On some airlines, a federal judge’s decision to overturn a nationwide mask order was greeted with applause, but it also raised questions about whether it’s truly time to abolish one of the pandemic’s most obvious relics.
The Transportation Security Administration stated on Monday that it will not enforce a January 2021 security regulation that extended to flights, airports, taxis, and other forms of mass transit. Major airlines and several of the largest airports hastened to abandon their requirements.
However, the court allowed those bodies to maintain their own rules, resulting in directions that might differ from city to city.
Passengers on a United Airlines trip from Houston to New York, for example, can remove their masks at the departure airport and on the plane, but must reapply them once they arrive at Kennedy Airport or ride the subway.
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention overstepped its jurisdiction in issuing the initial health order on which the TSA instruction was based, according to a 59-page case judgment by U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle in Tampa. She further claimed that the order was fatally defective due to the CDC’s failure to follow proper rulemaking processes.
Former President Donald Trump appointee Mizelle said the only solution was to repeal the mandate for the entire country since it would be difficult to repeal it simply for those who protested in the case.
The mask order “is not in force at this time,” according to the White House, which also described the court judgment as “disappointing.”
The Justice Department did not respond to a question about whether it will seek an emergency stay to overturn the judge’s decision. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) likewise declined to comment.
United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and Alaska Airlines all declared that the mask requirement will be removed for domestic and international flights. American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and JetBlue Airways all did as well.
When a flight attendant revealed the news mid-flight across the Atlantic, passengers on a Delta aircraft between Atlanta and Barcelona, Spain, shouted, whistled, and applauded.
In a video recorded by Dillon Thomas, a CBS Denver reporter who was on the trip, the flight attendant adds, “No one is happy than we are.” People who chose to keep their masks on were urged to do so, she added.
“However, we’re prepared to give them up,” she continued. “Thank you, and have a wonderful unmasking day!”
Major airports abandoned their mandates, but agreed with the CDC that passengers should be masked voluntarily. Los Angeles International Airport, the world’s sixth busiest by passenger flow, and Salt Lake City International Airport, which said it would give out masks to anybody who asked for them, were among them.
The mask restriction in New York City’s public transportation system was set to remain in place. Riders on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s buses and trains will be able to choose whether or not to wear masks.
Masks were still needed on the websites of ride-sharing companies Lyft and Uber as of Monday evening.
The CDC recently extended the mask rule until May 3 to give researchers more time to research the BA.2 omicron subvariant of the coronavirus, which is now responsible for the vast majority of illnesses in the United States. However, the court’s judgment has placed that decision on hold.
Many state and local governments have issued different orders mandating masks to be worn inside schools, restaurants, businesses, and other public places since the epidemic began two years ago. As the pandemic’s bloodiest and most contagious months passed, the prohibitions were substantially relaxed.
However, the national regulation for passengers persisted, and it was undoubtedly the most widely enforced, prominent, and inconvenient policy of its type.
The wearing of masks on flights generated an internet debate between those who believed they were important for passenger safety and those who thought they were an unnecessary annoyance or possibly government overreach.
Passengers who refused to comply have yelled and even assaulted some flight attendants.
Two plaintiffs and the Health Freedom Defense Fund filed the complaint in July 2021, according to the judge’s ruling, which “opposes laws and regulations that force individuals to consent to the administration of medical items, treatments, and gadgets against their will.”
Republicans in Congress fought tooth and nail to repeal the requirement.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who was not involved in the lawsuit but has fought various federal coronavirus mandates, applauded the decision.
DeSantis tweeted, “Both airline staff and passengers deserve to have this agony end.”