The Department of Justice announced that it would consider an appeal of the recent ruling that voided the federal mask mandate on public transit, if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention deems it necessary. The Justice Department said in a statement Tuesday: “The Department of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) disagree with the district court’s decision and will appeal, subject to CDC’s conclusion that the order remains necessary for public health. If CDC concludes that a mandatory order remains necessary for the public’s health after that assessment, the Department of Justice will appeal the district court’s decision.” Though the federal government was expected to appeal the decision, neither President Joe Biden nor White House press secretary Jen Psaki indicated which way the DOJ was leaning until the announcement on Tuesday evening.
On Monday, a Florida judge struck down a federal mask mandate that applied to public transportation, effectively lifting the requirement on planes, trains and buses, as well as inside airports across the United States. In the ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Kathryn Mizelle said the mandate, established by the CDC, exceeds “statutory authority and violates the procedures required for agency rulemaking under the [Administrative Procedure Act].” The judge’s decision was effective immediately.
Whether the CDC still thinks the mandate on public transit is an important public health tool remains to be seen. Just last week, the agency extended the travel mask mandate until May 3 to monitor an uptick in cases from the BA.2 variant, a more transmissible strain of omicron. If the CDC does move to reimpose the mandate, it’s unclear whether action from the Justice Department at this point will lead to change before the mandate was set to expire.
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