News Release

Mask Mandate on Public Transportation


The Biden administration is appealing the decision by a federal judge in Florida who ruled a mask mandate on public transportation unlawful. The surprise ruling led to announcements by airlines and Amtrak that they were dropping the mandate. The ruling also led the Transportation Security Administration to stop enforcing the mandate

The Justice Department filed notice of plans to appeal the decision on Wednesday, after the CDC stated that the mask mandate remains necessary for public health.

    Adler-Bolton is a blind/low vision and chronically ill disability justice advocate. She is the co-host of the Death Panel podcast. 

The Institute for Public Accuracy reported on the public-health drawbacks of lifting the federal transportation mask mandate early this month.

Adler-Bolton told the Institute for Public Accuracy today: “This week U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle struck down the CDC’s transportation mask mandate using a bizarre misinterpretation of the 1944 Public Health Service Act, essentially claiming that the point of all public health interventions is to administer public sanitation — which, Mizelle argued, masks do not do. Mizelle framed the issue as being about the freedom of travelers who, like plaintiff Ana Daza, have ‘anxiety aggravated by wearing a mask.’ The argument Mizelle is making is common among Covid-denialist and anti-vaccine pundits and furthers the inaccessibility of our built environment in the Covid-era. 

    “Reluctantly, the Biden administration has announced that they plan to fight this ruling. Their significant delay was the cause of much alarm among disabled, immunocompromised, or otherwise medically vulnerable people, and the people in their lives. The removal of mask mandates––in terms of both the additional physical, biological, and economic barriers it introduces and the additional burden of higher levels of community viral transition––is a retrenchment of social rights for the medically vulnerable. 

    “A mask mandate on all publicly accessible transportation is well within the CDC’s rights under the 1944 Public Health Service Act. It is also a necessary requirement to protect the vulnerable as cases rise all around us. Now is the time to increase our demands and increase the pressure on the politicians, systems, institutions and entrenched corporate interests which have all the power here.”

Kristin Urquiza––cofounder of Marked By COVID, an activist group that advocates for the needs of those most harmed by the pandemic––added in a public statement that after the mask mandate ended, “immunocompromised [people] were thrown into unexpected danger… For some, it meant suddenly being trapped with no escape and no ability to make a decision for their health and safety as captains announced mid-air that masks were no longer required. Without notice, the immunocompromised have been thrust into the shadows with no safe way to use air travel or public transit because of the actions of a judge unfit to make the decision.” (Legal experts have argued that the Florida judge’s reasoning was weak, and that she “misunderstood public health law.”)