from the New York Times
WASHINGTON — A federal judge in Florida struck down the federal mask requirement on airplanes, trains, buses and other public transportation on Monday, less than a week after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had extended it through May 3.
The ruling left it up to individual airlines and local transit agencies to decide what to do, and by late Monday, the nation’s largest airlines had dropped their mask requirements for domestic flights. The Amtrak rail system said passengers and employees would no longer need to wear masks.
In a 59-page decision, Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, who was appointed by President Donald J. Trump, voided the mandate — which also applies to airports, train stations and other transportation hubs — nationwide on several grounds, including that the agency had exceeded its legal authority under the Public Health Services Act of 1944. Because of the ruling, the masking order was not in effect for the time being, and the Transportation Security Administration would not enforce it, a Biden administration official said on Monday evening.
The official said that the administration was still reviewing the decision and assessing whether to appeal it, and that the C.D.C. still recommended that people wear masks in enclosed public transportation settings.
It remained unclear to what extent local transportation agencies or smaller airlines would seek to keep their mandates in place. Earlier in the day, before the administration official said the T.S.A. would not enforce the mandate, several state and local transit agencies across the country suggested they would keep their mask requirements for now.
Still, governments and businesses across the nation have largely loosened precautions, and now new known coronavirus cases are sharply rising again. When the C.D.C. extended its mask rule last week, it cited a desire to assess the potential severity of the Omicron subvariant known as BA.2, which recently became the dominant version among new U.S. cases. (On Monday, the city of Philadelphia reinstated a mask mandate in response, becoming the first major city to do so.)
President Biden had called on the C.D.C. to impose a mask mandate for travelers shortly after his inauguration, and the agency did so starting on Feb. 2, 2021. It extended that mandate several times. In July 2021, the Health Freedom Defense Fund, a Wyoming-based advocacy group, filed a lawsuit challenging its legality.
In a statement, the group called the ruling a “victory for basic American liberty and the rule of law,” and quoted its president, Leslie Manookian, as adding: “Unelected officials cannot do whatever they like to our personal freedoms just because they claim good motives and a desirable goal.”