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Biden Administration to Appeal Striking Down of National Mask Mandate on Airplanes


FILE - A sign about face mask rules is displayed at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, July 2, 2021.
FILE - A sign about face mask rules is displayed at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, July 2, 2021.

A U.S. federal judge has ruled a national mask mandate on airplanes and other public transportation is not lawful, overturning a Biden administration policy.

The ruling Monday by U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle in Tampa, Florida, said health officials had exceeded their authority in issuing the mandate.

The judge said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) failed to properly justify its decision and did not follow procedures in issuing the mandate.

Earlier this month, the CDC extended its mask mandate on public transportation by 15 days until May 3. Health authorities said they needed time to assess the impact of the BA.2 omicron subvariant of the coronavirus, which is causing cases to rise in some parts of the country.

The mask mandate, which was first issued in February 2021, covers airplanes, trains, transit hubs, taxis and ride-share vehicles.

Mizelle was appointed by former President Donald Trump. The lawsuit against the mask mandate was filed last year in Florida by a group called the Health Freedom Defense Fund.

Airlines had lobbied for months for federal officials to end the mask mandate, arguing that advanced filters on planes make transmission of the coronavirus on flights unlikely.

The Biden administration said Tuesday it would attempt to block the ruling by appealing the decision. The U.S. Justice Department released the following statement on Health Freedom Defense Fund Inc., et. al. v. Biden, et. al. from spokesman Anthony Coley:

“The Department of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) disagree with the district court’s decision and will appeal, subject to CDC’s conclusion that the order remains necessary for public health. The Department continues to believe that the order requiring masking in the transportation corridor is a valid exercise of the authority Congress has given CDC to protect the public health. That is an important authority the Department will continue to work to preserve.”

The Justice Department did acknowledge that “If CDC concludes that a mandatory order remains necessary for the public’s health after that assessment, the Department of Justice will appeal the district court’s decision.”

Some information in this report came from the Associated Press and Reuters.

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