LOS ANGELES - A federal judge’s decision to strike down a national mask mandate was met with cheers on some airplanes but also concern about whether it’s really time to end one of the most visible vestiges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The major airlines and many of the busiest airports rushed to drop their requirements on Monday after the Transportation Security Administration announced it wouldn’t enforce a January 2021 security directive that applied to airplanes, airports, taxis and other mass transit.
But the ruling still gave those entities the option to keep their mask rules in place, resulting in directives that could vary from city to city.
For travelers at the Los Angeles International Airport, most passengers opted to keep their masks on.
"I think you should have a mask on," a passenger told FOX 11’s Mario Ramirez. "For me, it’s not even about COVID, it’s about just colds and germs."
In a 59-page lawsuit ruling, U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle in Tampa said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention overstepped its authority in issuing the original health order on which the TSA directive was based. She also said the order was fatally flawed because the CDC didn’t follow proper rulemaking procedures.
Mizelle, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, said the only remedy was to throw out the mandate for the entire country because it would be impossible to end it only for the people who objected in the lawsuit.
The White House said the mask order "is not in effect at this time" and called the court decision disappointing.
The Justice Department declined to comment on whether it would seek an emergency stay to block the judge’s order. The CDC also declined to comment.
United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Alaska Airlines all quickly announced they were yanking the mask requirement for domestic and some international flights. So did American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and JetBlue Airways.
Major airports dropped their requirements but sided with the CDC in recommending that people be voluntarily masked. They included Los Angeles International Airport, the world’s fifth-busiest by passenger volume, and Salt Lake City International Airport, which announced it would hand out masks to anyone requesting them.
The wearing of masks aboard airplanes sparked online flame throwing between those who felt they were crucial to protecting people and those who saw it as an unnecessary inconvenience or even government overkill.
Some flight attendants found themselves cursed and even attacked by passengers who refused to comply.
The lawsuit was filed in July 2021 by two plaintiffs and the Health Freedom Defense Fund, described in the judge’s order as a nonprofit group that "opposes laws and regulations that force individuals to submit to the administration of medical products, procedures and devices against their will."
FOX 11's Mario Ramirez and Digital Team contributed to this report.
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