LW - Judge Overturns Transportation Mask Mandate by Zvi

The Nonlinear Library

Apr 20 2022 • 12 mins

Welcome to The Nonlinear Library, where we use Text-to-Speech software to convert the best writing from the Rationalist and EA communities into audio. This is: Judge Overturns Transportation Mask Mandate, published by Zvi on April 20, 2022 on LessWrong. A federal judge has overturned the transportation mask mandate, saying the CDC overstepped its authority. The Biden administration is adhering to this ruling. It intends to appeal, but is not being loud about that. Mask mandates are lifted on planes. This happened in-flight. Reactions from passengers and crew in flight were highly supportive. Public health advocates naturally took a somewhat different view of events, this being a central reasonable version of their reaction. There’s that ‘don’t change things people won’t like it’ principle again, and also citing whatever invokes the availability heuristic this week. Most importantly he collected data from this experiment, and remember that connecting to Boston via JetBlue should be an unusually liberal set of passengers. Lifting the mandate during flights led to some great moments. As a small point yes I do think this could have waited a few hours given that people boarded the planes with an expectation? In future, I’d urge such folks to get P100 or superior masks, which should do a much better job on you alone than the KN95s did on everyone combined. Which was the right play before but almost no one did it, and probably almost no one will do it in the future either. In general, there are two reasons to wear a mask – you either want to be someone wearing a mask, or you want actual protection for yourself or others. Now that we no longer need to do the first one, those who want protection can do the second, which means P100 or better. Uber has lifted its own mandate in response, as has Lyft. Some local authorities like the MTA in NYC (which includes the Subway) and NJ Transit are leaving their mandates in place, others are not. What should we make of all this? The Details Of This Decision Imply Bad Faith The transportation mask mandate was already hanging by a thread. The CDC had multiple times come close to letting it expire. The CDC’s latest extension of the mandate was only for two weeks. The Senate voted 57-40 to repeal the mandate. Airlines, who have the most skin in the game, called for lifting the mandate. The Biden administration so far held firm, as part of its ‘trust the science’ branding. This was a no-win situation for them, with inevitable heat on them no matter their decision. Having a judge take it out of their hands does them a favor, letting them dodge blame for lifting the policy while also dodging blame for not lifting the policy. All bad outcomes can be blamed on a Trump-appointed judge that many are calling extraordinarily unqualified and can thus make the scapegoat/hero? That’s perfect. No wonder there is no rush to appeal. The timing of this ruling strongly implies to me that it was made in light of these facts. Does the CDC have the authority to impose a mask mandate on the airlines? That is an interesting legal question. I do not know whether this particular rule overstepped their authority. It seems plausible that it did. If it did, then the mandate needed to be lifted. We are supposed to be a nation of laws. Poe’s Law for the win in the replies, I can’t tell either. During the pandemic we got, even more than usual, into the mindset that we do not have a constitution or separation of powers or limits on Presidential or federal authority. In theory that is very wrong, and in practice it once again is being treated that way. Consider the parallel to the eviction moratorium. The CDC decided that it was a public health issue to forcibly let people live rent free indefinitely in other people’s houses and apartments. Then Trump gave way to Biden, and what was previously allowed was not allowed. I’d strongly agree in that case that this was very much not within the CDC’s authority, but if that is true, it a...