Forbes reports, a federal judge in Florida threw out the federal government’s mask mandate for airports, airplanes and other public transportation Monday, ruling the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention exceeded its authority by imposing the mask requirement days after the agency extended it another two weeks.
Additionally, it appears the Biden administration has conceded the judge’s ruling that the mask mandate was unlawful:
“TSA (Transportation Security Administration) will not enforce its Security Directives and Emergency Amendment requiring mask use on public transportation and transportation hubs at this time,” the official said.
United Airlines just lifted its mask mandate for Domestic flights:
Effective immediately, masks are no longer required at United on domestic flights, select international flights (dependent upon the arrival country’s mask requirements) or at U.S. airports.
While this means that our employees are no longer required to wear a mask – and no longer have to enforce a mask requirement for most of the flying public – they will be able to wear masks if they choose to do so, as the CDC continues to strongly recommend wearing a mask on public transit.
One day after taking office, Biden issued Executive Order (EO) 13998, ordering the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to develop the Mask Mandate, and for various other federal agencies like the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to implement the CDC’s decisions. EO 13998 also covered airports and other public transportation, such as buses.
CDC issued its initial order on January 29, 2021, pursuant to Biden’s EO. Among other things, it requires almost everyone ages two and up to wear masks in airports and on airplanes, with certain narrow exceptions such as between bites when they are eating.
Various legal challenges have been filed against the mandate. Most recently, almost two dozen states filed a lawsuit raising several statutory and constitutional objections to the Mask Mandate.
Monday’s ruling was on one of the earliest cases, filed in July 2021. The lawsuit alleged that the Mask Mandate violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) on three separate grounds: First, that issuing the order is beyond CDC’s statutory authority granted by Congress in 42 U.S.C. § 264a. Second, that the CDC’s action was really a rule (i.e., a regulation) rather than an order, and therefore had to go through a process of public notice and opportunity for public comment before taking effect. And third, that it violates the APA because it is “arbitrary and capricious,” meaning that it was not the result of reasoned decisionmaking.
“The government purports to discover this unheralded power to regulate how individuals appear and behave in public in a long-extant statute—one over seventy years old,” Judge Kathryn Mizelle wrote. “This history suggests that the power the government sees in § 264(a) is a mirage.”
“The only reason the Mandate cites is the public health emergency caused by COVID-19,” Mizelle continued in her 59-page opinion, rejecting the Biden administration’s argument that the Mask Mandate could be imposed by an agency order. Instead, she decided that CDC’s restriction was a regulation that had to go through months of public comments, because “good cause to suspend notice and comment must be supported by more than the bare need for the regulations.”
Mizelle also held that the CDC did not account for various objections, issues, and evidence opposing the Mask Mandate. This made the Mandate arbitrary and capricious, because “irrespective of whether the CDC made a good or accurate decision, it needed to explain why it acted as it did,” she said.
“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,” Mizelle concluded.
Just this morning, Delta CEO Ed Bastian told WaPo that:
“I think lifting the mask mandate will be one step towards reestablishing and normal behavioral patterns on board the aircraft as well as in the airports.”
Ed Bastian of @Delta on mask mandates: “I think lifting the mask mandate will be one step towards reestablishing and normal behavioral patterns on board the aircraft as well as in the airports.” #PostLive pic.twitter.com/wRM6b7V9dg
— Washington Post Live (@PostLive) April 18, 2022