US: Repealing mask obligation on public transportation

A US judge declared Monday that the federal obligation to wear a face mask on public transportation in the United States is illegal, a measure that the court has fought hard.

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United Airlines subsequently announced that a mask would no longer be mandatory on its domestic flights.

Judge Katherine Kimball-Maisel, sitting in Tampa, Florida, considered in her ruling that the US Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), the main federal health agency, had exceeded its powers by enforcing this obligation, which specifically applies to planes, trains, metros and coaches. .

United Airlines said Monday that it will no longer require masks to be worn on its flights within the United States, and on certain international flights, depending on the rules in the country of arrival.

This means that our employees no longer have to wear masks – or impose them on passengers, in most cases. They can choose to wear one, especially since the CDC continues to strongly recommend it on public transportation,” said a spokesperson for the US group, which was among the first to impose a Covid vaccine on its employees.

The Joe Biden administration has recently found itself under increasing pressure to relax or undo the mask requirement. Twenty Republican-led states and several major airlines have called for an end to the measure on planes and other public transportation.

But last week, federal authorities finally made the decision to extend mask requirements until at least May 3.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Judge Meisel’s decision was “disappointing,” noting that “the CDC continues to recommend the wearing of a mask on public transportation.”

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According to a senior White House official, the decision “means that the mask-wearing order issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on public transportation is not in effect at this time.”

The senior official, who asked not to be identified, said the Transportation Security Agency, TSA, would not implement that obligation.

The Justice Department, which could appeal, did not immediately respond.

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