By Tierney Sneed, CNN
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defended its authority to issue a mask mandate for domestic travelers, in a brief filed Tuesday asking an appeals court to overturn a district court ruling in April to rescind the mandate.
“It is hard to imagine a more direct means of controlling the spread of communicable diseases than a measure that traps infectious particles to prevent their spread,” the agency said in the brief, filed by the Justice Department in part of the appeal of the case. before the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.
The brief criticized the district court’s assessment of the word “sanitation” in the relevant law, with the Biden administration arguing that a mask requirement falls within the conventional understanding of the word.
The Justice Department argued that the logic of the district court would mean that the CDC would not have the authority to take many other types of measures it has implemented to limit the spread of communicable diseases, noting that the law in question was used “to prohibit the capture, distribution or release of certain animals to prevent the spread of monkeypox”.
In defense of the agency’s rollout of the mask policy — which the judge also found to be procedurally flawed in a way that warranted its invalidation — the Biden administration pointed to the Supreme Court’s decision to leave in enforce the vaccination mandate for some health care workers. .
“Like the CMS vaccination rule, the CDC’s mask order was based on the emergence of variants of COVID19 with increased transmissibility, which threatened to spread rapidly and infect the traveling public,” the administration said in the memory. “The District Court’s objection that the CDC took too long to issue the mask order (which was issued nine months before the CMS vaccination requirement) echoes the argument that the Supreme Court rejected in [the vaccine mandate case] and fails for the same reason.
The transport mask mandate was declared illegal in April by Tampa-based U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, who blocked the federal government from implementing it nationwide when she issued her ruling.
The federal mask mandate is still not in effect. When the Justice Department appealed the case, it did not ask the 11th Circuit for the kind of emergency order that would have quickly stayed the district court’s decision while the appeal progressed.
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