NPR – In a startling rebuke to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a federal judge in Florida on Monday struck down an agency order that required people nationwide to wear masks on public transportation to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The travel mask mandate had been in place for 14 months, implemented shortly after President Biden’s inauguration, and was a key part of the country’s response to the pandemic. The decision strikes at the heart of the CDC’s mission.
In court documents, the judge described the order as “unlawful” and claimed “the Mask Mandate exceeds the CDC’s statutory authority.”
The news of the ruling was celebrated by some – videos of airline passengers ripping off their masks and rejoicing trended online.
The judge who tossed mask mandate misunderstood public health law, legal experts say
But the decision against the CDC raised concerns in the public health community. It’s the latest in a series of challenges to the agency’s authorities that could hamstring its ability to respond to this pandemic and public health crises to come.
Lindsay Wiley, a health law professor at University of California, Los Angeles, said:
“It’s stunning, the extent to which the courts are reading federal statutes in the most cramped, narrow way possible to sharply limit the powers that the federal government can exercise now or in response to future emergencies.”
The CDC and Justice Department disagree with the mask ruling and are proceeding with an appeal. In the CDC’s assessment, “an order requiring masking in the indoor transportation corridor remains necessary for the public health,” the agency said in a statement.
Further, “CDC believes this is a lawful order, well within CDC’s legal authority to protect public health.”
In the face of an unprecedented pandemic, the public health agency has flexed its regulatory powers to issue sweeping, legally binding orders …