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U.S. judge lifts mask mandate on public travel

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Posted: Tuesday, April 19, 2022. 10:19 am CST.

PHOTO CREDIT: Christopher Oquendo/Daily Mail (UK)

By Aaron Humes: There were cheers – and fears – over the announcement on Monday by U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle that mandates to wear masks on public transport and particularly airplanes are beyond the remit of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and that its continued enforcement is illegal.

According to the Daily Mail (UK), the White House and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) which manages passengers at airports, will not challenge the ruling, although individual airlines and airports can continue to enforce it as they see fit.

Belize lifted all mask and other mandates on April 1 when Statutory Instrument No. 61 of 2022 was enacted, replacing and repealing S.I. No. 37. They are now only required by certain banks and agencies as well as hospitals including the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital. Tourists need only show proof of full vaccination, health insurance, and other particulars before being allowed to enter Belize.

So far, the Mail says, all major US carriers have chosen to scrap the mask rule, with passengers filmed cheering with delight at the news.

Judge Mizelle found that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) had failed to justify its ‘unlawful’ mask policy, stretched the meaning of ‘sanitation’ in the law to encompass face coverings, and did not follow proper rulemaking procedures that left it fatally flawed. She added that the only remedy was to vacate the rule entirely across the country because it would be impossible to end it for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, two individuals and the non-profit Health Freedom Defense Fund.

The CDC had issued the mandate in February 2021 and it was due to expire next month after it was extended multiple times at the request of President Joe Biden. Now operators can decide their own policy on mask-wearing, pending a potential appeal to the ruling by the US Department of Justice.

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; however, San Francisco has said it ‘will continue to comply with the current TSA security directive on masks until we hear otherwise from TSA,’ and there has been no official word from either of New York City’s major airports, La Guardia and John F. Kennedy International. Passengers should check the local requirements at their departure and arrival airports before traveling as requirements may vary. On Monday, it was announced that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will no longer enforce masks on public transit – though the CDC still recommends them.

While many rejoiced, some said more notice should have been given and others expressed concern about exposure to persons who may be unvaccinated and potentially carrying the virus, which has seen a resurgence in recent weeks.

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