Just days after it was extended, U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle voided the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s mask mandate for airports and other forms of public transportation. In a 59-page ruling issued Monday, Mizelle said the CDC failed to justify its decision and did not follow proper rulemaking.
“The CDC omits explanations for rejecting alternatives and for its system of exceptions. And there are many, such that the overall efficiency of masking on airplanes or other conveyances could reasonably be questioned,” Mizelle wrote. “The mandate does not address alternative (or supplementary) requirements to masking, such as testing, temperature checks, or occupancy limits in transit hubs and conveyances.”
The judge’s ruling on the mask mandate for airports and other forms of public transportation came less than a week after the latest in what has now been several extensions to the mandate since it took effect in early 2021. It was supposed to expire on Monday but was pushed back to May 3 in order to allow the CDC more time to study the BA.2 Omicron subvariant.
“CDC continues to monitor the spread of the Omicron variant, especially the BA.2 subvariant that now makes up more than 85% of U.S. cases. Since early April, there have been increases in the 7-day moving average of cases in the U.S.,” the CDC said in last week’s extension announcement. “The CDC Mask Order remains in effect while CDC assesses the potential impact of the rise of cases on severe disease, including hospitalizations and deaths, and healthcare system capacity.”
The Justice Department declined to comment Monday when asked if the government planned to appeal the ruling. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who was not directly involved in the case but has battled against many COVID-19 restrictions, praised the ruling in a tweet.
“Great to see a federal judge in Florida follow the law and reject the Biden transportation mask mandate,” Gov. DeSantis tweeted. “Both airline employees and passengers deserve to have this misery end.”