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DOJ files appeal to reinstate mask mandate on public transportation

This came after the CDC asked the DOJ to appeal the decision.
Published: Apr. 20, 2022 at 10:20 PM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - The Department of Justice has filed an appeal seeking to overturn a federal judge’s order that voided the nationwide mask requirement on planes and other modes of public transportation.

This came after the CDC asked the DOJ to appeal the decision.

The CDC announced a week ago that they were extending the travel mask mandate to allow more time to study the BA.2 subvariant of COVID-19, but on Monday, a Florida judge voided that extension.

Travel hubs in our area and across the country have been dropping their mandates as a result.

“It’s a horrible time to lift the mandate,” said CNN medical analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner.

Some health experts questioned the move by a Florida federal judge Monday to void the CDC’s mask mandate.

“Omicron has killed about one hundred fifty thousand people,” Dr. Reiner said. “In an average year, with a seasonal virus like the flu, we lose somewhere between thirty to fifty thousand people.”

The CDC had recently extended the nationwide mandate, which was set to expire Monday, until May 3rd to allow more time to study the BA.2 omicron subvariant.

However, a U.S. district judge argued that the mandate exceeded the statutory authority of the CDC and that the agency failed to justify its decision and did not follow proper rulemaking procedures, prompting airlines and public transportation companies to drop the requirement for travelers.

With the rapid spread of the new BA.2 subvariant, some now feel nervous to travel with the unmasked. Health experts argued that even if you yourself are masked, it is still risky.

“If someone’s not wearing a mask, even if you’re wearing a very high quality mask like this, an N95 mask, they’re infected,” said former Obama White House Health Policy Advisor Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel. “You have about an hour, hour and fifteen minutes of protection.”

The CDC said in a statement Wednesday that it is “continuing assessment that, at this time, an order requiring masking in the indoor transportation corridor remains necessary for the public health.”

A DOJ spokesperson responded to that, saying the department was filing an appeal in light of that assessment by the CDC.

The back and forth has been confusing for many, which a Flight Attendants Union spokesperson said has been difficult for its employees.

“There should be a more orderly transfer, and we’re really concerned about the chaos that this created,” said Sara Nelson, the International President of the Association of Flight Attendants.

It remains unclear whether the Biden Administration will ask the Appeals Court to grant an emergency stay, which would reimpose the mask mandate on public transit effective immediately.

This would come as a surprise to travelers and transportation workers who have just started lifting their mask requirements since Monday night.