On April 19, 2022, a federal district court in Florida determined the federal mask mandate from the Biden Administration was unlawful and therefore void. The mandate required patrons to wear a mask on public transportation, like airplanes, trains, and buses. The federal judge presiding over the case determined the mandate exceeded statutory authority created under the Health Services Act of 1944. The opinion explained that the CDC had authority to take measures it deemed necessary to prevent the interstate spread of communicable diseases, but nothing authorized it to require people to wear or companies to enforce a mask mandate.
The court explained, “If Congress intended [to allow the imposition of a mask mandate under the statute], the power bestowed on the C.D.C. would be breathtaking.” Instead, the court determined that individual airlines and other transit entities ought to be left with the decision on whether to require passengers to wear a mask. Since this decision, many large airlines publicized that they would no longer be requiring mask usage during transit. Those airlines include American, United, Southwest, Delta, jetBlue, Alaska, Spirit, and Frontier. Additionally, Amtrak announced it would no longer require passengers or employees to wear a mask on the trains or at the stations, although “[a]nyone needing or choosing to wear one is encouraged to do so.”
At this time, no appeal has been filed; however, Norton Rose Fulbright lawyers will continue to provide relevant updates for healthcare providers on the Health Law Pulse during the COVID-19 public health crisis.