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Masks on Public Transport – Needed or Not?

A judge says Americans no longer need to wear masks on public transport, but not everyone agrees.

By:  |  April 22, 2022  |    655 Words
GettyImages-1304112041 bus mask sign

(Photo by Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images)

Americans no longer need to wear face masks on public transport – at least for now. Due to the COVID pandemic, the federal government passed a law demanding that passengers wear masks on trains, planes, buses, and other public transport vehicles since January 2021. A Florida judge recently canceled the law – but another court could bring it back.

The Court Ruling

The mask mandate was created by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which said that everyone using public transport must wear a face covering to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The rule also said that people at transport hubs – such as airports, subway stations, or bus terminals – must also wear a mask. Nobody knows when the CDC planned to end the rule, but it was extended to at least May 3.

subway mask public transport

(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Several airlines had asked President Biden to end the rule, and 21 states also took action to try to end it.

Now, Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle has struck down the CDC’s transport rule, saying it is against US law. Judge Mizelle said she canceled the mask mandate because the CDC had not explained why it was necessary to keep the rule in place. She decided the CDC had broken US law by failing to explain why its rule was needed.

President Joe Biden and the CDC disagree with the judge. The Department of Justice said it would appeal the decision on the CDC’s behalf. That means it will take the matter to a higher court and try to have the mask rule brought back.

Branches of Government in Action

How come a judge was able to end a rule created by the CDC? This is possible due to the United States’ three branches of government. Under this system, the Judicial branch (the courts), the Executive branch (the president and his agencies), and the Legislative branch (Congress) compete for power.

While the Legislative branch is the one responsible for creating laws, the Executive branch does get to make certain rules without Congress – such as the CDC creating rules to do with health and diseases. However, if someone thinks one of these rules is outside the power of the Executive, they can complain to the Judicial branch. The courts then hear the case and decide whether the Executive has acted legally or not. In this case, Judge Mizelle decided the mask rule was not legal.

Since the Executive disagrees with one judge in the Judicial branch on this matter, it will try to get another judge to reverse the decision.

What Now?

For now, the US government can no longer make people wear masks when using public transport. However, travelers can still wear masks if they want to.

Businesses can still ask their customers and employees to wear the face coverings, but a range of air transport companies said they will stop asking people to wear the masks. This includes Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue, and others.

“Effective immediately, masks are optional for all airport employees, crew members and customers inside U.S. airports and onboard aircraft,” Delta Air Lines said in a statement.

Airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on certain flights, such as those traveling to countries with strict COVID rules.

Flying isn’t the only mode of transport affected by the change. The Amtrak rail service has said masks will now be optional for passengers and staff, even though the company encourages people to wear the face coverings.

Other transport systems are affected by local rules. For example, New York trains still require passengers to wear masks, while New Jersey Transit does not. If you are planning to use public transport soon, it’s a good idea to check the rules in your area.

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