The US Justice Department on Wednesday 20 April appealed a judge's ruling ending a mask mandate on public transportation and airplanes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the measure was still needed.
A US district judge ruled on Monday 18 April that the mandates, which apply to planes, trains and other public transportation, were unlawful. The Justice Department said that it would appeal the ruling if the CDC determined the 14-month-old mandate was still needed.
The Justice Department filed notice appealing the ruling to the 11th Circuit Court, but did not detail if it intended to seek an emergency order to reinstate the requirement or detail the grounds for the appeal.
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The CDC said on Wednesday 20 April that it had asked the Justice Department to proceed with the appeal and that "an order requiring masking in the indoor transportation corridor remains necessary for the public health."
Airlines quickly dropped the mandate Monday evening soon after the White House informed reporters and industry officials that the government would no longer enforce the mandate. Social media users posted videos of airline employees on some trips announcing the mandate had ended mid-flight with many cheering the news, while some expressed anger that the mask rules were abruptly dropped.
The mandate applied to planes, trains, ride-share vehicles and other public transportation and, prior to Monday 18 April's ruling, had been due to expire on 3 May unless the CDC sought a new extension.
The US Travel Association said Wednesday 20 April that "masks were critically important during the height of the pandemic" but in the current environment "required masking on public transportation is simply out of step with the current public health landscape."
The ruling followed other court judgments against Biden administration directives to fight the infectious disease that has killed nearly one million Americans, including vaccination or COVID testing mandates for employers.
The CDC also lost court battles on COVID-19 mandates, notably when the Supreme Court in August ended the pandemic-related federal moratorium on residential evictions.
Delta To Restore Flight Privileges To Passengers Barred Over Mask Violations
The above news followed news that Delta Air Lines DAL.N said on Wednesday 20 April that it plans to restore flight privileges to approximately 2,000 customers who were barred from flights after failing to comply with mask rules.
The Biden administration on Monday 18 April said it would no longer enforce a US mask mandate on public transportation and airlines after a federal judge struck down the directive as unlawful.
Atlanta-based Delta Reuters it will restore passengers "only after each case is reviewed and each customer demonstrates an understanding of their expected behavior when flying with us. Any further disregard for the policies that keep us all safe will result in placement on Delta's permanent no-fly list."
The change will not impact Delta's separate list of about 1,000 people "who demonstrated egregious behavior and are already on the permanent no-fly list."
Delta's announcement follows a similar decision by United Airlines UAL.O on Tuesday 19 April to allow some of the approximately 1,000 people who have been banned for not wearing masks to return to flights on a "case by case basis." Chicago-based United said those people would be allowed to return to flights "after ensuring their commitment to follow all crewmember instructions on board."
Delta said that of the 2,000 passengers barred over mask violations, "any further disregard for the policies that keep us all safe will result in placement on Delta's permanent no-fly list." The airline has urged the Justice Department to back a federal permanent no-fly list for those who exhibit egregious or violent behavior.
The Justice Department said Wednesday 20 April that it plans to appeal the order that forced the government to halt enforcement of the mask mandate.
The Federal Aviation Administration said separately on Wednesday 20 April that it plans to make a zero tolerance policy for unruly passengers adopted in January 2021 permanent.