April 20, 2022

Mask Mandate Struck Down

“A federal judge in Florida struck down a national mask mandate on airplanes and mass transit Monday, and airlines and airports swiftly began repealing their requirements that passengers wear face coverings.” AP News

“The Justice Department announced Tuesday that it will appeal the ruling… The Justice Department will not, however, ask the court to stay the decision, meaning passengers will be able to continue traveling maskless while the decision is litigated.” NBC News

See past issues

From the Left

The left opposes the decision, and urges people to continue wearing masks.

“This decision is particularly disastrous for older adults, the ill and the immunocompromised, who still face a much higher chance of being hospitalized or even dying if they contract Covid-19 (so do the voluntarily unvaccinated, but they've made the decision to assume that risk for themselves). For most people, going to work or the grocery store is not optional, and many people need to take public transport to get there

“Covid-19 is also a class-based killer: Lower-income Americans are more likely to die of it than wealthier ones. On airplanes, where the cost of tickets makes regular air travel inaccessible to low-income people, the air is cycled out quickly, reducing the risk of Covid-19 infection. That's not the case for the types of public transport that are more readily available to the masses: buses, trains, subways… Everyone deserves access to public transportation. And no one should have to risk their lives or their health to take it.”

Jill Filipovic, CNN

“The judge purported to rely on Republican judges’ preferred method for interpreting statutes: textualism… The court focused on ‘sanitation’ in particular, supposedly the closest analogue to mask-wearing. The power to enact ‘sanitation’ measures does not include the power to require masking, the court said, because ‘sanitation’ refers to ‘measures that clean something, not ones that keep something clean.’ If that bizarre logic is correct, then the CDC couldn’t require surgeons or nurses to wear gloves during surgery, since a glove, like a mask, ‘cleans nothing.’…

“In a sane democracy, a single 35-year-old lawyer with a lifetime appointment who was designated as unqualified by the ABA would not be making national covid policy. But that is the constitutional democracy that the Trump administration gave us. And given the Trump administration’s focus on appointing young judges, it will be entrenched for decades.”

Leah Litman, Washington Post

Some argue that “[The judge] did President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party a favor… a rational assessment of U.S. society would conclude there’s no reason for a government-enforced mask mandate in airports when there isn’t one at hockey arenas…

“In reality the White House should have put its foot down and lifted the rule weeks ago. But its reluctance to meddle with a scientific agency is understandable. At the same time, scientifically speaking, it’s always going to be the case that everyone wearing a mask will be at least a little bit safer than everyone not wearing a mask…

“For more Covid-cautious Americans, the CDC ought to be trumpeting the message that one-way masking works to protect users against the virus as long as you are wearing a high-quality mask. And with the PPE supply crisis long past, it would be smart for the Biden administration to ensure that anyone who wants a high-quality mask can get one.”

Matthew Yglesias, Bloomberg

From the Right

The right supports the decision, and argues that the mask mandate is no longer necessary.

The right supports the decision, and argues that the mask mandate is no longer necessary.

“If lawmakers wanted a mask mandate for flights, they could have simply passed a law that gave the CDC legal authority to issue the rule. Also, they could have amended the Administrative Procedure Act to waive notice and comment in discrete cases such as in a pandemic. Congress summoned the will to pass a series of pandemic relief bills, but never saw fit to make either of these changes. The fact it chose not to has clear consequences…

Mask requirements are significant infringements on personal liberty and ought to be employed only in extreme circumstances. Two years ago, covid-19 cases were overwhelming hospitals, and there were few effective treatments for those who fell ill. Neither is the case today, thanks to the development of vaccines and advanced therapy options. The limited public health gains from the CDC’s mask mandates are easily outweighed by the increased freedom people would have by being able to go maskless.”

Henry Olsen, Washington Post

“The mask mandate has been questionable from the start. As the court noted, it made no attempt to distinguish between cloth masks, which are widely acknowledged to be useless, and medical-grade masks. The CDC never explained why a half-hour bus trip was more dangerous than a two-hour meal at a restaurant…

Requiring masks on airplanes was particularly problematic. Airplanes are the safest non-medical indoor environments around. Half of the cabin air is fresh air from outside, and the other half is passed through High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters that are more than 99.9 percent effective at removing viruses. It is refreshed 20 to 30 times an hour (many more times than other indoor settings), and airborne spread is inhibited since the air flows from top to bottom, not along the length of the aircraft. Tests show that airplane passengers seated side by side have less potential exposure than people who keep six feet apart in other environments.”

Joel Zinberg, City Journal

“The fact that the airlines declined to wait until planes already in the air had landed before changing their policies is evidence of how frantic they are to lock in this policy change. If they had waited even a few hours before announcing that masks were no longer required, they would have given the White House an opportunity to announce that it was seeking a stay of the district court’s decision lifting the mandate. By announcing a change immediately, they created a popular new maskless status quo and set of expectations for travelers that Biden will upend if he seeks a stay…

Biden’s been handed a political gift here by a Trump-appointed federal judge — sort of. All he needs to do is take the L and then (maybe) reap a political dividend as Americans exult in their new maskless ‘normal.’ He promised a return to normalcy in 2020, didn’t he? Well, now he’s got it.”

Allahpundit, Hot Air

A libertarian's take

“I suspect some in the Biden administration have come to the same conclusion that much of the country has reached: It is time for indoor mask mandates to end… public health measures have to bear some relationship to what the public thinks is reasonable. Otherwise, no matter how sound their logic or scientific basis, they will fail because people will not comply. A nation resentfully wearing masks pulled down under its noses isn’t doing anyone much good…

“Public health works best when authorities are seen as assisting the public by making the same risk-reward calculations the public would, if only it had the time and expertise to sort through all the data. If authorities instead come to be seen as martinets, forcing the public to hew to their own extremely risk-averse preferences, they will meet fierce resistance the next time they urge us to adopt some costly measure.”
Megan McArdle, Washington Post

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