A total of 21 states filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday, as a means of blocking the federal COVID-19 mandate requiring masks for airline travel and other modes of public transportation.
The lawsuit represents another legal challenge against transport mask mandates that were originally implemented in February 2021, covering airports, buses, trains, transit hubs, and even ride-sharing vehicles, such as Uber or Lyft.
The current mask mandate, approved by the Biden administration, is set to expire on April 18.
On Tuesday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and state attorney general Ashley Moody discussed an overview of the lawsuit with the media. The other states participating in the legal challenge: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia.
“You have this federal rule, which was just extended, that’s still forcing people to wear masks on airplanes,” said DeSantis. “It’s not something that’s grounded in any science.”
Citing one example of the mandate hypocrisy, DeSantis relayed how one hypothetical plane passenger could slowly eat peanuts for the entirety of a two-hour flight, without ever donning a mask. However, another passenger, perhaps sitting one or two seats over, would have the federal obligation of wearing a mask for the entire flight — if they chose not to eat or drink anything.
This federal mandate “has turned the airlines into having to police this,” says DeSantis, while acknowledging the majority of recent fights breaking out on flights, or at the terminal gates, have been mask-mandate-related. “A lot of unruly passenger situations.”
DeSantis says Florida has remained No. 1 in U.S. tourism since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, dating back to March 2020. However, other states would enjoy even more tourism success without the federal mask mandate.
“We need to let people live their life,” said DeSantis, before adding, “More people would want to fly, if they didn’t have [the mask mandate] for two hours.”
Moody characterized the airline mask mandate as an “order that’s completely out of bounds with the scope of federal power.”
As such, the lawsuit is “meant to push back on, yet again, another unlawful power grab from the Biden administration,” says Moody.
Florida has had success with previous legal challenges of federal mandates that never pushed through the Congress or Senate. In July 2021, the state won its lawsuit against the federal government, which tried to force an extended shutdown of the cruise-line industry.