Federal Judge Declares Enforcement of Mask Mandates on Public Transport Unlawful

The Biden administration suspended enforcement of its mask mandate for airports, planes and other forms of travel today after a judge said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention overstepped its authority. The New York Post has more.

U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, an appointee of President Donald Trump, ruled that the CDC failed to properly explain its decision to impose the mandate or follow proper rulemaking procedures.

The Biden administration on Monday evening confirmed that travelers can ditch their masks pending a review of the ruling.

“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,” an administration official said.

“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.”

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

White House press secretary Jen Psaki called the ruling “disappointing”, but said the administration had not made up its mind about whether to appeal.

“The CDC continues recommending wearing a mask on public transit,” Psaki said.

“This just came out this afternoon, so right now, the Department of Homeland Security, who would be implementing [the change], and the CDC are reviewing the decision and of course the Department of Justice would make any determinations about litigation.”

Psaki added, “We would say to anyone sitting out there, ‘We’d recommend to wear masks on the airplane.’”

Fox News correspondent Peter Doocy pressed Psaki to explain why masks on mass transit make sense when people haven’t had to wear masks at most indoor venues, including the White House briefing room, for nearly two months.

“This is based on health considerations and data that the CDC looks at about transmissibility, as we’ve seen an increase in cases on airplanes,” Psaki replied.

Mizelle’s decision was in response to a July lawsuit filed by the nonprofit Health Freedom Defense Fund on behalf of two women who claimed that wearing masks on airplanes triggered or exacerbated anxiety and panic attacks.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: John Tierney has written an excellent piece for City Journal which looks at a couple of graphs, one comparing rates of Covid infection in the 11 US states that didn’t enforce mask mandates with the 39 that did, the other comparing the rate of infection in Germany, where 80% of the population wore masks, with Sweden, where only 10% of the population did. The graphs tell the story.