Coronavirus: Biden administration will only appeal mask ruling if CDC believes mandate needed

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden’s administration said Tuesday that it will only appeal a federal judge’s ruling to void the national mask mandate covering airplanes and other public transportation if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believes it’s necessary, The Associated Press is reporting.

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In a statement Tuesday, Department of Justice spokesman Anthony Coley said the DOJ and CDC disagree with U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle’s ruling that the transportation mask mandate exceeded the authority of national health officials.

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“The department continues to believe that the order requiring masking in the transportation corridor is a valid exercise of the authority Congress has given CDC to protect the public health,” the statement read. “That is an important authority that the department will continue to work to preserve.”

The statement went on to say that if the CDC “concludes that a mandatory order remains necessary for the public’s health,” the Justice Department “will appeal the district court’s decision.”

Several major airlines, airports and attractions are making face coverings optional following the judge’s decision Monday, according to the AP. In a statement Monday night, the Transportation Security Administration said it “will no longer enforce its Security Directives and Emergency Amendment requiring mask use on public transportation and transportation hubs.”

The news came as the rate of new COVID-19 cases appeared to be rising domestically, according to The New York Times. As of Monday, the U.S. was averaging 39,152 new cases per day, up 43% from two weeks earlier, the newspaper reported. Fatalities, however, were on the decline. On Monday, the U.S. averaged 425 deaths per day – a decrease of 33% from 14 days earlier, the Times reported.

The CDC reported Monday that 65.9% of the U.S. population is considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19. About 45.4% of fully vaccinated residents have received a booster dose of a coronavirus vaccine, the agency said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.