The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has officially asked the Department of Justice to appeal a decision by Florida District Judge Kathryn Mizelle to strike down the federal face mask mandate on public transportation. The DOJ said on Tuesday that it would appeal the verdict if the CDC asked it to do so. The decision would be based on an assessment by health experts that the mandate was still necessary to protect public health.
“It is CDC’s continuing assessment that at this time an order requiring masking in the indoor transportation corridor remains necessary for the public health,” a CDC spokesperson said on Wednesday, the agency’s first comment on Monday’s surprise ruling.
“CDC will continue to monitor public health conditions to determine whether such an order remains necessary. CDC believes this is a lawful order, well within CDC’s legal authority to protect public health,” the statement continued.
Judge Mizelle vacated the mandate on the grounds that the CDC had “exceeded” its authority by imposing the rule without first following a ‘notice and comment’ rulemaking procedure. The CDC argues that it had to skip the normal rulemaking process because of the “public health emergency” the United States was facing in January 2021 when the mandate was created.
The mandate is enforced by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) on behalf of the CDC and when the mandate was struck down, the White House ordered the TSA to stop enforcement activity. Within hours of the judgment, airlines, airports and other public transport operators had dropped compulsory mask rules.
Pending an appeal, the CDC says that it still recommends that people wear a face mask in all public transportation settings. “CDC’s number one priority is protecting the public health of our nation,” a CDC spokesperson said. “As we have said before, wearing masks is most beneficial in crowded or poorly ventilated locations, such as the transportation corridor.”
The spokesperson noted that wearing a mask would help protect people who are “immunocompromised or not yet vaccine-eligible, and help keep travel and public transportation safer for everyone.”
The mandate had been due to expire on May 3 following a two-week extension from April 18 so that the CDC could monitor the impact the BA.2 Omicron sub-variant might have on COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.