The Biden administration said Tuesday evening that it would appeal the order to lift the mask mandate on public transportation, but only if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended it.
The announcement came after a day of mixed messaging from members of the administration.
President Joe Biden said that it would be left up to individuals whether they would wear masks or not, but later on Tuesday, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said that the administration was “likely” to appeal.
“We are right now in the process of deciding, and we likely will appeal that ruling. Stay tuned,” Becerra told reporters in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The mask mandate was tossed out by a federal judge in Texas on Monday. Many on the left decried the order because the judge had been appointed by former President Donald Trump.
Many Americans celebrated lifting the mask mandate and videos from plane flights showed travelers, pilots, and flight attendants applauding the announcement.
Some bristled on social media that the order would raise the risk of coronavirus infection among those who were unable to be vaccinated. Among those questioning the wisdom of ending the mandate was former U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams who served in the Trump administration.
The CDC had extended the mask mandate until May 3 before the court order cut it short.
Biden officials told Politico that the administration would suffer a politically embarrassing loss if the order were upheld by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. They also worried that coronavirus deaths and hospitalizations could surge again if another variant arose.
“We are definitely in a new transitional phase. However, a totally new variant that is completely different could change that,” said one senior admin official to Politico. “These are purely educated projections with no guarantee of which is happening.”
Air travel numbers have recovered to about 90% of pre-pandemic levels.
Here’s more about the mask mandate removal:
Biden administration to appeal federal judge’s ruling on mask mandate