Federal Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle’s ruling that freed us all from the mandate to mask up before getting on an airplane made her, for the moment at least, the most talked-about jurist in America.
It’s rare for a ruling to receive so much acclaim from the American people. Social media has drawn attention to accounts of gleeful pilots announcing mid-flight that the Biden administration’s onerous masking mandate was over and that passengers were now free to get up and move about the cabin maskless so long as the fasten seat belt sign isn’t illuminated.
Leave it to the government to kill the buzz. On Wednesday, the Atlanta-based U.S. Centers for Disease Control formally requested the United States Department of Justice to intervene by appealing Judge Mizelle’s ruling.
In its statement announcing what it had asked of the DOJ, the agency asserted its belief the masking order “remains necessary” and that it would “continue to monitor public health conditions to determine whether such an order remains necessary.” It offered no scientific rationale for its position, only the stated belief masking within the “indoor transportation corridor” continues to be necessary to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
The science regarding masks is controversial. Most people believe they work as a matter of common sense, but that doesn’t make it so. Several studies released in the middle of the pandemic comparing the health outcomes for those who wore masks to those who didn’t conclude masking provided little if any benefit in reducing infection rates.
It also created more problems than it may have solved. There is no definitive study documenting the airplane masking mandate’s effectiveness in slowing the spread of COVID. There probably never will be, for the simple reason, there’s no way to measure it. What we do know is the Federal Aviation Administration received a record number of complaints about unruly passengers in 2021, which are a real danger to public health and safety, and that 70% of them had to do with issues related to masking.
Attorney General Merrick Garland’s minions have acceded to the agency’s request even though the mandate was set to expire in a matter of days. The appeal seems like a pointless exercise until you consider the CDC isn’t as concerned about public health as it is with what is best for the CDC.
Judge Mizell’s ruling is an attack on its authority to tell the rest of us what to do. When you think about it, that’s the ultimate purpose of most of the alphabet soup of federal agencies created since the New Deal. If they all were to suddenly lose the power to order us around on this point or that unless Congress had specifically given it to them, the bureaucrats who populate them would lose their reason to get up in the morning.
They, unfortunately, are insulated from the consequences of their blunders. The politicians who make our laws are still accountable and can be voted out of office, at last for now though it is getting harder to do so. They need to exercise greater authority over the agencies they create and fund. Having the appellate court affirm Judge Mizelle’s decision would go a long way toward reminding them of that.