CDC asks for appeal in ruling that dropped mask mandate on planes, other transit services
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Days after a federal judge in Florida voided the national mask mandate covering airlines and other public transportation as exceeding the authority of U.S. health officials in their response to the coronavirus pandemic, the CDC asked federal attorneys to file an appeal.
The judge ruled Monday. The CDC asked for the Justice Department to appeal Wednesday. The White House previously said it would support a fight over the mask mandate if the CDC asked for one.
Before it was banned by the judge, the mandate had recently been extended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, covered a vast array of transportation, from airplanes and trains to city subways and ride-sharing vehicles such as Uber.
The decision by U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle in Tampa, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, also said the CDC improperly failed to justify its decision and did not follow proper rulemaking procedures that left it fatally flawed.
In her 59-page ruling, Mizelle said the only remedy was to vacate the rule entirely across the country because it would be impossible to end it for the limited group of people who objected in the lawsuit.
The judge said “a limited remedy would be no remedy at all” and courts have full authority to make a decision such as this — even if the goals of the CDC in fighting the virus are laudable.
“Because our system does not permit agencies to act unlawfully even in pursuit of desirable ends, the court declares unlawful and vacates the mask mandate,” she wrote.
Earlier this week, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that federal agencies were still assessing the court decision.
“This is obviously a disappointing decision,” Psaki said then. “The CDC is recommending wearing a mask on public transit.”
Wednesday, the CDC said in a statement: "continuing assessment that at this time an order requiring masking in the indoor transportation corridor remains necessary for the public health.”
It said it believes the mandate is “a lawful order, well within CDC’s legal authority to protect public health.”
The Justice Department confirmed late Wednesday, it was filing an appeal seeking to overturn the judge’s order that voided the federal mask mandate on planes, trains and travel hubs.
More reporting from Monday
Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who was not directly involved in the case but has battled against many government coronavirus requirements, praised the ruling in a statement on Twitter.
“Great to see a federal judge in Florida follow the law and reject the Biden transportation mask mandate. Both airline employees and passengers deserve to have this misery end,” DeSantis tweeted.
The CDC recently extended the mask mandate, which was set to expire Monday, until May 3 to allow more time to study the BA.2 omicron subvariant of the coronavirus that is now responsible for the vast majority of cases in the U.S.
The mandate covered all types of transportation in the U.S. as well as requiring masks in any transportation hub, such as an airport, seaport or bus terminal. It wasn’t immediately clear Monday whether or not some of these entities would continue to require masks on their own.