Florida, other states challenge CDC transit mask rule

Masked passengers sit inside an airplane
Masked passengers fill a Southwest Airlines flight from Burbank to Las Vegas. Florida and 20 other states have sued to end the federal government’s mask mandate for public transportation.
(Christopher Reynolds/Los Angeles Times)

Florida and 20 other states sued Tuesday to halt the federal government’s requirement that people wear masks on planes, trains, ferries and other public transportation amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Tampa, Fla., contends that the mask mandate exceeds the authority of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“It is well past time to get rid of this unnecessary mandate and get back to normal life,” said Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican who has long challenged federal mask mandates including those involving cruise lines, private businesses and other entities.


A rule of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, effective Feb. 1, 2021, requires “the wearing of masks by people on public transportation conveyances or on the premises of transportation hubs,” according to the agency website. The rule has been relaxed somewhat, to end requirements for buses operated by school systems, but was recently extended until at least April 18 for domestic and international travel in general.

Still, Florida and the other states are pressing on with their lawsuit, which comes amid a partisan divide over the response to the pandemic and issues of government control versus individual rights.

Florida Atty. Gen. Ashley Moody, a Republican and former Tampa judge, said in a news release that the travel mask mandates “are frustrating travelers and causing chaos on public transportation.”

That appears to be a reference to a spate of well-publicized confrontations between flight attendants and passengers over the mask requirement on commercial aircraft. It’s not clear if these incidents are isolated or widespread, and if masks are the only issue.

If the U.S. public health emergency ends, Americans would be vulnerable to a new coronavirus variant that sparks another COVID-19 surge.

March 14, 2022

Also, perhaps underscoring the partisan divide on masks, both DeSantis and Moody mentioned Democratic President Joe Biden several times in their statements against the travel mandate.

The Atlanta-based CDC did not immediately respond to a phone call and email requesting comment on the lawsuit.

The lawsuit seeks to immediately halt the CDC travel mask rule and asks for costs and attorneys’ fees. There have been similar lawsuits filed in individual states before this latest one.


Besides Florida, the states filing the new travel mask lawsuit as of Tuesday were Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia.