On Monday, a federal judge in Florida ruled against the federal mask mandate for airplanes and other modes of transportation in the U.S.
The ruling, which can be read in full here, is the first lawsuit filed against the mandate to successfully get a ruling against the CDC’s mask rule, which has been in place since Feb. 2021.
In the ruling, U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle wrote that the mandate exceeded the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) authority, and that because of that it is “not in accordance with the law.”
“The court must hold unlawful and set aside the mask mandate as an agency action that is not in accordance with law,” Judge Mizelle wrote, among a number of other arguments against the mandate.
Now, the future of the mask mandate will come down to the Justice Department, which could seek an order to halt the ruling or file an appeal to stop it. Whether or not the Justice Department does so, just a few weeks ahead of the May 3 expiration of the mask mandate, is still unclear.
The federal government had reportedly considered letting the mask expire last week, however, due to an increase in infections and in severe COVID-19 outcomes in some parts of the U.S., it decided to extend it out of "an abundance of caution."
“Since early April, there have been increases in the 7-day moving average of cases in the U.S. The CDC Mask Order remains in effect while CDC assesses the potential impact of the rise of cases of severe disease, including hospitalizations and deaths, and healthcare system capacity. TSA will extend the security directive and emergency amendment for 15 days, through May 3, 2022,” the CDC wrote at the time.
The travel industry has largely seen the extension of the mask mandate, along with the continued inbound testing rules, as a major drag on its recovery. The U.S. Travel Association and the Association of American Travel Advisors (ASTA) have both continued to push for both of those rules to be lifted.
That mandate has also caused issues for those who are tasked with enforcing it, mainly flight attendants, who have been the subject of an escalating number of verbal, and sometimes physical, attacks on airplanes. Just this week, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced the two largest-ever fines for passengers.