ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Twenty-one states with Republican attorneys general filed a lawsuit Tuesday to end the federal government’s requirement that people wear masks on planes, trains, ferries and other public transport amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The lawsuit, announced by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Attorney General Ashley Moody and filed in federal court in Tampa, Florida, argues that the mask mandate exceeds the authority of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. .
The mandate in its current form may only be in effect for a few more weeks. The CDC recently extended it until April 18 while indicating that it was considering reducing the rules for a more targeted approach.
Still, Florida and the other states are pursuing the lawsuit, which comes amid a partisan divide over the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and issues of government control versus individual rights.
“It’s high time to get rid of this unnecessary mandate and get back to normal life,” said DeSantis, a Republican who has consistently challenged federal mask mandates, including those involving cruise lines, schools, businesses. private and other entities.
The CDC rule, effective Feb. 1, 2021, requires “the wearing of masks by people on public transportation or on the premises of transportation hubs,” according to the agency’s website. The rule was relaxed somewhat to end requirements for certain buses, but was recently extended until at least April 18 for domestic and international travel in general.
Moody, a Republican and former Tampa judge, said in a press release that travel mask mandates are “frustrating travelers and causing chaos on public transportation.”
It appeared to be a reference to a series of well-publicized confrontations between flight attendants and passengers over the mask requirement on commercial planes. It’s unclear whether these incidents are isolated or widespread, and whether masks are the only problem. Some are clearly alcohol or mental health related.
Additionally, perhaps underscoring the partisan divide over masks, DeSantis and Moody repeatedly mentioned Democratic President Joe Biden in their statements against the travel mandate.
The Atlanta-based CDC did not immediately respond to a phone call and email seeking comment on the lawsuit.
The lawsuit seeks an immediate end to the CDC travel mask rule and seeks costs and attorneys’ fees. Similar lawsuits were filed in individual states before this one.
Besides Florida, the states that filed the new travel mask lawsuit on 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.
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