A Florida Voids Judge Authorizes US Masks for Airplanes

(ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.) – A federal judge’s decision to abolish the national masking mandate has been cheered by some planes but also concerned about whether it’s time to end one of the most visible vestiges of the COVID-19 pandemic or not.

The major airlines and many of the busiest airports rushed to waive their requirements on Monday after the Transportation Security Administration announced it would not enforce the January 2021 security directive that would apply. Used for airplanes, airports, taxis and other public transport.

But the ruling still gives those entities the option to keep their mask rules intact, resulting in directives that can vary from city to city.

For example, passengers on a United Airlines flight from Houston to New York may remove a mask at the departure airport and on board the plane, but must wear it again when landing at Kennedy Airport or riding the subway.

In a 59-page lawsuit ruling, U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle of Tampa said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention exceeded its authority in issuing the initial medical order based on on the TSA directive. She also said the order was seriously flawed because the CDC did not follow proper rule-making processes.

Mizelle, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, said the only remedy was to remove the mandate for the entire country because it would not be over for only those who opposed the case. to sue.

The White House said the mask order was “not in effect at this time” and called the court’s decision disappointing.

The Justice Department declined to comment on whether it had applied for an emergency stay to block the judge’s order. The CDC also declined to comment.

United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Alaska Airlines were all quick to announce that they would stop requiring masks on some domestic and international flights. So do American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and JetBlue Airways.

Drowsy passengers on a Delta flight between Atlanta and Barcelona, ​​Spain, cheered, whistled and clapped as a flight attendant announced the news mid-flight over the ocean.

“No one is happier than us,” the flight attendant said in a video posted by CBS Denver reporter Dillon Thomas who was on the flight. She added that those who wish to continue wearing their masks are encouraged to do so.

“But we were ready to give up,” she added. “So thank you and happy reveal day!”

Major airports have since waived their request but sided with the CDC in recommending that people voluntarily wear masks. They include Los Angeles International Airport, the world’s fifth busiest by passenger volume, and Salt Lake City International Airport, which announced it will hand out masks to anyone who requests them.

New York City’s public transit system planned to maintain a mask requirement. The Washington Metropolitan Transportation Authority said it will make masks optional for bus and train riders.

The websites of ride-hailing companies Lyft and Uber as of Monday night still said masks were required.

The CDC recently extended the mask mandate, which was set to expire on Monday, until May 3 to give more time to study the coronavirus omicron BA.2 subvariable that is now responsible for much of it. cases in the United States. that decision is withheld.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic two years ago, many state or local governments have issued orders requiring masks to be worn in schools, restaurants, shops or other places. The rules have largely been rolled back as the deadliest, most infectious months of the pandemic have abated.

But the national rule for tourists remains in place and is arguably the most common, visible and annoying measure of its kind.

Wearing face masks on planes has sparked an online fire between those who feel they have an important role to play in protecting people and those who see it as an unnecessary inconvenience or even an exaggeration. required by the government.

Some flight attendants are cursed, even attacked by passengers who do not comply.

The lawsuit, filed in July 2021 by two plaintiffs and the Foundation for the Defense of Medical Freedom, is described by the judge’s order as a nonprofit group that “opposes laws and regulations that force individuals to submit to the management of medical products, processes and devices against their will. ”

Republicans in Congress have waged a war to kill proxies.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who was not directly involved in the case but fought against numerous government requests for the coronavirus, praised the ruling.

“Both airline staff and passengers deserve this painful ending,” DeSantis tweeted.


Associated Press writers David Koenig in Dallas, Michael Balsamo and Will Weissert in Washington, and Karen Matthews in New York contributed to this story.

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