Two days after a federal judge in Florida struck down the mask mandate on public transportation across the US, the CDC said they have asked Justice Department officials to file an appeal against the decision.
"It is CDC’s continuing assessment that at this time an order requiring masking in the indoor transportation corridor remains necessary for the public health," the agency said in a statement on Wednesday.
"CDC will continue to monitor public health conditions to determine whether such an order remains necessary," the statement added. "CDC believes this is a lawful order, well within CDC’s legal authority to protect public health."
The CDC's statement comes a day after the DOJ said it disagreed with the judge's decision, but would only appeal "if CDC concludes that a mandatory order remains necessary for the public’s health after that assessment."
After the CDC's statement on Wednesday, Justice Department spokesperson Anthony Coley announced they had indeed filed a notice of appeal to the US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.
They are appealing the summary judgment of US District Court Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, who on Monday ordered that the mandate, first issued by the CDC in January 2021, be struck down as unlawful.
Mizelle, a Trump appointee whose husband worked in the former president's administration, said the CDC had exceeded its statutory powers and violated administrative law in issuing the mandate to wear a face mask in airports, transit hubs, and public transportation.
The CDC had extended its mask mandate last week until at least May 3, pointing to the spread of the Omicron BA.2 variant in the US.
Mizelle's decision prompted some passengers and crew to celebrate as they removed masks mid-flight in moments captured in several viral videos, but it left others terrified that it might cause them to contract COVID while traveling.
President Joe Biden subsequently said it was up to each American to decide whether to wear a mask.
In its statement on Wednesday, the CDC stressed that wearing a well-fitting mask or respirator protects people and those around them, including those who may be too young to receive a vaccine or who are immunocompromised.
"CDC’s number one priority is protecting the public health of our nation," the agency said. "As we have said before, wearing masks is most beneficial in crowded or poorly ventilated locations, such as the transportation corridor."