A U.S. federal judge has ruled a national mask mandate on airplanes and other public transportation is not lawful, overturning a Biden administration policy.
The ruling Monday by U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle in Tampa, Florida, said health officials had exceeded their authority in issuing the mandate.
The judge said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) failed to properly justify its decision and did not follow procedures in issuing the mandate.
Earlier this month, the CDC extended its mask mandate on public transportation by 15 days until May 3. Health authorities said they needed time to assess the impact of the BA.2 omicron subvariant of the coronavirus, which is causing cases to rise in some parts of the country.
The mask mandate, which was first issued in February 2021, covers airplanes, trains, transit hubs, taxis and ride-share vehicles.
Mizelle was appointed by former President Donald Trump. The lawsuit against the mask mandate was filed last year in Florida by a group called the Health Freedom Defense Fund.
Airlines had lobbied for months for federal officials to end the mask mandate, arguing that advanced filters on planes make transmission of the coronavirus on flights unlikely.
It is not clear if the judge’s order would take immediate effect or if the Biden administration would attempt to block the ruling.
The White House and the CDC did not immediately comment on the judge’s decision.
Some information in this report came from the Associated Press and Reuters.