DOJ defending mask mandate on planes months after Biden said pandemic is ‘over’

The Biden administration is fighting to maintain a federal mask mandate for air travel and other methods of transportation even after President Biden said months ago the pandemic is “over,” and despite calls from travel associations to end mask mandates.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments on Tuesday from the Biden Justice Department on behalf of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to reinstate a mask mandate for air travel, after a federal judge in Florida struck down the mandate last April.

“The Department continues to believe that the order requiring masking in the transportation corridor is a valid exercise of the authority Congress has given CDC to protect the public health. That is an important authority the Department will continue to work to preserve,” DOJ said in a statement at the time of the ruling.

The legal fight comes almost six months after the president declared that the pandemic was “over” in a television interview.

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Biden’s DOJ will fight in court Tuesday to keep a travel mask mandate in place.
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

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“The pandemic is over. We still have a problem with COVID. We’re still doing a lot of work on it,” Biden said in a CBS interview that aired in September.

“If you notice, no one’s wearing a mask, everybody seems to be in pretty good shape,” Biden added while he walked through the Detroit Auto Show.

President Biden receives his second COVID-19 booster shot on the White House campus, March 30, 2022.
(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

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The fight to keep mask mandates is not a popular one among travel industry groups. The U.S. Travel Association, for example, praised the ruling from the Florida judge striking down the mandate.

“The current decision to halt enforcement of the federal mask mandate effectively returns the choice of mask usage on planes and other forms of public transportation to travelers and travel industry workers, a further step toward endemic management of COVID,” Tori Emerson Barnes, the associations executive vice president, said at the time.

President Joe Biden declared the pandemic “over” just five months ago.
(Adam Schultz/The White House via AP)

The Health Freedom Defense Fund (HDFD), a medical rights advocacy group that initially sued the Biden administration in July 2021, will make the argument in court Tuesday that the order requiring all travelers to wear masks “lacks not only any rooting in federal statutes, but it also violated existing federal law in how it was promulgated. The mandate also suffers from an inconsistent application of sound science.”

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“The Biden administration is trying to paper over an illegal, sweeping mandate on Americans that is full of massive legal and scientific holes,” HFDF founder and President Leslie Manookian said in a press statement. “That a federal agency should be able to just usurp the power of Congress, and violate fundamental individual rights is not only at odds with the law – it defies basic common sense.”

Fox News Digital’s Adam Sables contributed to this report.