Federal judge voids national mask mandate for travelers

TAMPA, Fla. — A federal judge in Florida has voided the national mask mandate covering airplanes and other public transportation as exceeding the authority of U.S. health officials, The Associated Press reported.

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Here are the latest updates:

Update 9:27 p.m. EDT April 18: 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 agency added that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “continues to recommend that people wear masks in indoor public transportation settings at this time.”

Update 8:07 p.m. EDT April 18: The White House said Monday that the mandate “is not in effect at this time,” according to the AP. However, White House press secretary Jen Psaki called the decision “disappointing,” adding that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends that people wear masks on public transit, the AP reported.

In response to the news, several major airlines, including Delta, Alaska, United, American and Southwest, announced that masks are now optional on U.S. flights.

“Following the ruling of a U.S. district court judge on Monday, April 18, the Biden administration announced that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will no longer enforce the federal mandate requiring masks in all U.S. airports and on board aircraft,” Delta said in its announcement. “Effective immediately, masks are optional for all airport employees, crew members and customers inside U.S. airports and on board aircraft, as well as on most international flights.”

The airline added: “Delta employees and customers may continue wearing masks if they so choose. Wearing a well-fitting mask protects the wearer, even if others around them are not wearing masks.”

Original report: U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle also said that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention improperly failed to justify its decision and follow proper rulemaking, the AP reported.

The CDC recently extended the mask mandate, which was set to expire on April 18, until May 3. The mask mandate was extended to allow more time to monitor the spread of the BA.2 omicron subvariant of the coronavirus, now responsible for the vast majority of cases in the U.S.

According to CNN, it’s not known at this time if the government will appeal the decision or how quickly the ruling will be implemented at airports or train stations across the country.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.