ST. PETERSBURG (AP) – A federal judge in Florida has annulled the national mask mandate covering aircraft and other public transportation as it exceeds the authority of U.S. health authorities.
The decision Monday by U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle in Tampa also said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention erroneously failed to justify its decision and did not follow proper rule formulation.
In her 59-page decision, Mizelle said the only remedy was to abandon the rule altogether because it would be impossible to end it for the limited group of people who objected to it at trial.
The judge said “a limited remedy would not be a remedy at all” and that the courts have full authority to make a decision like this – although the CDC’s goal of fighting the virus is commendable.
“Because our system does not allow agencies to act illegally, even in pursuit of desirable purposes, the court declares itself illegal and waives the mask mandate,” she wrote.
The Justice Department declined to comment Monday when asked if the government planned to appeal the decision.
CDC recently extended mesh mandatewhich was set to expire on Monday until May 3 to allow more time to study the BA.2 omicron subvariant of coronavirus which is now responsible for the vast majority of cases in the United States
The mask requirement for travelers was the target of months of lobbying by the airlines, which tried to kill it. The carriers claimed that efficient air filters on modern aircraft make transmission of the virus during a flight very unlikely. Republicans in Congress also fought to kill the mandate.
Critics have seized on the fact that states have rolled back rules requiring masks in restaurants, shops and other indoor environments, and yet COVID-19 cases have fallen sharply since the omicron variant peaked in mid-January.
There have been a number of violent incidents on planes that have been mainly attributed to disputes over the requirements for wearing masks.
The lawsuit was filed in July 2021 by two plaintiffs and the Health Freedom Defense Fund, described in the ruling as a nonprofit group that “opposes laws and regulations that force individuals to submit to the administration of medical products, procedures and equipment against their will. “
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