It was recently reported that 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 in the coronavirus pandemic.
The decision Monday by U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle in Tampa, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, also said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention improperly failed to justify its decision and did not follow proper rulemaking.
In her 59-page ruling, Mizelle said the only remedy was to vacate the rule entirely because it would be impossible to end it for the limited group of people who objected to it in the lawsuit.
The judge said “a limited remedy would be no remedy at all” and that the courts have full authority to make a decision such as this — even if the goals of the CDC in fighting the virus are laudable.
Just last week, the CDC extended its federal mandate for mask use on public transportation until May 3, citing a rise in COVID-19 cases and a coming surge in spring holiday travel. Republicans have criticized the mandate as out of step with a growing trend to ease other pandemic-era restrictions. In March, 21 states led by Republicans sued the federal government for an immediate end to the public health rule.
The motion at the heart of Monday’s ruling was filed in February by the Health Freedom Defense Fund, a conservative organization that opposes pandemic-related public health mandates. The organization and two other plaintiffs filed their lawsuit in July.
The mandate applies to commercial aircraft, buses, trains, ferries and subway systems.
“The court concludes that the mask mandate exceeds the CDC’s statutory authority and violates the procedures required for agency rulemaking,” wrote Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, a U.S. district judge on the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida.
“The court vacates the mandate and remands it to the CDC.” Mizelle was appointed to the court by former President Donald Trump, despite concerns expressed at the time by a committee of the American Bar Association that she had thin qualifications. Republican Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida weighed in on the ruling Monday.
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“Great to see a federal judge in Florida follow the law and reject the Biden transportation mask mandate,” DeSantis wrote on Twitter.
“Both airline employees and passengers deserve to have this misery end.” The CDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.