On Monday, a federal judge in Florida revoked a mandate for national masks on planes and mass transit. Airlines and airports quickly began to repeal their requirement that passengers cover their faces.
Judge’s decision allowed airlines, airports, and mass transit systems to decide about their mask requirements. This resulted in a mixture of responses.
Major airlines adopted a mask-optional policy. Some of these changes drew cheers from passengers, while others were made public over loudspeakers. After the TSA announcement, the Transportation Security Administration announced Monday night that they would no longer enforce the requirement for masks. The mandates were almost immediately removed from airports in Houston (and Dallas)
Los Angeles International Airport, which is the fifth-largest airport by passenger volume in the world, has also abandoned its mandate. However, the Centers for Disease Control recommended that transportation be covered “and I believe that’s good advice,” Heath Montgomery, a spokesperson for LAX, said.
A Delta Air Lines flight from Atlanta to Barcelona, Spain was filled with sleepy passengers who cheered and applauded as a flight attendant announced that the flight was over the ocean.
In a video posted by Dillon Thomas (a CBS Denver reporter), the attendant states that “No one is happier than us.” She said that anyone who wishes to wear their masks was encouraged to do so.
She added, “But we’re willing to give them up.” “So, thank you and happy unmasking!”
New York City’s public transportation system plans to maintain its mask requirement. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority stated that it will make masks optional for passengers on its trains and buses.
Because its members are divided on the issue, the Association of Flight Attendants has taken a neutral position regarding the mask rule. The union president called for calm in airports and on planes Monday.
Union leader Sara Nelson stated that confusion and chaos are the last things we need for passengers or workers at the frontlines today.
Nelson stated that it takes airlines 24-48 hours to implement new procedures and inform employees. For any updates on travel requirements, she advised passengers to check with the airlines.
The mask requirement was applicable to all airlines, mass transit, and taxis and was the most severe vestige of the pandemic restrictions that once were the norm in the country.
U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, a former President Donald Trump appointee, ruled that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had failed to justify its decision and didn’t follow proper rulemaking procedures, rendering it fatally flawed.
Mizelle stated in her 59-page ruling that the only way to get rid of the rule was to do so across the country. It would not be possible to make it effective for the small number of people who had objected to it.
A judge ruled that “a limited remedy would not be a remedy at all” and that courts have the full power to make such a decision — even if the CDC’s efforts in fighting the virus are admirable.
When asked by the Justice Department if it would request an emergency stay in order to stop the judge’s order, they declined to respond. The CDC declined to comment.
According to the White House, the court ruling meant that the order for the mask is “not in effect at the moment.”
Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, stated that “this is clearly a disappointing decision.” “The CDC recommends wearing a mask when using public transit.
Recently, the CDC extended its mask mandate from Monday to May 3, to give more time for studying the BA.2 omicron Subvariant of coronavirus, now responsible in large numbers of cases in the U.S.
New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority communications director Tim Minton stated that the system is “continuing to adhere to CDC guidelines and will be reviewing the Florida court order.”
New York City subway trains and buses are operated by the MTA. There are also two commuter rail lines. Since the outbreak, all buses and trains must be covered with face coverings.
United Airlines stated in a statement, that masks will no longer be required for domestic and international flights.
United stated that while this does not mean that employees will no longer be required to wear a face mask – nor do they have to enforce a requirement for the majority of flying passengers – they will still be able wear masks if they so choose, as the CDC recommends wearing a mask when using public transit.
Similar announcements were made by Alaska Airlines and Delta Air Lines.
Months of lobbying by the airlines to repeal the federal mask requirements for travelers led to months of intense lobbying. Modern planes have effective air filters that make it unlikely that the virus can be transmitted during flight, according to the carriers. The mandate was also opposed by Republicans in Congress.
Critics have pointed out that the states have relaxed rules regarding mask use in stores, restaurants, and other indoor spaces. However, COVID-19 cases are down sharply from mid-January when the omicron variant peaked.
A series of violent incidents have occurred on planes that were mainly attributed to disputes about the requirements for mask-wearing.
Two plaintiffs filed the lawsuit in July 2021. The Health Freedom Defense Fund was also involved in the case. It is a non-profit group that opposes laws and regulations that force people to consent to medical procedures, products and devices being administered against their will.
Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was not involved in the case, but has fought against many government coronavirus regulations. He praised the ruling via Twitter.
“It’s great to see a Florida federal judge follow the law and reject Biden’s transportation mask mandate. DeSantis tweeted that both airline workers and passengers deserve to be free from this misery.