DOJ Asks Court to Overturn Ruling on Masks During Travel

January 18, 2023

The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Tuesday asked an appeals court to reverse a 2021 ruling that declared mask mandates on planes, buses, trains and ridesharing services unlawful.

In April 2021, Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle with U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida struck down the mask mandate, saying the Biden Administration had exceeded the statutory authority of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and that the mandate’s implementation violated administrative law.

One of the arguments in pushing for repealing the mandate had been that the public had not been given a chance to comment on its implementation. 

On Tuesday a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in the case. DOJ lawyer Brian Springer argued the CDC be allowed to impose mask requirements without giving the public time to comment given 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.”

Attorney Brant C. Hadaway represented five people who had sued to challenge the mask mandate. He argued, “This is not about an urgent matter of public health,” adding that if the CDC believed the issue was a “matter of life and death” it would have sought a faster ruling.

The appeals case follows mask recommendations earlier this month by the European Union for passengers from its member nations flying to China, which is experiencing a surge in Covid cases.

The U.S. has gone further regarding China, imposing a mandate that any travelers from China must present a negative Covid test before entering the U.S. and recommending Americans not fly to China while it’s experiencing its current surge in cases.

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