June 10, 2023


The Biden administration will not rule out appealing Monday’s court ruling that overturned the federal mask mandate on airplanes and public transportation—which could result in the order going back into effect—as White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday the Department of Justice was still reviewing the decision.

Key Facts

Psaki told reporters federal agencies including the DOJ are “reviewing next steps” on the mask mandate, noting that “traditionally following a court decision, that can take a couple of days.”

The press secretary said the Biden administration still believes keeping the mask mandate in place until May 3 as the government had previously planned “is entirely reasonable, based on the science.”

Asked about social media reports of travelers cheering the end of the mask mandate on planes and immediately removing their masks, Psaki said “anecdotes are not data,” though she acknowledges they “tell part of the story.”

Psaki noted polls show a significant share of Americans want the mask mandate to stay in place, saying when it comes to the “politics” of repealing the mandate, “I don’t think there’s a concrete story at this point.”

President Joe Biden, asked Tuesday whether Americans should wear masks on planes, responded, “That’s up to them,” and when asked whether the DOJ should appeal the ruling said he had not yet consulted with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Bloomberg reports.

The Justice Department has not yet responded to a request for comment.

Crucial Quote

“Public health decisions shouldn’t be made by the courts,” Psaki said Tuesday. “They should be made by public health experts.”

What To Watch For

If the Biden administration appeals the case. But if an appeals court does put the mask order back into effect, it likely would come after the mandate was previously set to expire, on May 3.

Key Background

A federal district judge in Florida declared the transportation mask mandate unlawful on Monday, overturning the mask order days after the CDC had extended it by an additional two weeks. The ruling came as airline CEOs and GOP-led states had been pressuring the federal government to repeal the mandate, though multiple polls show approximately 60% of Americans still wanted to keep it in place. With the federal mask mandate no longer in place, a slew of major transportation companies immediately announced they would no longer require passengers to wear masks as a result, including major airlines, Amtrak and Uber—though the New York City subway system has kept its mask requirement intact.

Further Reading

Judge Declares Federal Public Transportation Mask Mandate Unlawful (Forbes)

Federal Mask Mandates For Airplanes, Transportation Dropped—But Americans Seem To Want Them, Polls Suggest (Forbes)

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