Friday, May 20, 2022

What You Need to Know About New Mask Guidelines on Public Transportation

A federal judge recently overturned the CDC’s mask mandate for public transportation (Pexels/Anna Shvets)

NATIONWIDE — The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reports that face masks on public transportation will be optional following a ruling made by a federal court judge.

On Monday, April 18, Federal Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle filed her decision in a 59 page document which overturns the requirement for passengers to wear facemasks on public transportation to include buses, airplanes, and trains.

This decision voids a security directive and emergency amendment put in place by TSA on April 13. This security directive and emergency amendment would have required passengers to continue to wear face masks through May 3 in order to give the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) more time to assess the risks of not only the highly-transmissible omicron variant of COVID-19, but also the BA.2 subvariant, which the CDC reports accounts for 85 percent of COVID-19 cases in the United States.

A lawsuit was filed against President Biden in federal court by the Health Freedom Defense Fund, Inc., Ana Carolina Daza, and Sarah Pope asked the court to overturn the face mask requirements. All plaintiffs claimed that the mask requirements on public transportation were unlawful and violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

Judge Kimball Mizelle’s conclusion stated that the mask mandate exceeded the CDC’s statutory authority and that the CDC failed to provide explanations as to its decisions to put these mandates in place. As a result, Judge Kimball Mizelle deemed the mask mandates unlawful and, therefore, they were vacated.

In response to Judge Kimball Mizelle’s ruling, Health Freedom Defense Fund, Inc. released the following statement on behalf of its president, Leslie Manookian:

“Without any public comment, or serious scientific justification, CDC bureaucrats imposed a sweeping Travel Mask Mandate applying to every American over the age of two,” said Manookian. “There are laws that set boundaries for federal agencies to protect individual freedom and the Court clearly found that CDC exceeded those limits. Unelected officials cannot do whatever they like to our personal freedoms just because they claim good motives and a desirable goal.”

Following the ruling, TSA issued the following statement:

“[E]ffective 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.”

While major airlines and public transportation companies generally recognize the importance of wearing masks to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, many have released statements that they will comply with Judge Kimball Mizelle’s ruling, including those that service airports and other transportation hubs in the Commonwealth.

At this time, Norfolk, Newport News-Williamsburg, and Richmond international airports have not released statements regarding the ruling.

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