Biden Administration Changes Its Mind, Will Appeal Ruling That Ended National Mask Mandate on Planes

Written by Kyle Becker

The Biden administration has reversed course and has decided that it will appeal a federal court’s decision striking down its national mask mandate. NBC News reported the development on Tuesday evening.

“The Justice Department announced Tuesday that it will appeal the ruling that lifted the federal mask mandate on planes, trains and transit systems, pending a decision by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that the order is still required for public health,” NBC reported.

“The Justice Department will not, however, ask the court to stay the decision, meaning passengers will be able to continue traveling maskless while the decision is litigated,” the report noted.

“In the day since a federal judge in Florida struck down the CDC’s requirement, numerous airlines and public transit systems have announced that masks were optional,” the report noted.

“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,” the Justice Department said in a statement.

The Justice Department is making an appeal on behalf of the Centers for Disease Control, an agency that the court ruled did not have the authority to issue mandates. This was the fourth different change in position for the Biden administration on Tuesday.

President Joe Biden on Tuesday had given a common sense response to a question about wearing masks on airplanes. Watch:

“Mr. President, should people continue to wear masks on planes?” the reporter asked.

“That’s up to them,” Biden said.

But on board Air Force One on Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki both vocally disagreed with the court striking down the CDC’s mask mandate for travel and suggested that an appeal from the Biden administration might still be on the table.

“Well, I would note — well, I’ve seen those videos. Anecdotes are not data, right?” she replied. “And certainly, that does tell a part of the story. But we don’t make these decisions based on politics or based on the political whims on a plane or even in a poll. But I would note in polls, and data, lengthier data, there are still a lot of people in this country who still want to have masks in place.”

Psaki was also asked if the Biden administration intends to appeal the federal court’s ruling.

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“On the mask mandate, why is the DoJ not appealing that?” a reporter asked. “And… does the administration risk taking away some of your options for the future, especially if there’s some new variants?” he continued.

“Well, unless something’s happened when we got on the plane, I don’t think they’ve made any announcement at this point in time,” she responded. “So, as we’ve said, agencies are reviewing step — next steps — including the Department of Justice, traditionally following court decision. That can take a couple of days.”

“We have said from the start that our Covid response should be guided by the science and data and by experts,” she added. “And — and just as a reminder, when we made this announcement, the CDC said it needed 15 days to assess the impacts of an uptick in cases on hospitalizations, deaths, and hospital capacity.”

“We feel — still feel — that is entirely reasonable based on the latest science,” she continued. “And public health decisions shouldn’t be made by the courts. They should be made by public health experts. So again, I can’t — I’m not going to get ahead of the Department of Justice. We’ll let them make any decisions or announcements, but —”

“So, they might still appeal is what you’re saying?” a reporter followed up.

“It typically — yeah, it typically takes a couple of days to review and make an assessment,” she said.

The Biden administration on Monday released a statement in response to a federal court in Florida striking down the national mask mandate for airlines and other public transportation.

“The agencies are reviewing the decision and assessing potential next steps. In the meantime, today’s court decision means CDC’s public transportation masking order is not in effect at this time. Therefore, TSA will not enforce its Security Directives and Emergency Amendment requiring mask use on public transportation and transportation hubs at this time. CDC recommends that people continue to wear masks in indoor public transportation settings.”

As reported earlier, a federal judge in Florida voided the national mask mandate covering airports, planes and other public travel. U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle ruled the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention failed to justify its decision and did not follow proper rulemaking.

The judge’s conclusion that the CDC’s mandate exceeded the agency’s authority. The Tampa court’s ruling can be read in full below:

National Mask Mandate for Transportation Struck Down by Tampa Court by Kyle Becker on Scribd

United Airlines responded to the news by dropping the mask mandate immediately.

“Effective immediately, masks are no longer required at United on domestic flights, select international flights (dependent upon the arrival country’s mask requirements) or at U.S. airports,” UA said in a statement.

Delta Airlines announced it was no longer enforcing masks, which passengers aboard a flight applauded.

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Alaska Airline dropped its mask mandate, which the passengers greeted with enthusiasm.

Allegiant Air’s announcement got a similar reaction.

There is no significant evidence that mask mandates for the general public have led to a decline in case rates. In fact, this is one of the key points that caused the Biden administration to lose the Florida lawsuit to begin with.

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OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion.