Florida judge voids US mask mandate for travel


An airport in Florida

On April 18, 2022, U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle struck down a federal mask mandate for planes and other modes of public transportation in the state of Florida. The judge’s order allowed airlines, airports, and public transportation systems operating in Florida to make their own decisions about mask requirements and resulted in a variety of responses. Mizelle wrote in a 59-page decision that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has overstepped its authority and failed to follow proper rulemaking procedures. As a result of Mizelle’s judgment, U.S. airlines and other transportation hubs soon dropped their mask mandates. 

Mizelle is a member of the Middle District of Florida’s District Court. At the age of 33, she was nominated by former President Donald Trump in September 2020. The American Bar Association (ABA) stated during her Senate confirmation hearings that she was unqualified for the position since she had not practiced law for long enough. ABA recommended that federal judge nominees have to have at least twelve years of legal experience, but Mizelle was nominated for her current position with only eight years of experience. 

Mizelle wrote that the only solution was to repeal the regulation nationwide since it would be difficult to change Covid-19 guidelines in favor of the small groups of people who protested in the complaint. Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, told reporters, “This is obviously a disappointing decision. The CDC is recommending wearing a mask on public transit.” The airlines spent months fighting against the federal mask rule for travelers, hoping to have it repealed. They stated that modern planes have effective air filters, making transmission of the virus during a journey extremely unlikely. Republicans in Congress resisted the mandate as well. Despite the fact that states have extracted rules requiring masks in restaurants, stores, and other indoor settings, COVID-19 cases have dropped sharply since the Omicron variant peaked in mid-January. Critics have seized on the fact that states have rolled back rules requiring masks in restaurants, stores, and other indoor settings.

Ultimately, the CDC has extended the mask mandate until May 3, 2022, in an attempt to give researchers more time to investigate the new B.A.2 Omicron subvariant of the Coronavirus. This variant is now responsible for the great majority of infections in the United States.