Fauci: Judge’s decision to strike down travel mask mandate could set ‘disturbing’ precedent
Top infectious diseases expert Dr. Anthony Fauci on Thursday said a judge’s decision this week to strike down a federal mask mandate on public transportation systems could set a “disturbing” precedent for the next public health crisis.
The White House’s chief medical adviser told CBS’s Robert Costa that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) should be the arbiter of public health decisions, not the courts. Fauci said the mask mandate was “not a judicial matter.”
“The CDC has the obligation to protect the American public and they make their recommendations based on science and solid public health information,” Fauci said.
“The CDC will abide by the order of the court because it’s a legal obligation,” Fauci added, “but one of the problems we have there is the principle of a court overruling a public health judgement … is disturbing in the precedent that it might send.”
A federal judge in Florida on Monday voided the federal travel mask mandate, upending an order the Biden administration had implemented last year for airlines, subway trains and other transit systems.
On Wednesday, the Department of Justice announced it was appealing the judge’s order following a request from the CDC.
Under the mandate, the Transportation Security Administration issued more than 900 civil penalties worth more than $644,000 against individuals who did not comply with the requirement as of mid-March.
Last week the CDC extended the mask mandate through May 3. Fauci on Thursday said the CDC made a reasonable decision to extend the mandate because COVID-19 case numbers were swinging upward.
“That was a very appropriate decision based on the evolving nature of the situation,” he told CBS. “Right now, masks are important when you’re having an increase in the kinetics of the outbreak as we’re seeing right now.”
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