Twenty-one states led by Florida filed a lawsuit this week in U.S. District Court against multiple U.S. agencies to overturn the federal mask mandate that has been in effect at airports, airplanes and all public transportation since January. 2021, when the Biden administration implemented the mandate as an official federal settlement.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently extended the mask mandate on airlines and public transportation, which was due to expire on March 18. The new expiration date is set for April 18, and the new lawsuit could pressure the administration to let the warrant expire.
The lawsuit, filed in the Tampa Division of the U.S. District Court for the Intermediate District of Florida, claims overbreadth by the CDC, the Departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services as well as Transportation Security Administration, alleging that the agencies relied on previous narrow laws to impose “economy-wide mask requirements…in transportation hubs and when traveling on non-private transportation that includes planes, trains, road vehicles and ships”.
States have pointed to the economic harm caused by the warrants, citing the cruise industry and destinations that rely on that industry to support local commerce as an example.
According to data firm Statista, revenues for major cruise lines for the year 2021 remained nearly 90% below 2019 levels, even after the CDC cleared a travel ban order to expire. sail six months in October 2020 and set a course to start sailing again. in 2021 with a mask mandate in place. The CDC allowed federal masking requirements for cruise ships to expire on Jan. 15 of this year, and cruise lines individually began relaxing their own masking rules in March.
The lawsuit delved into the terminology of ‘economy-wide mandates’ to characterize the ongoing mask mandate on airlines and public transportation and cited the Supreme Court’s ruling in a lawsuit filed in August 2021 regarding the CDC’s moratorium on evictions to support his characterization. He also pointed to recent exclusions such as public school buses, for which the CDC lifted masking requirements in February. Plaintiffs’ attorneys also pointed to the potential effects of masking on young children, including largely debunked claims as “reduced oxygenation.”
The ongoing masking mandate for airlines alone is unlikely to have hindered the industry’s recovery. TSA checkpoint numbers recent months are between 10-15% of 2019 volumes and have exceeded 2019 volumes on some days. That said, the airlines, which individually imposed masking requirements for crew and passengers starting in May 2020, are now pleading with the Biden administration to allow mask mandates to expire on April 18.
A heavily worded letter signed by several airline CEOs says the warrants have lost their usefulness. The letter goes further, however, by also pushing the administration to relax Covid-19 testing requirements for international travellers, citing recent changes in the UK and European Union to lift Covid-19 travel restrictions.