Metra, CTA and Pace yet to make changes after judge overturns US mask mandate for travel and transit

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A federal judge’s decision to reject the government’s mask mandate on planes and public transportation took the transportation industry by surprise on Monday, with some local agencies sticking to the original guidelines for now.

“We are not making any immediate changes to the mask requirement while we assess the situation,” Metra spokesman Michael Gillis said.

Additionally, the Chicago Department of Aviation, which operates O’Hare and Midway International Airports, said it “will continue to follow, observe, and enforce all current and future directives from federal authorities, state and local health and safety”.

The Transportation Security Administration and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control had set May 3 as the expiration date for COVID-19 mitigation on transportation systems.

At the Pace commuter bus, “we’re getting our guidance from the TSA, so we’re waiting for their word,” spokeswoman Maggie Daly Skogsbakken said.

And, a Chicago Transit Authority official said, “Masks are still required on CTA trains and buses. If that requirement changes, we’ll let customers know.”


        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        

The ruling by Florida U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, appointed by former President Donald Trump, said the warrant was beyond the authority of the CDC, that the agency failed to improperly justify its decision and had not followed the development of the appropriate rules.

In her 59-page ruling, Mizelle said the only recourse was to overturn the rule entirely because ending it would be impossible for the limited group of people who opposed it in the lawsuit.

The judge said “a limited remedy would be no remedy at all” and that the courts have full authority to make a decision like this – even if the CDC’s goals in fighting the virus are laudable.

“Because our system does not permit agencies to act unlawfully even in pursuit of desirable ends, the court declares unlawful and voids the mask warrant,” she wrote.

The Justice Department declined to comment on Monday.

The CDC extended the mask’s mandate last week when it was due to end on Monday.

“The CDC continues to monitor the spread of the omicron variant, particularly the BA.2 subvariant which now accounts for more than 85% of cases in the United States,” CDC public affairs specialist Jasmine Reed said Wednesday. “Since early April, there have been increases in the seven-day rolling average of cases in the United States.

“In order to assess the potential impact of increased cases on serious illness, including hospitalizations and deaths, and health care system capacity, the CDC order will remain in place for the time being.”

The mask requirement for travelers has been the target of months of lobbying by airlines, which have sought to kill it. Carriers have argued that efficient air filters on modern planes make transmission of the virus during a flight highly unlikely. Republicans in Congress also fought to end the term.

Aviation industry stakeholders, including pilot unions, have argued that the mask rule now causes stress for the flying public and contributes to an increase in belligerent and violent behavior by passengers.

In 2021, the Federal Aviation Administration recorded a record 5,981 unruly passenger disruptions on flights. Of these, 4,290, or nearly 11.7 per day, were caused by people defying the mask rules.

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 require individuals to submit to the administration of medical products, procedures and devices against their will”. .”

• The Daily Herald news agencies contributed to this report.

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