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Florida leads 20 states in lawsuit to end Biden's airplane mask mandate

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ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday announced he is leading a multi-state lawsuit challenging the Biden administration's mask requirements for airplanes and other public transportation.

Joined by 20 other Republican-led states, Florida argues that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's transportation mandate is unlawful and unconstitutionally interferes with state laws banning forced masking.

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia are also a party to the lawsuit.

This legal challenge comes after the Biden administration extended the public transportation mask mandate through at least April 18.

“If politicians and celebrities can attend the Super Bowl unmasked, every U.S. citizen should have the right to fly unmasked. It is well past time to get rid of this unnecessary mandate and get back to normal life," DeSantis said in a statement.

He was joined by Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, who called the transportation mask mandate "completely outside the bounds of the scope of federal power."

"The CDC and the federal government, the Biden administration never had the power to issue this order originally," Moody said.

DeSantis accused President Joe Biden's administration of extending the masking requirements without scientific data supporting their efficacy. He also said that declining COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations, as well as 81.7% of Americans having at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, have made the mandate no longer necessary.

Although mask mandates had been lifted in many states and localities in the U.S. after the CDC updated its guidance in February, the agency has maintained that public transportation is a special case where masks are still needed.

“Traveling on public transportation increases a person’s risk of getting and spreading COVID-19 by bringing people in close contact with others, often for prolonged periods, and exposing them to frequently touched surfaces," CDC officials said on Feb. 25, when the mandate was extended. “Travel contributes to interstate and international spread of COVID-19. Wearing masks that completely cover the mouth and nose reduces the spread of COVID-19.”

Though the masking requirements are supported by airline worker unions, they remain unpopular with passengers and others. Nine flight attendants from six different major airlines filed a lawsuit against the CDC last week seeking to have the requirements declared unconstitutional and revoked.

Additionally, the chief executives of 11 U.S. airlines sent a letter to the Biden administration last week asking for the mandate to end.

The letter asked the government to "recognize the burden" placed on airlines tasked with enforcing the masking requirements.

“It makes no sense that people are still required to wear masks on airplanes, yet are allowed to congregate in crowded restaurants, schools, and sporting events without masks, despite none of these venues having the protective air filtration systems that aircraft do,” they wrote to the president.

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