Biden Admin Fights To Reverse Ruling That Blocked Airline Mask Mandate

U.S. district Court ruled April 2022 that CDC’s mask mandate for public transport was unlawful. President Joe Biden speaks on January 12, / Getty Images

January 17, 2023

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters)—The Justice Department on Tuesday asked an appeals court panel to reverse an April 2022 ruling that declared unlawful a government order requiring masks on airplanes, buses, trains, ridesharing services and at airports and other transportation hubs.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals had three judges hear arguments regarding the government’s appeal of a Florida U.S. District Court Judge’s ruling that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), lacked the legal authority to issue a nationwide travel mandate to combat COVID-19.

The sweeping mandate for the mask was issued by the CDC in January 2021, just days after Joe Biden’s election as president.

In October, a report by U.S. legislators stated that the Trump administration had prevented the CDC’s 2020 adoption of a federal transportation mandate.

Many of the appeal arguments focus on the CDC’s decision to immediately implement the requirements, rather than giving the public a chance for comment.

Brian Springer, a Justice Department lawyer, said that the CDC could impose mandatory masks without allowing the public to comment due to the pandemic emergency. He argued it was necessary “to prevent the possible infections and deaths that could result if people didn’t do the simple thing of just putting on a mask while they were traveling.”

Brant C. Hadaway, the lawyer representing the five individuals who sued to challenge the mandate, noted that the CDC had not requested a stay of the district judge’s decision last year.

“This is not about an urgent matter of public health,” Hadaway spoke in court. He argued the court that Hadaway had stated to the court that if the CDC believed that the issue was a “matter of life and death” The agency would have wished for a quicker ruling.

The European Union recommended earlier this month face masks to passengers flying from China to its member countries. China is currently suffering from a severe COVID-19 epidemic after it lifted its zero-COVID policy.

(Reporting and Editing by David Shepardson; Editing By Bill Berkrot

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