Twenty-one states on Tuesday sued the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other federal agencies to end the country’s much-debated mask mandate on public transportation.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, argues that the federal mandate exceeds the CDC’s authority and interferes with state laws banning forced masking.
“Florida has led the nation in standing up to misguided federal government policies and fighting back against heavy-handed mandates that have no scientific backing,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said in a press release announcing the action. “If politicians and celebrities can attend the Super Bowl unmasked, every U.S. citizen should have the right to fly unmasked. It is well past time to get rid of this unnecessary mandate and get back to normal life.”
The complaint — which names as defendants the CDC, the federal Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration, as well as the heads of each agency — seeks to end the mandate on public transportation and establish a permanent injunction against its enforcement.
“Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has made ‘unprecedented assertion[s] of power,’” the lawsuit states.
The CDC declined to comment. TSA, HHS and DHS did not respond to a request for comment.
Florida is joined in the suit by Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia.
“It’s long past time to alleviate some of the pressure on travelers and those working in the travel industry,” Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said in a statement.
In January 2021, the CDC ordered that masks be worn on all forms of public transportation, including planes, trains, boats and buses, as well as in all transportation hubs, such as airports and subway stations.
The mask requirement has remained in place even after the CDC announced a shift in Covid-19 guidance in February, saying most Americans are safe without a mask in indoor settings.
Earlier this month, TSA announced that it was extending the mask mandate for public transportation by one month. It is now set to expire on April 18.
That decision has been met with pushback from the airline industry.
Last week, the CEOs of several major airlines and cargo carriers called on the White House to end mask mandates and other Covid precautions for travelers.
Deon J. Hampton is a national reporter for NBC News, based in Cincinnati.