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Federal judge strikes down mask mandate on planes and public transit

St. Petersburg, Florida – A federal judge in Florida struck down the national mask mandate covering airplanes and other public transportation as beyond the authority of U.S. health officials.

Monday’s decision by U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle in Tampa also said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) failed to improperly justify its decision and failed to follow proper regulations under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

“The court finds that the mask mandate exceeds the CDC’s statutory authority and violates the procedures required for the agency’s rulemaking under the APA,” the judge wrote. “As a result, the court cancels the warrant and returns it to the CDC.”

The CDC recently extended the mandate of the maskwhich was due to expire on April 18 until May 3 to allow more time to study the BA.2 omicron subvariant of the coronavirus which is now responsible for the vast majority of cases in the United States

The Trump-appointed judge also wrote that the court “accepts the CDC’s policy decision that requiring masks will limit transmission of COVID-19 and thereby reduce serious illness and death from COVID-19″ but ” this finding by itself is not sufficient to establish good cause.”

The mask requirement for travelers has been the target of months of lobbying by airlines, which have sought to kill it. Carriers have argued that effective air filters on modern planes make transmission of the virus during a flight highly unlikely. Republicans in Congress also fought to kill the mandate.

Critics have seized on the fact that states have rolled back rules requiring masks in restaurants, stores and other indoor settings, yet COVID-19 cases have fallen sharply since the omicron variant peaked in mid-January. .

The Department of Justice is reviewing the decision. The CDC said it does not comment on ongoing litigation.

“The CDC has recommended extending the order for an additional two weeks so that it can assess the latest scientific data consistent with its responsibility to protect the American people,” the White House press secretary said Monday afternoon. Jen Psaki. “So it’s obviously a disappointing decision. The CDC continues to recommend mask-wearing on public transportation. As you know, that just came out this afternoon, so right now the Homeland Department who would implement and the CDC review the decision and of course the Department of Justice would make all decisions regarding litigation.”

– Rob Legare, Kathryn Krupnik and Kathryn Watson of CBS News contributed to this report


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