Each time President Biden feels he’s ahead of the wicked COVID curve and ready to move on to other pressing issues, comes another troubling bump, this one from a Trump-appointed judge.
On Monday, U.S. Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle struck down the federal mask mandate for airplanes and other modes of public transportation. The masking provision on planes was the remaining policy in place as the government took steps to ease the pandemic restrictions.
Once more the Biden administration is faced with a mask or no mask proposition, and there are reports on Tuesday that the Florida judge’s ruling will be appealed. That action will largely depend on the extension of the measure by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An appeal may push the matter to the Supreme Court and that would nullify the CDC’s authority.
“There is an opportunity now,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, “instead of saying this is a disappointing ruling, they could say this is a good time to have a conversation about how to move forward in this pandemic risk calculation.” Dr. Adalja is a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security as well as an infectious disease physician. “With COVID-19,” he added, “I think we’re at a point with immunity from prior infections, vaccines, home tests and treatments that we can start to manage this the way we manage other infectious diseases.”
Seeking balance on the problem, Biden said the decision is up to Americans if they want to mask up on planes. “That’s up to them,” he said Tuesday during a visit to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Meanwhile, those traveling with him on Air Force One are required to mask up.
Some elements of the current dilemma emerged back in February when the White House released a 100-page plan in response to the pandemic. Then, it was stated that children under 5 would be eligible for vaccination by now, a move that would have eased the concern of millions of parents, providing a degree of assurance to those who were worried about life after COVID.
Interestingly, the mask mandate had been set to expire on May 3. A statement from the Justice Department said it “continues to believe that the order requiring masking in the transportation corridor is a valid exercise of the authority Congress has given C.D.C. to protect the public health. That is an important authority the department will continue to work to preserve.”
Should the appeal go to the Supreme Court, well, you can easily guess that outcome.