Apr 20, 2022
Public health advocates including people who have lost loved ones to the Covid-19 pandemic are calling on the Biden administration to act with more urgency to challenge the federal court ruling which lifted the mask mandate for public transportation on Monday.
The national group Marked by Covid--which was started by the daughter of a man who died of the disease after Arizona's Republican governor claimed in June 2020 that "it was safe to resume normal activities"--circulated a petition asking supporters to tell the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that they must appeal the ruling.
"I hope this ruling is challenged because in the next pandemic, the next big public health crisis, we want the CDC to be able to put in scientifically based, rational restrictions that protect people's health."
The group noted that on Tuesday, the Department of Justice (DOJ) indicated it may file an appeal if the CDC determines the mask mandate is still needed for commercial flights, airports, trains, and public buses.
"This decision--based not on science or law, but on politics--will have a disastrous effect on how people at risk go about their daily life and access care, work, and school and exacerbate long-standing health and economic disparities," Marked by Covid said of the court ruling. "Our safety cannot wait for this case to work its way through the courts: Let's make sure the entire administration understands that we MUST reinstate the federal mask mandate on transit ASAP, through an appeal and emergency stay."
The group's call echoed that of the People's CDC--a group of scientists, public health practitioners, and other experts that has urged Americans to remain cautious while the CDC has largely ignored the impact of long-term health problems in Covid survivors and claimed that as long as hospitals have capacity, public masking is unnecessary even if transmission rates are high.
"The People's CDC calls on the White House, the CDC, and the DOJ to promote evidence-based mask mandates and urgently appeal the decision, and calls on governors, members of Congress, health professional societies, and other leaders to echo these demands to the White House," said the group on Tuesday, noting that while much attention has been paid to the impact on air travel, 34 million people use other forms of public transportation on a daily basis.
\u201cWhile much of the media and public attention has focused on air travel, 34 million people ride public transit every day, which is around 20 times the number who take planes.\u201d— People's CDC (@People's CDC) 1650398624
The People's CDC also said Wednesday that the White House should "act urgently to follow Philadelphia's lead in prioritizing public health by implementing data-driven mask mandates" after it was the first major U.S. city to reinstate its mandate for public spaces.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the president had not communicated with the CDC about the ruling, which was handed down by Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, an appointee of former President Donald Trump.
According toNBC News, some officials within the White House are concerned the administration could lose the case on appeal.
Mizelle's ruling, and a potential future decision upholding it, could set a dangerous precedent in terms of the federal government's ability to take action to fight public health crises, said experts.
"I hope this ruling is challenged because in the next pandemic, the next big public health crisis, we want the CDC to be able to put in scientifically based, rational restrictions that protect people's health," Richard Besser, former acting director of the CDC, told "The Today Show."
Lawrence Gostin, a professor of global public health law at Georgetown University, argued that if the courts ultimately find that "the CDC can't require masks on a flight from New York to San Francisco, then it can't do anything."
"The federal courts shouldn't be making policy decisions or substituting the judges' opinions for that of a government or public health agency--and that's exactly what happened," Gostin toldRolling Stone. "Basically, this judge said that Congress didn't empower the CDC to require masks on mass transit, but it's total nonsense."
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