TSA Will Not Enforce COVID Mask Mandate on Planes, Public Transit After Judge's Ruling

A federal judge in Florida voided the CDC mandate, which is no longer in effect as it is under review.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) mask mandate is no longer in effect and will not be enforced by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) after a federal judge in Florida voided the requirement in effect for planes, trains, and airports.

According to CNN, U.S. District Court Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle in Tampa ruled that the mask mandate, which has been prolonged several times, "violates the procedures required for agency rulemaking." While the ruling is being reviewed, the mask mandate will not be in effect, a Biden administration official confirmed to the network.

"The agencies are reviewing the decision and assessing potential next steps," the official said Monday night. "In the meantime, today's court decision means CDC's public transportation masking order is not in effect at this time."

It is unclear whether or not the U.S. Department of Justice will seek an order halting the ruling and file an appeal.

While airlines no longer have to enforce the mask mandate rule, United Airlines confirmed to Travel + Leisure that flight attendants "will be able to wear masks if they choose to do so, as the CDC continues to strongly recommend wearing a mask on public transit."

Alaska Airlines also released a statement on Monday announcing that mask-wearing is now optional.

Most recently, the mask mandate — which requires face coverings on public transportation including trains and ride shares — was extended to May 3 days before it was set to expire on Monday. The extension came as the overwhelming majority of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. — more than 85% — are due to a new omicron subvariant, also known as BA.2, according to the CDC.

Masks in airport
ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said Monday that the Biden administration still encourages passengers to wear face coverings even as the ruling is being reviewed.

"We would say to anyone sitting out there — we recommend you wear masks on the airplane," she said, adding, "As soon as we can provide an update from here, hopefully soon, we'll provide that to all of you."

As the mask mandate remained in place since the beginning of the pandemic, rules in public places like restaurants and indoor venues have since been lifted.

The last time the mask mandate was extended, the TSA said it was done at the recommendation of the CDC. Since then, several airline CEOs and travel groups have urged the Biden administration to lift pandemic-era restrictions, including mask requirements along with pre-arrival testing for international travelers.

Additional reporting by Alison Fox.

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