A US federal court annuls the use of the mask in transport

A federal court in Florida has rescinded the extension for 15 days of the mandatory use of masks in airplanes, trains, buses and other means of public transport, as well as in airports and stations, that had been announced last week by the Biden Administration, following the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to stem a surge in COVID-19 cases. The judge has argued that the 14-month directive was illegalnullifying an effort the White House called key to slowing the spread of COVID-19. The CDC said it was extending the order, which was due to expire on April 18, until May 3 to study the omicron BA.2 subvariant. which is now responsible for the vast majority of cases in the country. The White House called the ruling “disappointing.”

The ruling by US District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, an appointee of President Donald Trump, came during a lawsuit filed last year in Tampa, Florida, by the group Health Freedom Defense Fund.

Judge Mizelle said the CDC had overstepped its authority with the mandate, failed to consult publicly, and failed to adequately explain its decisions. However, the administration can still choose to appeal the order or seek an emergency delay in its execution.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) immediately complied with the Federal Court’s decision. According to an official, in relation to the use of masks inside the planes, it is optional, so each airline will establish its own policy. So the provision could vary depending on the airline. “So far, United Airlines, Delta, Southwest, American Airlines, JetBlue, Spirit, Frontier and Alaska Airlines have announced that they have complied with the judicial determination on the use of masks, so they will not require them compulsorily.

The ruling comes as COVID-19 infections rise again in the United States, with a daily average of 36,251 cases and an average of 460 deaths a day in the past week, the highest number of total deaths reported from COVID-19. 19 in the world.

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United Airlines, American, Delta, Southwest Airlines, JetBlue and Alaska Airlines have all said that wearing masks is now optional on their planes.

“We are relieved to see the US mask mandate lifted to facilitate global travel, as COVID-19 has transitioned into an ordinary seasonal virus,” Delta said. The World Health Organization has warned against comparing the virus to an endemic disease such as the flu.

The move could affect travel demand, which has spiked again after a slump caused by the Omicron variant of the coronavirus. US passenger traffic has been at an average of about 89% of pre-pandemic levels since mid-February, according to TSA data.

With the COVID-19 case count rising again, lifting the mandate could make some passengers wary, while prompting others to fly again.

Since January 2021, there have been a record 7,060 reported unruly passenger incidents, 70% involving masking rules, according to the FAA. Thousands of passengers have been placed on “no fly” lists for refusing to comply with masking requirements.

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