The Biden administration will no longer enforce a U.S. mask mandate on public transportation, after a federal judge in Florida on Monday ruled that the 14-month-old directive was unlawful, overturning a key White House effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Soon after the announcement, all major carriers including American Airlines, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines, as well as national train line Amtrak relaxed the restrictions effective immediately.
On Tuesday (April 19) at Washington, D.C.’s Ronald Reagan National Airport, the majority of passengers were wearing masks.
“I think the people who say and it's infringing on their rights, well, they have a right to die if they want to, but I choose not to do that just yet,” said Robert Gerard, a wildlife photographer who was set to board a six-hour flight to Anchorage.
Last week, U.S. health officials had extended the mandate to May 3 requiring travellers to wear masks on planes, trains, and in taxis, ride-share vehicles or transit hubs, saying they needed time to assess the impact of a recent rise in COVID-19 cases caused by the airborne coronavirus.
Industry groups and Republican lawmakers baulked and wanted the administration to end the 14-month-old mask mandate permanently.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, an appointee of President Donald Trump, came in a lawsuit filed last year in Tampa, Florida, by a group called the Health Freedom Defense Fund. It follows a string of rulings against Biden administration directives to fight the infectious disease that has killed nearly one million Americans, including vaccine or test mandates for employers.
Judge Mizelle said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had exceeded its authority with the mandate, had not sought public comment and did not adequately explain its decisions.
A U.S. administration official said while the agencies were assessing potential next steps, the court's decision meant CDC's public transportation masking order was no longer in effect. The administration could still opt to appeal the order or seek an emergency delay in the order's enforcement.
Published : April 20, 2022
By : Reuters