A federal judge in Florida has voided the national mask mandate covering airplanes and other public transportation as exceeding the authority of U.S. health officials.
The decision Monday by U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle in Tampa also said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention improperly failed to justify its decision and did not follow proper rulemaking.
The four largest U.S. airlines announced that mask mandates for domestic flights would be dropped, the New York Times reported after executives wrote a letter to President Biden last month asking that the requirements be allowed to expire.
Delta released a statement that said, "Effective immediately, masks are optional for all airport employees, crew members and customers inside U.S. airports and on board all aircraft domestically, as well as on most international flights. Delta employees and customers may continue wearing masks if they so choose. Wearing a well-fitting mask protects the wearer, even if others around them are not wearing masks."
The mask mandate had been recently extended by President Joe Biden’s administration until May 3. On Monday the White House announced that it will be reviewing the decision but confirmed that the Transportation Security Administration will stop enforcing a mask mandate.
The Transportation Security Administration officially acknowledged the matter releasing a statement on Monday writing, “Due to today’s court ruling, effective immediately, TSA will no longer enforce its Security Directives and Emergency Amendment requiring mask use on public transportation and transportation hubs. TSA will also rescind the new Security Directives that were scheduled to take effect tomorrow. CDC continues to recommend that people wear masks in indoor public transportation settings at this time.”
UPDATE: White House says it’s reviewing next steps but confirms TSA will stop enforcing the mask mandate. pic.twitter.com/PnBto3cShJ— David Slotnick (@David_Slotnick) April 18, 2022
"The Mandate exceeded the CDC's statutory authority, improperly invoked the good cause exception to notice and comment rulemaking, and failed to adequately explain its decisions. Because 'our system does not permit agencies to act unlawfully even in pursuit of desirable ends,' the Court declares unlawful and vacates the Mask Mandate," Mizelle wrote.
The Biden administration extended the mandate amid a small increase in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks.
A number of states have sued the federal government to order an end to the mask mandate that covers passengers and crew on board planes, trains, buses and rideshares.
The plaintiffs claim there is no "high-quality data to support the efficacy of mask mandates, case numbers and hospitalizations experiencing a large downward trend, and 81.7% of the population having received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine."
It was not immediately clear if or when the order would go into effect or whether the CDC will appeal. The Justice Department declined to comment, but released a statement to ABC News.
"We’re reviewing the decision and are declining any further comment," the department said.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose state was among those that sued the government, celebrated the ruling.
"Great to see a federal judge in Florida follow the law and reject the Biden transportation mask mandate. Both airline employees and passengers deserve to have this misery end," he said.