he United States has scrapped its mask mandate on public transportation after a federal judge ruled the directive was unlawful.
Several major airlines have since relaxed rules forcing customers to wear face masks, following the ruling on Monday, with some eliciting cheers from passengers when the changes were announced over loudspeakers.
US District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, based in Tampa, Florida, said the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention failed to justify its decision and did not follow proper rule-making procedures in issuing the mandate.
In her 59-page ruling, Mizelle said the only remedy was to scrap the rule entirely across the country because it would be impossible to end it solely for the limited group of people who objected in the lawsuit.
The White House said the court ruling means that the mask order “is not in effect at this time”.
“This is obviously a disappointing decision,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters. “The CDC is recommending wearing a mask on public transit.”
The Transportation Security Administration said on Monday night it would it will no longer enforce the mask requirement, and airports in Houston and Dallas almost immediately did away with their mandates after the TSA announcement.
Los Angeles International Airport, the world’s fifth-largest by passenger volume, also dropped its mandate.
However, the Centers for Disease Control continued to recommend masking on transportation which LAX spokesman Heath Montgomery said is “good advice”.
Passengers on a Delta Air Lines flight between Atlanta and Barcelona cheered and applauded when a flight attendant announced the news mid-flight over the ocean.
“No one’s any happier than we are,” the attendant says in a video posted byDillon Thomas, a CBS Denver reporter, who was on the flight. She added that people who wanted to keep on their masks were encouraged to do so.
“But we’re ready to give ém up,” she added. “So thank you and happy unmasking day!”
New York City’s public transit system planned to keep its mask requirement in place. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority said it would make masks optional for riders on its buses and trains.
The Association of Flight Attendants, the nation’s largest union of cabin crews, has recently taken a neutral position on the mask rule because its members are divided about the issue. On Monday, the union’s president appealed for calm on planes and in airports.
“The last thing we need for workers on the frontlines or passengers traveling today is confusion and chaos,” union leader Sara Nelson said.
Nelson said it takes airlines 24 to 48 hours to put new procedures in place and tell employees about them. She said passengers should check with airlines for updates about travel requirements.
The mask requirement covered airlines, airports, mass transit and taxis, and was the biggest vestige of pandemic restrictions that were once the norm across the country.