The Volokh Conspiracy

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Vacating The Mask Mandate at 30,000 Feet

The CDC mask mandate was vacated without a stay. Can flight attendants still threaten people with enforcement of civil fines?


Earlier today, Judge Mizelle vacated the CDC mask mandate. At present, I find myself (where else) aboard a United flight. And the flight attendant made the obligatory announcement that failure to wear a mask would result in a civil fine. Of course, all of the administrative lawyers in the air understand that the CDC rule is currently vacated, and, unless a stay is issued by the Eleventh Circuit or the Supreme Court, the rule has no effect. I could be the perfect test case if I take off my mask. But, I would still face privately-enforced sanctions from the airline, so I will pass. Still, I wonder if some enterprising lawyer, somewhere, contests the CDC mask mandate right now.

Update: United Airlines will continue requiring masks:

The federal requirement that masks be worn on board aircraft and in airports remains in effect for both customers and employees, despite the decision by a federal judge on Monday that struck down the federal mask mandate. The federal mandate originally went into effect in February 2021 but has been extended a number of times. We await additional information from the federal government on whether it will challenge the ruling or rescind the order. Until that time, the airport mask policy remains unchanged.

Still, a person who refuses to wear one in the present moment cannot be subject to civil fines.