Local public transit hubs enforcing mask mandate despite federal judge decision

The Justice Department said it will review the judge’s decision and decide whether or not to appeal it.
Published: Apr. 18, 2022 at 10:23 PM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - A federal judge in Florida has voided the national mask mandate on airplanes and other public transportation. This came less than a week after the CDC announced they were extending it until early next month.

The Justice Department said it will review the judge’s decision and decide whether or not to appeal it, but while that happens, the mask mandate is no longer in effect.

However, most local transportation hubs said that they are holding off on lifting their mandates.

Western Mass News checked in with Bradley International Airport over state lines in Connecticut to see how they plan to respond.

“It’s been a crazy couple of years,” said Martha Kelly of Storrs, Connecticut.

The mandate was set to expire Monday, but last week, the CDC extended it until May 3rd to allow for more time to study the BA.2 variant of COVID-19 which is causing case numbers to climb in the Northeast.

U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle argued the mandate exceeds the statutory authority of the CDC, and the agency failed to justify its decision and did not follow proper rulemaking procedures.

One passenger we spoke with at Bradley International Airport told us that she was not upset the judge ruled to void the mandate.

“I think people have lived through a couple of years of this, and if they decide that they want to go without, that’s their choice, and people who really want to wear one will,” Kelly said. “I think it’s got to move in that direction eventually.”

She said that she would probably still choose to wear a face covering, especially on a crowded flight.

While the Justice Department reviews the ruling, a Biden Administration official said the TSA will not enforce the mask requirement.

A spokesperson for Bradley told us that as of right now, their mask mandate remains in place, saying in part, quote:

“We continue to monitor and coordinate closely with our regulatory partners regarding any changes.”

We also checked in with Union Station in Springfield to see if they would continue to enforce the mask requirement. A spokesperson for the station told us in part, quote:

“Once we are confident the potential for appeal has passed and we have had the opportunity to coordinate with our transportation carriers, you will see any changes in the law reflected in our operating procedures at Union Station. At this time, we are choosing to proceed with caution in order to avoid unnecessary confusion for our patrons, passengers, and station tenants.”

Back at Bradley, others were not so sure about the judge’s ruling. One passenger said that he feels that the government should listen to the health agency.

“It’s definitely a health precaution, especially since COVID hasn’t gone anywhere,” said Arnaldo Falcon of New Haven, Connecticut. “I think they should probably keep it in place, especially if the CDC is doing what it is, recommending it.”

Delta, United, and Alaska Airlines have all announced that masks are now optional on their aircrafts, but airlines are warning that there may be inconsistent enforcement this week as it takes 1 to 2 days to put new procedures in place and employees may be receiving varying information.