US judge overturns mandatory mask mandate on planes, trains

Ruling suspends mask-wearing rule on public transit nationwide as judge says federal agencies exceeded their authority.

Masked travellers queue to pass through a security checkpoint at Denver International Airport [File: David Zalubowski/AP Photo]
A federal judge in the US state of Florida has ruled a United States government order requiring people to wear masks on public transportation is unlawful, overturning a Biden administration effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Last week, US health officials had extended by 15 days the mandate requiring travellers to wear masks on airplanes, trains, and in taxis, ride-share vehicles or transit hubs, saying they needed time to assess the effect of a recent rise in COVID-19 cases.

But a ruling on Monday by US District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle said the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had exceeded its authority with the mandate, had not sought public comment, and did not adequately explain the decision.

Mizelle’s ruling came in a lawsuit filed last year in Tampa, Florida, by a group called the Health Freedom Defense Fund, which has challenged state and federal vaccine and mask mandates in courts across the country.

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