa voided the mask mandate, saying the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) “improperly failed to justify its decision and did not follow proper rulemaking.”
Last week, the CDC extended the nationwide mask requirements for public transportation through May 3 as it monitors reports of a surge in coronavirus cases. The government said it extended the order that was set to expire on April 18, citing the need to “monitor for any observable increase in severe virus outcomes as cases rise in parts of the country.”
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At the time, President Joe Biden and his administration said they were still working on a more flexible masking strategy to replace the mandate.
In response to the court ruling, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said it would no longer enforce the mask mandate on public transportation, according to CNBC.com.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said President Biden’s administration was “reviewing the court’s ruling and the Justice Department will determine whether it will appeal.” The CDC said it continues to recommend that people wear masks on public transit.
In March, a group of state attorneys general from around the U.S. filed a lawsuit that would block mask requirements on public transportation, joining a group of flight attendants fighting for the same cause in court.
In addition, the chief executive officers from American, Delta, Southwest, United and other airlines sent a letter to President Biden last month asking them to lift COVID-era transportation mandates, including mask requirements.
When the CDC announced the extension of the mask mandate, the agency also revealed its Travel Health Notice system for international destinations would be overhauled. The new system will reserve Level 4 travel health notices for special circumstances, such as rapidly escalating case trajectory or extremely high case counts, emergence of a new variant of concern or healthcare infrastructure collapse.
Levels 3, 2, and 1 will continue to be primarily determined by 28-day incidence or case counts and the system will go into effect on April 18. With this new configuration, travelers will have a more actionable alert for when they should not travel to a certain destination.