Days after a Trump-appointed federal judge in Florida overturned the Centers for Disease Control’s mask mandate on planes and public transportation, the Department of Justice has appealed the ruling, which had elated many travelers fed up with COVID restrictions and frustrated many others concerned with rising transmission levels of the virus.
On Monday, U.S. District Court judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle ruled in a lawsuit filed by a conservative group opposing COVID mandates, overturning the CDC’s order to require masks on planes and public transportation. The decision to appeal came only after the Biden administration signaled to the CDC that its intervention depended on the public-health agency’s decision that a mask mandate was still necessary. Minutes after the CDC made one on Wednesday — describing the mask mandate as “necessary for the public health” despite its expiration on May 3 — a DOJ spokesman announced that the department had filed to appeal.
The appeal provides some clarity after days of confusion. The initial ruling by Judge Mizelle caught many travelers off guard, with some plane crews announcing the end to the mask mandate while in flight. In the following hours, a patchwork of mask requirements began to appear: Lyft and Uber announced they would not require masks in many cities, though public-transportation authorities in major American cities including New York, Chicago, and Seattle required face coverings. Within the Biden administration, there were mixed messages as well. On Tuesday, Health and Human Services secretary Xavier Becerra said that “we will likely appeal that ruling.” But hours earlier, President Biden had said it’s “up to them” when asked if Americans should continue to wear masks on planes and in airports.