A federal judge in Florida has struck down the national mask mandate covering airplanes and other public transportation as exceeding the authority of US health officials in the coronavirus pandemic.
Monday’s decision by U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle in Tampa, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, also said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention failed to wrongly justify their decision and did not had not followed the development of the appropriate rules.
In her 59-page ruling, Mizelle said the only recourse was to overturn the nationwide rule entirely because ending it would be impossible for the limited group of people who opposed the lawsuit.
The judge said “a limited remedy would be no remedy at all” and that the courts have full authority to make a decision like this – even if the CDC’s goals in fighting the virus are laudable.
“Because our system does not permit agencies to act unlawfully even in pursuit of desirable ends, the court declares unlawful and voids the mask warrant,” she wrote.
The Justice Department declined to comment on Monday when asked if the government plans to appeal the ruling.
Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who was not directly involved in the case but fought against numerous government demands on coronaviruses, welcomed the decision in a statement on Twitter.
“It’s great to see a federal judge in Florida following the law and dismissing the Biden mask-carrying warrant. Airline workers and passengers deserve this misery to end,” DeSantis tweeted.
The CDC recently extended the mandate for the mask, which was due to expire on Monday, 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. United.
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. .
There have been a series of violent incidents on board planes that have been mainly attributed to disputes over mask-wearing requirements.
The lawsuit was filed in July 2021 by two plaintiffs and the Health Freedom Defense Fund, described in the judge’s order as a nonprofit group that “opposes laws and regulations that require individuals to submit to the administration of medical products, procedures and devices against their will”. .”
Associated Press writer Michael Balsamo contributed to this story from Washington.