21 states file lawsuit to end transport mask mandate

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Twenty-one states filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking an immediate end to a federal mandate that requires people to wear masks when traveling by plane, bus, subway and other modes of public transportation.

The effort in mostly Republican-run states is the latest effort to abolish the mandate, put in place in February 2021, shortly after President Biden took office. The mandate was extended this month until April 18.

“Faced with a government that displays utter disregard for the limits of its power — particularly in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic — the plaintiffs seek the vacancy of this mask mandate and a permanent injunction against its enforcement,” reads the pursuit.

It names the heads of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Transportation Security Administration, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Homeland Security as plaintiffs.

In recent weeks, the CDC has updated its guidance on masking, and states have largely dropped requirements to do so in public places. The mask requirement for transport settings is one of the most high-profile pandemic-related federal mandates still in place.

Extended mask mandate for air travel and public transport

Efforts to end the mandate gained momentum in in recent days, including from groups that previously supported the demand. Last week, executives from 10 airlines, including American Airlines, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines, sent a letter to Biden urging him to end pandemic-related travel policies, including the mask mandate.

This month, the American Public Transportation Association also sent a letter to the White House encouraging the administration to reevaluate the mask policy.

The new 30-page complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Florida calls the mandate “arbitrary and capricious,” calling the Biden administration’s rationale “paper thin.”

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He argues that the requirement conflicts with the power of states to enact their own rules and has forced states to spend resources enforcing it or face fines. The lawsuit also argues that the CDC failed to consider “lesser alternatives” when issuing the warrant.

“The CDC should have considered which types of transport are most likely to contribute to interstate spread,” the lawsuit said. “Instead, the CDC treated buses carrying toddlers to daycare and interstate flights as if they posed the same risk of spreading COVID-19 across state lines.”

The TSA said in a statement Tuesday that the agency would not comment on pending litigation. CDC, HHS and Homeland Security officials did not respond to requests for comment.

In announcing the mask requirement through April 18, the Biden administration said the CDC would work with the TSA to determine what policy changes are warranted.

The 21 states that filed the lawsuit include Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi , Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, and the West. Virginia.

Children under 2 and people with certain disabilities are exempt from the mask requirement.

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