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Los Angeles County Enacts New Mask Mandate For Public Transportation And Airports

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L.A. County Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer addresses a press conference held at the steps of Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration to declare a health emergency as the number of coronavirus cases increased to seven, with six new cases in Los Angeles County. None of the new cases are connected to "community spread," officials said. All individuals were exposed to COVID-19 through close contacts. The additional cases were confirmed Tuesday night. Officials said three of the new cases were travelers who had visited northern Italy, two were family members who had close contact with someone outside of the county who was infected, and one had a job that put them in contact with travelers. One person has been hospitalized, and the others are isolated at home. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Los Angeles County is requiring residents to wear face masks on all public transportation and airports beginning on Friday.

“Public transportation hubs that are indoors are places where there is A, a lot of mingling, B, they are often crowded, and C, in some of those settings it’s really hard to have adequate ventilation,” Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said at a Thursday press briefing, according to CBS News

“They are experts,” Ferrer continued. “They made a determination that at this point having that requirement in place is necessary for the public’s health, and that resonates with us.” 

A statement from the Metro Transit Agency added that “Metrolink will ask all passengers aboard Metrolink trains systemwide to once again wear a mask aboard all Metrolink trains and at station platforms” beginning on Friday morning. The order will apply to all passengers above the age of two “regardless of their COVID-19 vaccination status.” 

L.A. County is America’s most populous county, with more than ten million residents.

The developments from Los Angeles County come days after U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle ruled that the federal travel mask mandate was unlawful because it “exceeded the CDC’s statutory authority, improperly invoked the good cause exception to notice and comment rulemaking, and failed to adequately explain its decisions.” Major airlines subsequently revoked their mask mandates, alongside Amtrak and ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft.

In response to the ruling, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) asked that the U.S. Department of Justice proceed with its appeal.

“To protect CDC’s public health authority beyond the ongoing assessment announced last week, CDC has asked DOJ to proceed with an appeal in Health Freedom Defense Fund, Inc., et al., v. Biden, et al.,” the statement reads. “It is CDC’s continuing assessment that at this time an order requiring masking in the indoor transportation corridor remains necessary for the public health. CDC will continue to monitor public health conditions to determine whether such an order remains necessary. CDC believes this is a lawful order, well within CDC’s legal authority to protect public health.”

The statement from the CDC followed the DOJ saying in a statement on Tuesday that it disagrees with the court’s ruling and that it would file an appeal if the CDC said that masks were still needed.

“The Department continues to believe that the order requiring masking in the transportation corridor is a valid exercise of the authority Congress has given CDC to protect the public health,” the DOJ said. “If CDC concludes that a mandatory order remains necessary for the public’s health after that assessment, the Department of Justice will appeal the district court’s decision.”

On Thursday, Dr. Anthony Fauci said that he was “both surprised and disappointed” by the ruling “because those types of things really are the purview of the CDC.”

“If you look at the rationale for that, it really is not particularly firm, and we are concerned about that, about courts getting involved in things that are unequivocally a public health decision,” Fauci continued during a CNN+ interview. “This is a CDC issue, should not have been a court issue.”

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