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Federal Judge Strikes Down Biden's Transportation Mask Mandate

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A federal judge in Florida has struck down the Biden administration’s mask mandate for public transportation.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle ruled that the mandate was unlawful because it went beyond the authority of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Last week, the administration announced it would extend the mandate for at least another 15 days in the wake of the emergence of the BA.2 variant of COVID-19.

A statement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention read, “Since early April, there have been increases in the 7-day moving average of cases in the U.S. In order to assess the potential impact the rise of cases has on severe disease, including hospitalizations and deaths, and health care system capacity, the CDC Order will remain in place at this time.”

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The decision to extend the mask mandate came after nearly two dozen CEOs of major U.S. airlines signed a letter asking the administration to end the requirement, as IJR reported.

In a letter to President Joe Biden last month, the executives wrote, “We appreciate your leadership throughout the COVID-19 crisis and now as the country recovers from the impacts of the pandemic.”

“During the global health crisis, U.S. airlines have supported and cooperated with the federal government’s measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. We are encouraged by the current data and the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions from coast to coast, which indicate it is past time to eliminate COVID-era transportation policies,” the letter continued.

While the CEOs noted that they supported various mandates such as “predeparture testing and vaccination requirements for international travelers,” they argued that “much has changed since these measures were imposed, and they no longer make sense in the current public health context.”

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The signatories of the letter included the  CEOs of Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Airlines, FedEx Express, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines Holdings, and UPS Airlines.

Regarding the issue of the extension of mask mandates for flights, the letter states, “The science clearly supports lifting the mask mandate, as demonstrated by the recently released CDC framework indicating that 99 percent of the U.S. population no longer need to wear masks indoors.”

On top of the CDC data, the CEOs noted that “several studies” conducted before the coronavirus vaccines were available showed that “an airplane cabin is one of the safest indoor environments due to the combination of highly filtered air and constant air flow coupled with the downward direction of the air.”

They pointed out that passengers can still wear masks if they want to, but said, “It makes no sense that people are still required to wear masks on airplanes, yet are allowed to congregate in crowded restaurants, schools and at sporting events without masks, despite none of these venues having the protective air filtration system that aircraft do.”

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“We are requesting this action not only for the benefit of the traveling public, but also for the thousands of airline employees charged with enforcing a patchwork of now-outdated regulations implemented in response to COVID-19,” the letter concluded.

The mandate applied to air travel, trains, and buses.

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