Justice Dept. says it may appeal ruling to lift mask mandate on planes

The U.S. Department of Justice on Tuesday said it plans to appeal a federal judge’s decision to overturn a federal mask mandate on planes and other public transit.

The Justice Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expressed disagreement with U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle’s decision Monday to block the ruling if the CDC concludes that it “remains necessary for public health” following a review.

“The Department continues to believe that the order requiring masking in the transportation corridor is a valid exercise of the authority Congress has given CDC to protect the public health,” Justice Department spokesman Anthony Coley said in a statement. “That is an important authority the Department will continue to work to preserve.”

The Justice Department, however, said it would not request a stay, meaning masks will not be required on public transit while the appeal is considered.

Last week, the CDC announced it would extend the mask mandate for airlines, trains and other transit systems until May 3, citing rising COVID-19 cases in the United States.

Mizelle on Monday ruled the administration lacks the statutory power to impose the mask mandate under the 1944 Public Health Service Act, which allows the government to impose restrictions in the interest of “sanitation.”

Several airlines quickly announced that masks would be optional on their flights in the wake of the ruling as did Amtrak and rideshare companies Uber and Lyft.

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