Texas sues CDC to stop mask mandates on planes

The lawsuit is the latest in a string of measures to limit coronavirus safety measures

FILE - In this Feb. 18, 2021 file photo, a passenger wears a face mask to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus as he waits for a Delta Airlines flight at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, file) (Charlie Riedel, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and U.S. Rep. Beth Van Duyne, R-Irving, are suing the Biden administration to end mask mandates on planes.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday, argues that the mandate imposes a “restriction on travelers’ liberty interests” and that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not have the authority to introduce such a blanket preventive measure.

First issued in January 2021, the federal mask mandate requires travelers to wear masks while using public transportation services or facilities, including airports and subway stations. Those who violate the mask mandate could be subject to fines.

Travelers younger than 2 years old or with disabilities who cannot wear a mask are exempt from the requirement. The CDC also amended the order in June 2021 and said the mandate would not apply to outdoor settings.

The federal mandate is set to expire on March 18.

Airline companies — including Texas-based American Airlines and Southwest Airlines — have cited federal law as a reason for requiring face coverings and barring violators from travel.

The suit is the latest in a slew of state efforts to challenge COVID-19 safety measures in court. The state is locked in several legal battles with cities, counties and school districts over masks in public schools. Texas also has sued the Biden administration over federal vaccine mandates for health care workers, federal contractors and large businesses.

“Biden’s repeated disregard of the individual liberties of Texans is not only disrespectful to the U.S. Constitution, it is also troublesome that any president thinks they can act above the law while hardworking Americans standby,” Paxton said in a statement about the lawsuit. “President Biden cannot continue governing through executive edicts.”

According to the suit, Van Duyne, whose district includes the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, has taken about 80 flights a year and would not wear a mask if it was not required. In June 2021, Van Duyne incurred a $500 charge for a second violation of the U.S. Capitol’s mask policy.

In December, Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s top medical adviser, said the country was still at a point that travelers should continue to wear masks on planes.

The CDC declined to comment on the pending litigation.

Correction, Feb. 16, 2022: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Beth Van Duyne is a Texas state representative. She’s a U.S. representative.