Dr. Anthony Fauci warned Thursday that a court ruling voiding a federal mandate requiring passengers to mask up on airlines and public transit goes “against public health principles” and sets a “bad precedent.”
“We are concerned about that — about courts getting involved in things that are unequivocally public health decisions,” the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told CNN+.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention initially extended the federal mask mandate for travel until May 3, which Fauci called “a very sound public health decision.” But U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle voided that mandate on Monday, saying it exceeded the CDC’s authorities.
“Because our system does not permit agencies to act unlawfully even in pursuit of desirable ends, the court declares unlawful and vacates the mask mandate,” she wrote.
“For a court to come in and interfere in that is really unfortunate,” Fauci said.
The CDC still recommends masking and urged the Justice Department to appeal the federal judge’s ruling on Wednesday.
“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.
Individual cities can issue their own guidelines for wearing masks in public areas.
Los Angeles County issued a mandate on Friday that goes beyond state guidance, which only recommends masks for public transit. The county also requires masks in transportation hubs such as airports, as well as in taxis and ride shares.
Philadelphia, however, which had been the first major U.S. city to restore an indoor mask mandate, reversed its decision just days later. The city said the number of hospitalizations had dropped and that COVID-19 cases had already reached a peak.
“The City will move to strongly recommending masks in indoor public spaces as opposed to a mask mandate,” Philadelphia’s health department said in a statement.
Boston has also encouraged its residents to mask up, although it does not have a mandate in place. The city has recorded an uptick in cases and hospitalizations, and is also spotting an increase in COVID-19 in wastewater samples.