Biden government to appeal ruling lifting mask mandate on transport

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The United States government is appealing a court ruling that controversially lifted a federal mask mandate on public transportation earlier this week, the Justice Department said Wednesday.

After the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the country’s main health agency, determined that masks “remain necessary to protect public health,” the ministry filed an appeal, spokesman Anthony Coley said.

A US federal judge on Monday overturned the Covid-19 mask mandate, saying it exceeded the CDC’s legal authority.

Policymakers in Washington had just decided a week before to extend it to May 3.

While the public has a “strong interest” in fighting the spread of Covid, the mask mandate “exceeded the legal authority of the CDC” and “failed to adequately explain its decisions,” U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball ruled. Mizelle of the Middle District of Florida said in her decision.

Several major airlines have subsequently dropped mask requirements on domestic flights and some international flights, while ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft and passenger rail Amtrak have also announced an end to masking mandates.

When Covid-19 first arrived in the United States in 2020, masks quickly became one of the defining political issues of the pandemic.

Mask policies across the country are a hodgepodge, often in the hands of local officials. But the entire federal government has stuck to the mandate for planes, trains and buses.

This has caused major concerns for transport staff, especially on planes, who have encountered passengers who were reluctant to disguise themselves – some of whom were violent.

The Federal Aviation Administration, the agency responsible for the safety of U.S. air transportation, has received 744 reports of mask-related incidents so far this year.

The government’s appeal could cause further concerns after the mandate is lifted and potentially create tensions for travelers if the mandate is reinstated.

The CDC “continues to recommend that people wear masks in all public transportation settings,” it said in a statement.

“As we said before, wearing masks is most beneficial in crowded or poorly ventilated locations, such as the transport aisle.”

The health service said it would continue to assess the situation to determine whether such a requirement remains necessary in the future.

The United States is currently experiencing another surge in daily Covid-19 cases linked to the BA.2 subvariant of Omicron.

Polls suggest continued majority support for inner mask mandates, but with a clear minority opposing.

A YouGov America poll on April 18 found that 63 percent “strongly” or “somewhat” support the US government’s requirements for masks on public transportation.

(AFP)

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