Well, here we are – talking about masks onboard airplanes again. The Justice Department, at the request of the CDC, will file an appeal to snap back the mask mandate – days later. Here is what we know and “why” this won’t work.
The Appeal to Bring Back the Mask Mandate
Where We Are Now
On Monday afternoon, federal judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle issued her ruling that the mask mandate was flawed in its application by the CDC with the Public Services Act of 1944.
Within short moments after the Biden administration appeared to accept that ruling and move on, pilots and flight attendants of flights in progress were announcing that the mandate had been lifted so masks were no longer required onboard. Since that time, apparently depending on the state and airport you are flying out of, mask use in airports and flights has gone way down. Flight attendants reportedly even been celebrating the lifting of the mandate with passengers in various social media postings that have been appearing.
It had appeared that the US had moved on from the mask requirement on federally-governed transportation – the only place left in the US where it was required by the government to wear masks. But, days later, the government has appeared to have an about face and has decided they will file an appeal on that ruling.
Why This Won’t Work Out
Now, before we get into this section, I will say again that I am not a lawyer. My area is travel and I am looking at all of this through that scope. If you are a lawyer, feel free to chime in below and correct any assumptions I make here!
The Government Missteps
First of all, I believe this is a majorly poor move by the Biden administration. The day before the notice of appeal was filed, President Biden had said that it is “up to them” – “them” being Americans – when it came to masking up during travel. This was the day after the judge blocked the mask mandate. That is one message sent by the White House and it hit the note of “do what you want to do.” In other words, the government isn’t telling you what to do on this one anymore.
Last night, Wednesday, the notice of appeal was filed in a federal court in Tampa. However, there was no word on whether the court would be asked to have an emergency stay granted that would allow the mask mandate to be put back into effect during the course of the appeal. This is another big mistake. If this appeal is about getting the mask mandate reissued due to any health concerns the CDC has about travel on airplanes/airports/trains, why would they not seek to have such a stay issued as quickly as possible?
Why This Long for CDC Assessment?
The CDC’s reasoning for this appeal is that it is “continuing assessment that at this time an order requiring masking in the indoor transportation corridor remains necessary for the public health.” Ok, then why wait 3 days to do an appeal? Why not apply for an emergency stay?
This assessment of the CDC should have been something that was being done on a regular basis since they just issued the mask extension last week through May 3. This was the shortest extension yet and it was largely anticipated that it would be the final extension. So, is the CDC doing constant assessments of the health risk or did they only start that after the court blocked the mask mandate? If they are monitoring constantly, like they have said they are, this should have been their argument right after the court blocked the mandate. Yet another poor move if the goal was reinstatement.
Why Now? Is It Because of the Poll?
The Biden administration was actually given a gift with this court order because the mask mandate was already a political hot potato and the closer these extensions get to the mid-term elections, the more hotly contested it would be on the political spectrum. So, by having the decision taken out of their hand, they didn’t have to deal with it anymore – win/win!
But, it is a bit funny that yesterday a poll came out that said that 56% of surveyed Americans favor having the mask mandate in place. Did this poll have something to do with the move to later file the notice of appeal? Either way, in my opinion, this poll was flawed in its questioning.
The question was not asked of TRAVELERS or people PLANNING to travel. It was to 1,085 adults without apparent regard to their travel habits. I know that there are many Americans who have halted air travel since the start of Covid due to fears about getting Covid during the course of their travels. I know that there are also many other Americans that do travel and will continue to mask. So, if 400 people asked have no plans for travel but like the idea of masks, that really skews the poll from those who travel and don’t want masks.
Why This Is Not Good
I have heard no end of reports from friends, readers, and social media that say that there are a majority of travelers that have opted to no longer wear masks. Furthermore, the flight crews have largely been in favor of the mandate being lifted and the airlines themselves are very happy about it. Many people have moved on from the whole mandatory use of masks on airplanes.
I am not saying that the appeal will not work. It very well may put the mask mandate back into effect. But, if it is put back into place, there may be only a week left until the extension is set to expire. If the CDC does let it expire, the CDC and the Biden Administration are going to look very foolish to fight for something – after letting many days go by with no masks – only to let it expire anyway.
But, this is going to be a huge problem for flight crews. Now, they would have to start enforcing something again that many have already been excited about it being over. How is this going to work out? You know that there will be many that will just not wear masks again – will these flight crews try to enforce it? Put them on do-not-fly lists? The airlines are already moving to let those that had been put on those lists allowed to fly again.
At the end of the day, if it is snapped back, this is going to cause huge damage in the trust factor of both pro-mask and anti-mask travelers. It is also going to cause more points of conflict onboard aircraft.
Personally, I feel that this will not end well – either for the administration or for the American traveler. The only thing I can imagine that will come of this is that the CDC will use this to extend the pre-departure testing since masks will no longer be used.
What are your thoughts on this latest turn of events?