In a 59-page ruling Monday, a Florida judge voided the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's current national mask mandate on airplanes and mass public transit, saying the CDC failed to justify its decision and did not follow proper rulemaking procedures that left it fatally flawed.
The CDC had recently extended a federal mask mandate on public transit and in public transportation hubs until May 3, to allow more time to study the BA.2 omicron subvariant of the coronavirus now responsible for the vast majority of cases in the U.S.
U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle in Tampa, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, said in her ruling the only remedy was to vacate the rule entirely across the country because it would be impossible to end it for the limited group of people who objected in the lawsuit.
The ruling however has since caused confusion across states lines and agencies, leading many wondering exactly what the decision means, and whether or not they need to continue wearing a mask on public transportation, on airlines, airports, in rideshares are more.
Feeling out of the loop? We'll catch you up on the Chicago news you need to know. Sign up for the weekly Chicago Catch-Up newsletter here.
Here's what we know.
Are Masks Still Required at O'Hare, Midway and Other Airports?
However, when Judge Mizelle voided the mandate, that changed.
Regarding the ruling, a White House administration official on Monday said, "The agencies are reviewing the decision and assessing potential next steps. In the meantime, today’s court decision means CDC’s public transportation masking order is not in effect at this time.
Therefore, TSA will not enforce its Security Directives and Emergency Amendment requiring mask use on public transportation and transportation hubs at this time."
According to a statement from The Chicago Department of Aviation, which administers all aspects Chicago O'Hare and Midway International Airports, the CDA is following federal, state and local guidance.
"The CDA will continue to follow, observe and enforce all current and future guidance by federal, state and local health and security authorities. For additional information on the federal mask mandate for public transportation, please refer to the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)."
O'Hare and Midway Airports both tweeted Tuesday that they will continue to follow an executive order in Illinois requiring masks on public transportation. That order remains in effect through at least the end of April.
A number of airlines, including United Airlines, which is based out of Chicago, have said that the ruling means masks are no longer required on domestic flights, however.
Are Masks Still Required on Chicago Public Transportation?
Right now, some agencies are requiring them, and others are not. Here's a breakdown:
- CTA: "Masks are still required on CTA trains and buses," CTA said in an email to NBC Chicago Monday. "If that requirement changes, we will notify customers."
- Metra: Still required. "We are not making any immediate changes to the mask requirement while we assess the situation," Metra said in an email to NBC Chicago Monday.
- Pace: Still required.
No Longer Required:
- South Shore Line, operated by the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District: The line says that it will eliminate its mask mandate after the court ruling.
- Amtrak: "While Amtrak passengers and employees are no longer required to wear masks while on board trains or in stations, masks are welcome and remain an important preventive measure against COVID-19," a statement from Amtrak read.
Are Masks Required in Rideshares in Chicago?
Uber: Not required. According to a statement from Uber, "As of April 19, 2022, riders and drivers are not required to wear masks when using Uber. However, the CDC still recommends wearing a mask if you have certain personal risk factors and/or high transmission levels in your area."
Lyft: Not required. "Masks are now optional while riding or driving with Lyft," Lyft said in a statement Tuesday morning. "We know that everyone has different comfort levels, and anyone who wants to continue wearing a mask is encouraged to do so. As always, drivers or riders can decline to accept or cancel any ride they don’t wish to take."
This article will be updated as more information becomes available.