Face masks will no longer be required on planes and other forms of public transportation after a federal judge in Florida on Monday ruled against the federal mask mandate and the White House, shortly after, said it would no longer enforce it while it is under review.
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.
Shortly after, officials from the White House confirmed that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) would no longer enforce the mask mandate on public transportation, even though the White House may still appeal the decision in the future and is reportedly considering its next steps.
“Today’s court decision means CDC’s public transportation masking order is not in effect at this time,” the official said according to multiple reports. “Therefore, TSA will not enforce its Security Directives and Emergency Amendment requiring mask use on public transportation and transportation hubs at this time.”
The White House will continue to “recommend” that people wear masks, according to a statement from White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Monday afternoon, but for the time being, passengers in the air will no longer be required to wear face masks and flight attendants will no longer be tasked with enforcing the rule.
After being extended last week, the mandate could have officially expired on May 3. 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 last week, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced the two largest-ever fines for passengers.