A U.S. federal judge in Tampa ruled Monday the mandate from the Centers for Disease Control requiring passengers on board airplanes and other forms of public transportation to wear masks is unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle said the CDC exceeded their authority and did not abide by proper rulemaking when the so-called mask mandate was extended through May 3rd last week in response to an uptick of COVID cases brought on by the BA.2 omicron subvariant.
For weeks, airlines and Republican lawmakers have been fighting the mandate citing falling COVID cases and air filtration techniques on airplanes they say limit the chances of passengers becoming infected.
They also point out that mask requirements have been relaxed in other settings such as restaurants and workplaces.
The White House said they were disappointed by the decision and says the CDC still recommends masking in airplanes.
Press Secretary Jen Psaki says it will be up to the CDC and the Department of Justice whether the ruling will be appealed.
A number of airlines including Delta, United, Southwest and Alaska announced that masks are now optional on their planes under the ruling.
Currently, the positivity rate for COVID stands at 3.8%