Masks on a Plane
A federal judge struck down the Biden administration’s masking mandate for air travelers.
Democrats began a hard pivot on COVID back in January to create a positive run-up to Joe Biden’s State of the Union. They weren’t willing to completely give up all of their power, but they aimed for some loosening so they could tell voters about the victory they’d won over the pandemic. In some instances, they’re looking for passive wins — such is the case with the mask requirement on airplanes.
Democrats would rather lose a court case, decline to appeal, and save a “we told you so” for later if cases spike.
U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, an appointee of Donald Trump, on Monday issued a nationwide injunction against the CDC’s mask mandate on airlines and other public transportation. She ruled that the CDC had overstepped its statutory authority, for which it had pointed to the “sanitation” provision of the 1944 Public Health Service Act. She also said the CDC’s mandate violated the Administrative Procedure Act.
“Because ‘our system does not permit agencies to act unlawfully even in pursuit of desirable ends,’ the court declares unlawful and vacates the mask mandate,” Judge Mizelle wrote.
Within hours, Alaska, American, Delta, Frontier, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit, and United Airlines all announced they would no longer enforce mask mandates on flights, though any who wish are of course welcome to continue wearing one. Many pilots announced the policy change mid flight, eliciting cheers from passengers and prompting flight attendants to walk the aisles with trash bags collecting masks. Some airports were close behind in ditching enforcement. And a White House official conceded that the Transportation Security Administration “will not enforce its Security Directives and Emergency Amendment requiring mask use on public transportation and transportation hubs at this time.”
That doesn’t mean the White House pretended to be happy about it. “This is obviously a disappointing decision,” huffed Press Secretary Jen Psaki. “The CDC continues recommending wearing a mask in public transit.”
The CDC continues to be wrong and bereft of credibility.
As if to illustrate that point, Psaki made her complaint known while not wearing a mask among dozens of unmasked reporters in the White House briefing room. She did her level best to explain why people in one space didn’t need masks while people in another space did. And her level best was downright bad.
At about the same time the CDC extended the airline mask mandate, Biden opted to lift Title 42 when it comes to border enforcement. If the U.S. doesn’t need to turn away migrants at the border because of the pandemic, surely we don’t need to wear masks on airplanes.
The dirty little secret is that we never needed to wear masks on planes, or pretty much anywhere else, for that matter. “There’s no reason to be walking around with a mask,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci on March 8, 2020. He and all the other experts correctly thought the same thing before COVID was politicized and it became a moral imperative to “do something.”
In any case, the great news for air travelers is that, to borrow that famous Southwest Airlines catch phrase, you are now free to move about the country.
Update 4/20: So much for declining to appeal. The Biden administration announced it will, after all, appeal the ruling, though without asking for a stay on the injunction. In other words, people can remain unmasked until Team Biden shops for the right judge to put back the mask mandate.
“I’ll respect the ruling, but I’ll follow the science,” sniffed Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, meaning he’ll do exactly the opposite.
“Public health decisions shouldn’t be made by the courts — they should be made by public health experts,” lectured Jen Psaki, as Team Biden seeks a friendlier judge to make the “right” public health decision.
Maybe someone should alert President Biden to his administration’s stance. “Mr. President, should people continue to wear masks on planes?” a reporter asked him.
“That’s up to them,” Biden responded.
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