A Trump-appointed federal judge in Florida just struck down the CDC's mask mandate on planes and trains

  • A federal judge on Monday struck down the CDC's mask mandate for planes and trains.

  • The judge was appointed by President Donald Trump.

  • The Biden administration said TSA would stop enforcing the mandate immediately.

A federal judge on Monday struck down the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's face-mask mandate for airplanes and other modes of public transit.

Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle wrote in her decision that the CDC exceeded its statutory authority with the order.

"Our system does not permit agencies to act unlawfully even in pursuit of desirable ends," she wrote, acknowledging that the CDC imposed the mandate to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In response, the Biden administration said the Transportation Security Administration would stop enforcing the mandate but that "CDC recommends that people continue to wear masks in indoor public transportation settings."

It was not immediately clear whether the Justice Department would appeal the ruling.

"We're reviewing the decision and going to decline to comment any further," Danielle Blevins, spokeswoman for the agency, told Insider.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during her weekly press conference that the decision was "disappointing" and that CDC and the Department of Homeland Security were reviewing the ruling. The DOJ would determine next steps, she said.

Kimball Mizelle was appointed by President Donald Trump, and when she was nominated to the bench in 2020, she received a "not qualified" rating from the American Bar Association because she'd practiced law for only eight years — rather than the ABA's recommended 12 — and hadn't tried a case as lead attorney or cocounsel.

The anti-mask mandate lawsuit was filed in July by a nonprofit called Health Freedom Defense Fund, an organization that has sued to block other COVID-19 restrictions and mandates.

Two people in Tampa, Florida, were also listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit. They were Ana Daza, who said wearing a mask worsened her anxiety, and Sarah Pope, who said mask-wearing exacerbated her panic attacks.

In explaining her decision, Kimball Mizelle wrote in her 59-page opinion that the mask mandate was akin to "detention and quarantine," an authority the CDC typically invokes only for people entering the US from other countries. The mandate also doesn't take into account whether someone is infected with COVID-19, she wrote.

"They are forcibly removed from their airplane seats, denied boarding at the bus steps, and turned away at the train station doors — all on the suspicion that they will spread a disease," she wrote of maskless passengers.

Mask use has been one of the most debated topics of the pandemic. A total of 21 states, led by Florida, had also sued to end the mask mandate.

"Every US citizen should have the right to fly unmasked," Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Florida Republican, said in a statement accompanying a state lawsuit filed on March 29. "It is well past time to get rid of this unnecessary mandate and get back to normal life."

On Monday, DeSantis praised the judge's ruling in a statement that he also posted on Twitter.

"It's great to see a federal judge in Florida follow the law and reject the Biden transportation mask mandate," he said. "Both airline employees and passengers deserve to have this misery end."

The CDC didn't immediately respond to Insider's requests for comment.

The Biden administration has largely encouraged businesses and schools to return to normal and for people to mask indoors if they choose. Despite this change, the CDC extended the mask mandate for public transit through May 3. The Northeast is experiencing an uptick in COVID-19 cases because of the BA.2 Omicron subvariant.

The mandate applied to buses, trains, and airplanes.

United, Delta, American, Southwest, JetBlue, and Alaska Airlines all said after the TSA announcement that masks for passengers would now be optional on their planes.

In a Washington Post Live event Monday ahead of the ruling, Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said he hoped to soon see mask mandates end on flights.

"We're all hoping coming May 3 the mandate expires and the government puts it on individuals," Bastian said. "In other sectors of the economy, there are no masks. It just doesn't make sense."

The ruling comes as airlines have faced a surge in unruly customers.

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