Biden’s White House lets Trump judge set mask policy for travelers

In flight when the news broke. I saw CNN’s alert that the mask rule was ending just after my flight landed at Dulles Airport in Washington. The masking on the flight had seemed arbitrary after living for weeks mostly without a mask.

Covid positive. I took a Covid-19 test on Tuesday morning after learning that a close contact had tested positive. I tested positive and most of my family too. I was probably already positive and contagious while on the plane. So I’m happy to wear a mask in these last minutes of the rule.

That may be the story of the country right now, as fewer people are masking up and Covid-19 infections are starting to rise again.

Judges make rules. It’s the strange way the US government works, or doesn’t work, right now.

In the absence of leadership or action from the White House and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle – who worked in the Trump administration before President Donald Trump appointed her to the judiciary – makes federal policy for the country as the Biden administration sits. After extending the mask rule last week, the administration did not immediately appeal Mizelle’s decision this week.

The Justice Department said Tuesday it would appeal to revive the mask requirement — if the CDC determines it’s still needed.

It is usually conservatives who warn against judicial activism, but in this case partisan arguments about judges making politics are overturned.

At the end of the line : The federal rule for wearing masks on public transportation has not ended due to long talk about how masks work and whether the Covid-19 pandemic has reached the point where they are no longer needed to save life. Lives.

What does “sanitation” mean to you? The mask rule instead ended after a court ruling with no mention of science, but a long and frankly stupid meditation on what American lawmakers in the 1940s meant by the word “sanitation”. Read the decision here.
Now what drives the rules for every American who may be afraid of getting Covid-19 on a plane is the lawsuit brought by a nonprofit group that is challenging pandemic restrictions and has been joined by two anxious women having to wear masks on flights.

Detention of the mask. What the judge argued was that the CDC’s mask requirement for airplanes amounted to a form of jail time for those who didn’t want to wear a mask.

“Their freedom of movement is restricted in a manner similar to detention and quarantine,” she wrote.

Maybe the right thing. What’s most incredible about this retrograde shift in policy-making is that ending the mask requirement, at least for now, doesn’t matter to some public health experts.

Although there is a noticeable increase in Covid-19 infections in many parts of the country, hospitalizations and deaths have not started to follow, largely due to the growing immunity of the population thanks to vaccination and previous infection.

“I’m less worried about what’s happening now,” Dr. Leana Wen, a CNN medical analyst and professor of public health at George Washington University, told CNN’s John King on Tuesday.

She said what’s concerning is if the CDC has now lost the power to require masks. This is an open question, as Mizelle deemed the CDC overstepped its authority in the first place.

“I worry about what might happen in the future,” Wen said. “What if there is a new variant that evades existing immunity? What if our hospitals are threatened to the point of being strained again? I want the CDC to have the power at that time to say the masks have to come back.”

Wen said people are worried about the disease or at risk of being seriously infected with Covid-19. should always wear masks.

Who is this judge who defines the country’s health policy? Mizelle, appointed to her post for life in 2020 at the age of 33, was classified as “unqualified” by the American Bar Association because she had little experience. She had worked in the Trump administration at the Justice Department and clerked for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
Her ties to the Trump administration extend to her husband, Chad Mizelle, who worked in Trump’s White House before taking a senior position in the Department of Homeland Security. It was confirmed along a party vote weeks after Joe Biden won the election – in the lame period before he assumed power and Trump challenged the election results.

To let down. Neither Mizelle nor her past are the real enigma of the government here. The White House could have immediately fought that in court, but as it weighed the options on Tuesday, masks were optional on many US planes. Congress could change the law, but little can pass through the US Senate.

There was no immediate effort to steer in either direction.

In other words, the Democrats running the government are allowing this to happen, either because they think the science makes sense or because they lack the political will to change things.

Hide the confusion. Masks have long been a flashpoint in public discussions of Covid-19 – when to wear them, when to take them off and what type should be worn.

The CDC has been criticized both for being too quick to update guidelines in 2021 before the deadly Delta variant hit and for being slow to update guidelines this year, especially for schools.
In March, the Transportation Security Administration announced its intention to maintain the mask requirement, even after the CDC updated mask guidelines and its interpretation of Covid-19 measures in February to allow most Americans to remove masks. These plans seem have been abandoned after the judgment.

The public is divided. CNN’s Ariel Edwards-Levy notes this:

In a March 15-22 poll of the Kaiser Family Foundation, American adults were divided on the federal mandate requiring people to wear masks on planes, trains and other public transportation. About half, 51%, said the government should let the mandate expire after April 18 (as originally planned), while a further 48% wanted to see the travel mask mandate extended.

Mars seems far away. I will add here that hospitalizations and deaths were down, but on average more than 1,200 people were dying from Covid-19 every day when this poll was taken. The average daily death rate as of Tuesday is 425 per day, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. It’s impossible to know if those answers would be different if the question were asked today, but it’s certainly true that the Covid-19 situation is different.

Fewer masks. Edwards-Levy also sent out the April poll of Axios-Ipsos this suggests that less than half of the country – 44% – wears a mask at least sometimes when leaving the house, a significant drop since the start of the year, when 73% of Americans said they wear a mask at least sometimes .

Majorities still see the value of masks. Fifty-nine percent of Americans in the March Kaiser poll said people should wear masks in crowded public places, and 71% of Americans in the April Axios-Ipsos poll say they would be at least somewhat likely to wear masks outside their homes if Covid-19 cases increase in their regions.

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