The Biden administration is appealing a federal court ruling that struck down the government mask mandate for travelers using public transportation, citing an assessment by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement on Wednesday that a notice of appeal had been filed in light of a CDC assessment that "an order requiring masking in the transportation corridor remains necessary to protect the public health."
The CDC wrote in a statement issued earlier in the day that it "believes this is a lawful order, well within CDC's legal authority to protect public health," and "continues to recommend that people wear masks in all indoor public transportation settings."
The appeal came two days after a federal judge ruled that the CDC had exceeded its authority and had failed to follow proper rulemaking procedures in issuing the travel mask mandate.
After the judge's ruling on Monday, many airlines ditched their requirements for passengers to wear masks while using their services.
The CDC announced last week that it was extending the nationwide mask order for public transit for 15 days, as it monitors the uptick in COVID-19 cases.
"With cases going up, the idea of masks going down doesn't make a lot of sense," former CDC Director Tom Frieden tweeted on Wednesday.
"We're all connected -- the more of us are masked up when Covid is spreading, the safer we all are," Frieden stressed.
"People are sick and tired of the pandemic, but the virus isn't tired of making us sick," he continued. "Wearing a mask is a low-cost way to keep people safe and our economy growing."
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Wednesday that the travel mask mandate is not in effect "because of the court order, which we disagree with."
"I would say we continue to recommend everyone wear masks on planes," Psaki noted.
While Omicron subvariant BA.2 remains the dominant strain in the United States, a new subvariant is gaining its foothold in the country, the latest CDC data showed.
The new strain, called BA.2.12.1, makes up about a fifth of new COVID-19 cases in the country, which increased from 11.4 percent a week before, and 6.9 percent two weeks prior.
The majority of COVID-19 cases in the United States -- around 75 percent -- are still caused by BA.2., which has been the dominant variant in the nation since late March, according to the CDC.
The total number of COVID-19 cases in the United States has exceeded 80 million, with over 990,000 related deaths, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.