Passengers on airplanes, trains and other public transportation in the U.S. don’t have to wear masks anymore, after a federal judge struck down the mandate.
The U.S. Transportation Security Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said orders requiring masks on public transportation would no longer be enforced, although both agencies recommended their continued use.
U.S. District Judge
“Today’s court decision means CDC’s public transportation masking order is not in effect at this time,” an administration official said in a statement. “Therefore, TSA will not enforce its Security Directives and Emergency Amendment requiring mask use on public transportation and transportation hubs at this time.”
“As of today, masks are optional in airports and onboard aircraft,” Alaska Airlines said in a statement on its website.
White House Press Secretary
Prior to the TSA decision, some pilots said they were worried about the confusion being created by the judge’s ruling and CDC recommendations.
“We’re the kids looking at the two parents saying two different things,” said Dennis Tajer, a spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association, which represents
Travelers on Monday said there were no apparent immediate changes. Everyone on board an American Airlines flight from Dallas to Miami still wore masks, although news of the judge’s ruling was being reported, Carolina Silva said. The pilot told passengers prior to takeoff that “unlike what you may have heard, the mask mandate is still on,” Silva said.
Everyone at Miami International Airport was also wearing masks after the plane from Dallas landed, according to Silva. A passenger who landed at LaGuardia Airport in New York Monday said everyone there wore a mask.
It’s not clear what impact the judge’s ruling might have on state and local regulations that are based on CDC guidance.
Airlines for America, the lobbying group for the biggest U.S. carriers, and the Justice Department didn’t immediately comment on the ruling. The CDC said it doesn’t comment on litigation.
Mizelle, an appointee of former president
“Wearing a mask cleans nothing,” Mizelle wrote. “At most, it traps virus droplets. But it neither ‘sanitizes’ the person wearing the mask or ‘sanitizes’ the conveyance.”
The judge also found that the CDC had gone too far by issuing a regulation that “acts on individuals directly” rather than just their “property interests.”
“Since the mask mandate regulates an individual’s behavior -- wearing a mask -- it imposes directly on liberty interests,” she wrote.
The ruling comes as states across the U.S. have eased restrictions following an overall drop in case numbers from a January peak caused by the omicron variant of the coronavirus. Almost 1 million Americans have died of Covid in the past two years, and hundreds more continue to die every day.
“I feel very strongly the mask mandate should be lifted and individuals, including our own employees, make their own decisions and take personal accountability for their health on board our planes,”
CEOs from the largest U.S. airlines said in a letter to President
“We are requesting this action not only for the benefit of the traveling public, but also for the thousands of airline employees charged with enforcing a patchwork of now-outdated regulations implemented in response to Covid-19,” the group of 10 CEOs said in the March 23 letter.
The mask requirement has has been particularly contentious because it has been linked to a surge in the number of disruptive passengers on flights. At the same time, it has eased fears of infection and helped the airlines bounce back after travel was decimated in the early days of the pandemic.
The CDC announced last week that it would extend the mask mandate by two weeks, to May 3, as it weighs data on Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations driven by the BA.2 subvariant. The extension is shorter than previous ones, signaling that the agency was nearing a position to lift the mandate altogether.
Florida and other Republican-led states in March filed a similar lawsuit seeking to overturn the mask mandate, a fight that pits Biden against Florida Governor
The Health Freedom Defense Fund, which filed the suit in April 2021, was founded by former Wall Street banker Leslie Manookian, described on the group’s website as a onetime
Mizelle, formerly an attorney with
The ABA typically requires a minimum of 12 years of experience to rate a nominee qualified. Mizelle was admitted to the Florida bar in September 2012. She was confirmed by the U.S. Senate 49-41 in November 2020.
Republicans have accused the ABA of being biased against conservatives.
The case is Health Freedom Defense Fund v. Joseph Biden, 21-cv-1693, U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida (Tampa).
(Updates with CDC dropping mask requirement)
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