Federal Judge Strikes Down Mask Mandate for Travel

April 18, 2022 by Dan McCue
Federal Judge Strikes Down Mask Mandate for Travel
Terminal C at Reagan National Airport. (Photo by Dan McCue)

TAMPA, Fla. — A federal judge in Florida struck down the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s mask mandate for travel on Monday, less than a week after the agency extended the public health mandate through May 3.

In her 59-page order, U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle said the CDC exceeded its statutory authority and violated the processes required for agency rulemaking under the federal Administrative Procedure Act.

Last Wednesday, the CDC extended the mask mandate for 15 days due to concerns over an uptick in cases from the BA.2 subvariant of omicron. The mandate applied to planes, trains, buses and transit hubs and stations.

“It is indisputable that the public has a strong interest in combating the spread of COVD-19,” Mizelle wrote. “But the mandate exceeded the CDC’s statutory authority, improperly invoked the good cause exception to notice and comment rulemaking, and failed to adequately explain its decisions.

“Because ‘our system does not permit agencies to act unlawfully even in pursuit of desirable ends,’ the court declares unlawful and vacates the mask mandate,” she concluded.

The White House responded Monday night with a statement from a senior administration official.

“The agencies are reviewing the decision and assessing potential next steps. In the meantime, today’s court decision means CDC’s public transportation masking order is not in effect at this time. Therefore, TSA will not enforce its Security Directives and Emergency Amendment requiring mask use on public transportation and transportation hubs at this time. CDC recommends that people continue to wear masks in indoor public transportation settings,” the official said.

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue

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