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Federal Mask Mandate Overturned by Florida Judge

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Masks required sign | Image by Myra Thompson

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On Monday, a federal judge in Florida issued a ruling overturning the Biden administration’s face mask mandates on airplanes, buses, and other forms of public transportation.

In a 59-page court document, U.S. District Court Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle of the Middle District of Florida ruled that implementing the measure was beyond the authority of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). She also stated the agency violated the American Procedures Act (APA), which requires government agencies to request public comment about proposed regulations.

“Because our system does not permit agencies to act unlawfully even in pursuit of desirable ends, the court declares unlawful and vacates the Mask Mandate,” wrote Judge Mizelle in the report.

Judge Mizelle’s decision came in a case brought against Biden’s administration by Health Freedom Defense Fund Inc. and frequent flyers Ana Daza and Sarah Pope.

The judge stated she found the mandate to violate the APA because its implementation was outside the CDC’s power, was “arbitrary” and “capricious,” and did not go through the proper notice and comment period for federal rulemaking.

Mizelle analyzed the Public Health Services Act of 1944 in her decision, which the CDC utilized to issue such mandates. According to the act, the CDC can enforce regulations that prevent the transmission and spread of infectious diseases via “inspection, fumigation, disinfection, sanitation, pest extermination, destruction … and other measures.”

However, “the context of [the statute] indicates that ‘sanitation’ and ‘other measures’ refer to measures that clean something, not ones that keep something clean,” the judge noted. “Wearing a mask cleans nothing.”

White House Spokeswoman Jen Psaki called the ruling “disappointing” and told reporters in a press briefing that “the CDC continues recommending wearing a mask in public transit.”

She went on to say that the Department of Homeland Security, the CDC, and the Department of Justice would be reviewing the decision and determining if the administration will move forward with litigation.

The mandate has been effective since February 2021and was set to expire on multiple occasions over the past few months; however, it has been repeatedly extended by the CDC despite fierce opposition.

The CEOs of multiple airlines, including Delta, United, and American, sent letters to President Biden urging him to cancel the mandate. Before the ruling was handed down, flight attendants from multiple airlines decided on Monday to discontinue the use of face masks as a silent protest against the regulations.

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