The ruling suspends the mask-wearing rule on public transportation across the country as the judge says federal agencies exceeded their authority.
A federal judge in the US state of Florida has ruled that a US government order requiring people to wear masks on public transportation is illegal, nullifying an effort by the Biden administration to reduce the spread of coronavirus. COVID-19.
Last week, US health officials had been extended for 15 days the mandate requiring travelers to wear masks on planes, trains and taxis, carpools or transit hubs, saying they needed time to assess the effect of a recent spike in COVID-19 cases.
But a Monday ruling by US District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle said the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had exceeded its authority with the mandate, had not sought public comment and did not adequately explain the decision.
Mizelle’s ruling came in a lawsuit filed last year in Tampa, Florida, by a group called the Health Freedom Defense Fund, which has challenged state and federal vaccine and mask mandates in courts across the country.
the CDC first issued a public health order require masks on interstate transportation in February 2021. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) issued a security directive to enforce the CDC order.
In her 59-page ruling, Mizelle said the only remedy was to strike down the rule entirely nationwide because it would be impossible for the limited group of people who objected in the lawsuit to end it.
The judge said “a limited remedy would be no remedy at all” and that the courts have full authority to make a decision like this, even if the CDC’s goals in fighting the virus are laudable.
“Because our system does not allow agencies to act illegally, even in pursuit of desirable ends, the court finds the mask mandate illegal and strikes down,” he wrote.
The judge remanded the matter to the CDC. It was not clear if the judge’s order would go into effect immediately and the TSA order for the mask mandate appeared to still be in effect.
“What we announced last week was just a two-week extension to have time to assess what we’ve all seen as rising cases and make an assessment, a recommendation with that in mind,” the White House press secretary said. , Jen Psaki, during a press conference on Monday afternoon.
“Of course it’s disappointing,” Psaki said of Judge Mizelle’s ruling.
Industry groups and Republican lawmakers wanted the Biden administration to immediately end the 14-month mask mandate last week. But the CDC said it wanted more time to study the BA.2 subvariant Omicron it is now spreading rapidly in the United States.
The city of Philadelphia on Monday reimposed a local mandate requiring people to wear masks in all indoor public spaces, such as restaurants, due to rising infections.
Monday’s ruling in Florida could create confusion on planes, where the mask mandate has caused an increase in incidents and altercations between airline officials enforcing the mandate and passengers rejecting the demand for face coverings.
The Federal Aviation Administration said that since January 2021, a record 7,060 incidents of unruly passengers have been reported, with 70 percent involving masking rules.
Airlines for America, for example, had urged the Biden administration to “lean on science and research, which clearly supports lifting the mask mandate.”
“There is no point in requiring masks on an airplane when masks are not recommended in crowded places like restaurants, bars or sports facilities,” said the group, which represents major U.S. passenger airlines. It did not immediately comment. about Monday’s ruling.