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The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Tuesday it is appealing the recent court ruling that put an end to President Joe Biden‘s mandate for masking during air travel.
Biden’s DOJ, however, said that it will be appealing only if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concludes that it is necessary for the order to remain in place for the sake of public health.
‘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,’ the DOJ wrote in a Tuesday statement.
‘That is an important authority the Department will continue to work to preserve.’
Biden said travelers should decide for themselves whether or not to wear masks, minutes after stepping off Air Force One where the White House told staff and journalists they must continue to use face coverings a day after a judge struck the federal mandate.
A string of U.S. airlines has already told passengers that masks are optional.
Joe Biden’s Justice Department announced that, pending CDC review, it will appeal the court ruling to ditch the president’s requirement for masking to continue on airplanes
But that did not apply to anyone traveling with President Joe Biden to New Hampshire on Tuesday, who were instead instructed to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation to mask up.
‘During transit on today’s trip, masking will be required in line with CDC guidance,’ the White House said.
Biden is visiting the port authority at Portsmouth Harbor where he is due to deliver a speech on infrastructure spending, before returning to the White House in the evening.
But the president offered his own interpretation of the recommendations when he was asked at the airport in New Hampshire whether passengers should continue to wear masks.
‘That’s up to them,’ he said.
President Joe Biden left for New Hampshire today wearing a mask. The White House has told officials and journalists to wear masks aboard Air Force One, a day after a federal judge struck down the national mask mandate
Biden will visit the port authority at Portsmouth Harbor where he is due to deliver a speech on infrastructure spending, before returning to the White House in the evening
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki called the ruling a ‘disappointing decision’ during her briefing Monday afternoon and advised Americans to continue wearing masks on public transport
But it comes after a federal judge in Florida upended his administration’s pandemic policy on masks for traveler.
US District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle ruled the mandate was unlawful because it exceeded the authority of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The White House was quick to say that the masks should still be worn
‘We’re continuing to recommend people wear masks,’ said Press Secretary Jen Psaki soon after the ruling came out.
A day later she said it was up to the Department of Justice to decide whether to appeal the ruling.
‘I’m not gonna get ahead of the Department of Justice,’ she told reporters aboard Air Force One. ‘We’ll let them make any decisions or announcements.’
She said it typically takes a couple of days to react to a ruling.
‘The CDC continues to advise and recommend masks on aeroplanes. We’re abiding by the CDC recommendations,’ she continued.
‘The president is and we would advise all Americans to do that.’
The mandate had been due to expire on Monday before the CDC said was extending the rule until May 3 to allow for the study of the BA.2 omicron variant which is causing the majority of cases across the nation.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will not enforce a federal Covid-19 mask mandate on airplanes or public transportation after a federal judge in Florida struck down the mandate that applied to airports, airplanes and public transportation. Passengers are seen here at San Francisco International Airport on Tuesday
Passengers are pictured aboard an Atlanta-bound flight from DC Tuesday. Travelers are seen smiling as many go without masks, although some have opted to keep their face covering on despite Monday’s ruling to lift the mask mandate
A Delta captain and his Atlanta-bound crew smile as ahead of Tuesday’s flight. Travelers can fly without masks for the second day in a row after two years of pandemic-imposed restrictions
Such is the concern that Philadelphia recently announced it was bringing back its own mask mandate.
But the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which enforced the 14-months-long mask mandate for planes, buses, and trains, has already said it will no longer police the rule.
Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Spirit and JetBlue all now say masks are optional on their services.
Nor did it stop people posting pictures of them going maskless on Monday and Tuesday.
One man wrote: ‘I’m on Delta flight to NYC now and the plane absolutely went bonkers when Captain said NO NEED TO WEAR A MASK ON THIS FLIGHT. We are taking our country back!!!’
Ben Dietderich added, as he heard the announcement: ‘A wonderful moment mid flight on @alaskaair today!’
WHAT THE END OF THE MASK MANDATE ACTUALLY MEANS
Several air carriers welcomed the move to drop mask mandates on Monday.
The airlines have issued the following statements about their policies.
‘Face masks have been like boarding passes for nearly two years – you couldn’t fly without one. But, as of today, masks are optional in airports and onboard aircraft, effective immediately.
‘While we are glad this means many of us get to see your smiling faces, we understand some might have mixed feelings. Please remember to be kind to one another and that wearing a mask while traveling is still an option.’
‘Face masks will no longer be required for our customers and team members at U.S. airports and on domestic flights.
‘Please note face masks may still be required based on local ordinances, or when traveling to/from certain international locations based on country requirements.’
Delta Air Lines
‘Effective immediately, masks are optional for all airport employees, crew members and customers inside U.S. airports and onboard aircraft.’
‘We are relieved to see the U.S. mask mandate lift to facilitate global travel as COVID-19 has transitioned to an ordinary seasonal virus. Thank you for your support in complying with the federal mask mandate and keeping each other, and our customers, safe during the pandemic.’
‘Effective immediately, masks are no longer required at United on domestic flights, select international flights (dependent upon the arrival country’s mask requirements) or at U.S. airports.
‘While this means that our employees are no longer required to wear a mask – and no longer have to enforce a mask requirement for most of the flying public – they will be able to wear masks if they choose to do so, as the CDC continues to strongly recommend wearing a mask on public transit.’
‘Mask wearing will now be optional on JetBlue. While no longer required, customers and crew members are welcome to continue wearing masks in our terminals and on board our aircraft.’
‘Masks are now optional on domestic flights, however, certain airports or countries may still require masks, so check the policy at your destination prior to departure and we’ll see you in the sky.’
‘Southwest employees and customers will be able to choose whether they would like to wear a mask, and we encourage individuals to make the best decision to support their personal wellbeing.’
TSA no longer requires face masks on public transportation and in transportation hubs.
Several major airports – including Denver, Seattle-Tacoma, Raleigh-Durham, Miami, Portland and all three DC area airports – have confirmed that they will no longer be enforcing mask requirements.
Most airports seem to be following the new ruling, however, San Francisco has said it ‘will continue to comply with the current TSA security directive on masks until we hear otherwise from TSA.’
Chicago’s O’Hare airport also said Tuesday it was keeping its mask mandates in place, citing an Illinois executive order requiring face coverings.
‘The safety and security of passengers and employees is the highest priority for the Chicago Department of Aviation. The CDA will continue to follow, observe and enforce all guidance by federal, state and local health and security authorities.’
It is unclear if NYC’s two airports are continuing to impose the rule, although travelers on social media have suggested that the rule is no longer in place.
Passengers should check the local requirements at their departure and arrival airports before traveling as requirements may vary.
The US has dropped mask mandates for all trains nationwide.
In wake of Monday’s ruling, national train line Amtrak relaxed mask restrictions effective immediately.
Amtrak said in a statement that ‘masks are welcome and remain an important preventive measure against COVID-19. Anyone needing or choosing to wear one is encouraged to do so.’
Uber has made face masks optional for drivers and riders across the US.
The ride hailing app said in a statement Tuesday morning: ‘As of April 19, 2022, riders and drivers are not required to wear masks when using Uber.
‘However, the CDC still recommends wearing a mask if you have certain personal risk factors and/or high transmission levels in your area.
‘Remember: many people still feel safer wearing a mask because of personal or family health situations, so please be respectful of their preferences. And if you ever feel uncomfortable, you can always cancel the trip.’
Uber is the first ride share company to rescind its mask mandate.
Lyft also rescinded its mask policy, saying: ‘We know that everyone has different comfort levels, and anyone who wants to continue wearing a mask is encouraged to do so. As always, drivers or riders can decline to accept or cancel any ride they don’t wish to take.’
Megabus announced Tuesday that masks will no longer be required for drivers or passengers across the US.
‘The CDC still recommends wearing a mask while on public transit and we encourage customers to make the choice that makes sense for them.
‘Please be mindful that masks may still be required while traveling through the bus stations we serve. We are extremely thankful for everything our employees and customers did to keep each other safe over the course of the pandemic.
Nationwide bus carrier Greyhound has also rescinded its mask mandate, saying: ‘Face masks on all our buses and facilities is optional.
Greyhound will require masks on cross border trips until Canada and Mexico remove their requirements. They will also be required if mandated by local municipalities.
Local transit authorities in several major cities, including DC, have already lifted restrictions.
However, some cities, such as NYC, have opted to keep their mask mandates in place, following CDC guidance and local ordinances.
Travelers should check with their local bus system before boarding without a face covering.