WASHINGTON – White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday she expects the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will determine a mask mandate on planes is still needed, which would prompt the Justice Department to appeal a recent federal court decision that overturned the mandate.
“I would expect you’ll hear from the CDC very soon,” Psaki said at a White House press briefing.
Psaki noted that the CDC last week extended the mask mandate on public transit for 15 days through May 3 to gather more data on the nation’s spike in COVID-19 cases.
“So, I think we can all expect they’re going to continue to want it,” Psaki said. “The Department of Justice is just waiting for that kind of final comment to take action.”
The Justice Department said Tuesday it planned to appeal a Florida federal judge’s ruling that voided the federal mask mandate for travelers if the CDC believes masking remains necessary.
Psaki said an appeal is needed not just to preserve the 15-day extension of the mandate but to preserve “CDC authority over the long-term” in case the pandemic worsens again. “Because as we’ve noted from here, we expect there to be ups and downs of the pandemic. And we certainly want the CDC to continue to have this authority.”
The Biden administration has been weighing a decision to appeal after the federal judge in Florida said the mandate exceeded the authority of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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U.S. District Court Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle said the CDC failed to justify the order and didn’t follow proper rulemaking procedures.
As a result, the CDC said Monday that it would no longer enforce its order requiring masks on mass transportation systems, though it continued to recommend masks in “indoor public transportation settings at this time.”
Communication from federal agencies came late Monday, leaving crew and passengers to deal with a patchwork of rules as some transit agencies and ground transportation companies were left to decide their own policies.
By Tuesday, every major U.S. airline and many airports said they would no longer enforce face coverings. Uber, Lyft, Coach USA, Megabus, Greyhound and Amtrak no longer require face masks.
The federal mask mandate was announced in January 2021. Before the judge’s decision, the mandate was set to last through at least May 3. It required face coverings on airplanes, trains, buses and public transportation hubs.
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