A federal judge in Florida has blocked a face mask mandate for airlines and trains, prompting the Biden administration to stop enforcing the COVID-19 pandemic-related order.
Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division, issued a ruling on Monday vacating the mandate and remanding it back to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.
“The Court concludes that the Mask Mandate exceeds the CDC’s statutory authority and violates the procedures required for agency rulemaking under the [Administrative Procedure Act],” wrote Mizelle, a Trump appointee.
The Health Freedom Defense Fund (HFDF), an organization that was one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, along with two Florida residents, celebrated the ruling against the face mask mandate.
“Without any public comment, or serious scientific justification, CDC bureaucrats imposed a sweeping Travel Mask Mandate applying to every American over the age of 2,” said HFDF President Leslie Manookian in a statement on Monday.
“There are laws that set boundaries for federal agencies to protect individual freedom and the Court clearly found that CDC exceeded those limits. Unelected officials cannot do whatever they like to our personal freedoms just because they claim good motives and a desirable goal.”
At the daily White House press briefing Monday, Press Secretary Jen Psaki called the ruling “disappointing,” as they had hoped to extend the mandate for at least the next two weeks.
“The CDC recommended continuing the order for additional time — two weeks — to be able to assess the latest science in keeping with its responsibility to protect the American people,” said Psaki.
“So right now, the Department of Homeland Security, who would be implementing, and the CDC are reviewing the decision. And, of course, the Department of Justice would make any determinations about litigation.”
After the Biden administration agreed to stop enforcing the mandate, major airline carriers and the national train line Amtrak announced that they, too, were relaxing their mask requirements, according to Reuters.
In January 2021, President Joe Biden signed Executive Order 13998, which required the wearing of face masks in accordance with CDC guidelines at various mass transportation entities, including airports, commercial planes, trains, city buses and maritime ferries.
“Science-based public health measures are critical to preventing the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) by travelers within the United States and those who enter the country from abroad,” stated the order.
“Accordingly, to save lives and allow all Americans, including the millions of people employed in the transportation industry, to travel and work safely, it is the policy of my Administration to implement these public health measures consistent with CDC guidelines on public modes of transportation and at ports of entry to the United States.”