A Florida Judge Voids US Mask Mandate for Planes
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A federal judge in Florida has voided the national mask mandate covering airplanes and other public transportation as exceeding the authority of U.S. health officials in the coronavirus pandemic.
U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle of Tampa made the Monday decision. This appointee was also former President Donald Trump’s.
Mizelle wrote a 59-page decision stating that there was no way out. It would not be possible for the small number of individuals who opposed it to be ended.
The judge said “a limited remedy would be no remedy at all” and that the 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.
When asked by reporters Monday whether the government intended to appeal this ruling, the Justice Department did not respond.
Recently, the CDC extended the mask mandate that was due to expire on Monday to May 3, to give more time for study of the BA.2 omicron Subvariant of coronavirus, now responsible in large numbers of U.S. cases.
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Airlines lobbied for months to get rid of the requirement that travelers wear masks. Air filters that are effective on planes today make it unlikely for the virus to spread during flight, according to carriers. The mandate was also opposed by Republicans in Congress.
Critics have pointed out the fact that some states have removed the requirement for masks in indoor environments, such as restaurants or stores. Yet, the number of COVID-19 cases has fallen dramatically since the peak in January.
There has been an increase in violent incidents aboard aircraft, which have been mostly attributed dispute over mask-wearing restrictions.
The lawsuit was filed in July 2021 by two plaintiffs and the Health Freedom Defense Fund, described in the judge’s order as a nonprofit group that “opposes laws and regulations that force individuals to submit to the administration of medical products, procedures and devices against their will.”
This story was contributed by Michael Balsamo, an Associated Press journalist from Washington.
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