On Monday, a federal judge in Florida struck down the Biden administration's mask rules for public transportation. And then Monday evening, the White House said masks are no longer required for airplanes following the court ruling. TSA will no longer enforce masks, but the CDC is still recommending people mask up.
"The agencies are reviewing the decision and assessing potential next steps," an administration official said in a statement announcing the White House's confirmation. "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. CDC recommends that people continue to wear masks in indoor public transportation settings."
It was earlier in the day that Peter Doocy of Fox News asked White House press secretary Jen Psaki questions about what the administration's thinking would be going forward.
In the afterglow of the court's decision, Psaki's initial response was to default back to masking up, at least until the White House had a chance to react to the ruling.
"Thank you, Jen, you said about this mask ruling out of a federal court in Florida that it’s a disappointing decision, and you say you continue to recommend that people wear masks. Why is it that we can sit here in the White House briefing room with no masks, but people can't sit in an airplane cabin with no masks?"
Psaki opened up with a joke about how Doocy isn't a doctor, nor does he play one on TV. But when responding to the inquiry itself she elected to interpret it in a literal fashion:
"We are currently in a green zone in Washington, DC. So they're not recommending it. Some people can still wear a mask if they want to. Many people do, or wear them in meetings, or wear them at certain times where you're going to be around or sitting close to people or maybe you have an immunocompromised parent, or friend and so people make that decision. And this is based on health considerations and data that the CDC looks at about transmissibility as we've seen an increase in cases on airplanes…"
In response to the ruling, major airlines such as United and Delta had kept their mask guidance in place, and awaited for further instruction from the White House.
Doocy asked in a follow-up question: "Would the president support if a flight is leaving from an airport in a green zone, those people don't have to wear masks?"
Psaki responded by reaffirming her belief that there's a distinction between the general "zone" of Washington, DC, and public transit. The press secretary noted that last Wednesday the CDC had originally declared a two-week extension for the mask mandate, in what she claims was motivated by wanting to further "look at the data and make recommendations based on the data and the science about whether it should be continued or not."
The professional relationship between Doocy and Psaki became a topic of discussion last week after the press secretary's appearance on "Pod Save America." The show hosts asked her if Doocy was really a "stupid son of a b*tch" or just pretending to be one.
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