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DOJ asks federal appeals court to reverse order lifting travel mask mandate

The U.S. Justice Department filed a brief in federal appeals court Tuesday to overturn a federal judge's decision that declared the government mask mandate on planes, trains and buses unlawful. Here, a sign stating that masks are required at San Francisco International Airport stands in a terminal the day the federal mask mandate was overturned.
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 19: A sign stating that masks are required at San Francisco International Airport stands in a terminal after the federal mask mandate for airports and pubic transportation was lifted on April 19, 2022 in San Francisco, California. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will not enforce a federal Covid-19 mask mandate on airplanes or public transportation after a federal judge in Florida struck down the mandate that applied to airports, airplanes and public transportation, ruling that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had overstepped its authority. The CDC still recommends wearing masks on public transit. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Updated June 1, 2022 at 3:54 AM ET

The Justice Department asked a federal appeals court on Tuesday to overturn last month's court decision by a federal judge that declared the mandate requiring masks on airplanes and other public transportation unlawful.

In a 48-page document filed in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the Justice Department argues that the order issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in early 2021 "falls easily within the CDC's statutory authority."

Last month, the Justice Department saidthat it would appeal U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle's decision to strike down the CDC's mask mandate for public transportation if the agency determines the mandate is still needed to protect public health.

"None of the district court's quarrels with the CDC order comes close to showing that the CDC has acted outside the 'zone of reasonableness,'" the Justice Department said in the brief.

"The findings in the CDC order provide ample support for the agency's determination that there was good cause to make the order effective without delay."

The CDC did not immediately respond to immediate requests for comment on the issue.

In her ruling, Mizelle argued that the mandate violates the Administrative Procedure Act because the agency failed to prove its decision regarding implementing the mandate.

"The court concludes that the mask mandate exceeds the CDC's statutory authority and violates the procedures required for agency rulemaking under the APA," Mizelle wrote.

Transportation companies, such as Uber, Lyft and Amtrak; as well as Delta, Southwest and American Airlines made masks optional soon after the decision.

NPR's Ayana Archie contributed to this report. Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.