October 4, 2022

Topline

A federal judge threw out the federal government’s mask mandate for airports, airplanes and other public transportation Monday, ruling the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention exceeded its authority by imposing the mask requirement days after the agency extended it another two weeks.

Key Facts

U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, issued a ruling that declared the mask mandate unlawful and set it aside by vacating the order and sending it back to the CDC “for further proceedings.”

The anti-mandate Health Freedom Defense Fund had sued the CDC and federal officials in July over the mask requirement, asking the court to declare the order unlawful and set it aside under the Administrative Procedure Act.

Mizelle ruled the CDC did not have authority to impose the mask mandate under the Public Health Services Act of 1944, claiming that the law only lets the CDC impose measures related to “inspection, fumigation, disinfection, sanitation, pest extermination [and]
destruction” to curb disease transmission and mask-wearing doesn’t fall under any of those.

The CDC also erred by not having an adequate public comment period before it imposed the mandate, Mizelle ruled, and argued the mask mandate is “arbitrary and capricious” because the agency didn’t sufficiently explain the reasoning behind imposing it.

While the federal government had asked Mizelle to just block the mandate as it applied to the plaintiffs suing to block it, the judge said she had to throw out the entire mandate because “the difficulty of distinguishing” the plaintiffs from other travelers “almost ensures that a limited remedy is no remedy at all.”

The CDC has not yet responded to a request for comment on the ruling and its practical implications, including whether the mask mandate is now no longer in effect.

Crucial Quote

“It is indisputable that the public has a strong interest in combating the spread of [Covid-19],” Mizelle wrote in her opinion, quoting a past ruling in a different case and noting the CDC imposed its mask mandate “in pursuit of that end.” The judge wrote the court still “declares unlawful and vacates the mask mandate” anyway, however, as “our system does not permit agencies to act unlawfully even in pursuit of desirable ends.”

This story is breaking and will be updated.

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