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MBTA says it’s reviewing a federal judge’s decision to overturn mask mandate on public transit and airplanes

A Green Line test train made its way along the new elevated section of tracks along McGrath Highway on its way from Lechmere Station to Union Sq. in Somerville with Gov. Baker aboard.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority said Monday afternoon it was reviewing the decision by a federal judge in Florida voiding the national mask mandate on airplanes and public transit.

“The MBTA is continuing to follow CDC guidelines and will review the court order. The MBTA is also reaching out to its federal partners to get further guidance,” MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said in an e-mail Monday afternoon.

Massport spokeswoman Jennifer Mehigan referred questions to the US Transportation Security Administration.

In Washington, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said it was “obviously a disappointing decision.” She said the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recently extended the mask mandate for two weeks, had acted in accordance with its “responsibility to protect the American people.”


“As you know, this just came out this afternoon. So right now the Department of Homeland Security, who will be implementing, and the CDC are reviewing the decision and, of course, the Department of Justice would make any determinations about litigation,” she said.

The ruling came just days after the CDC had extended the mask rule to May 3.

US District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle said in her ruling that the mandate “exceeds the CDC’s statutory authority and violates the procedures required for agency rule making.”

The ruling by Mizelle, an appointee of President Donald Trump, came in a lawsuit filed last year in Tampa by a group called the Health Freedom Defense Fund.

Some pandemic experts were critical of the ruling.

Steffanie Strathdee, co-director of the Center for Innovative Phage Applications and Therapeutics at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, said on Twitter she wished the judge could be “sentenced” herself to a long flight with people who weren’t wearing masks. “This is #COVIDIOCY,” she said.

“Rulings like this make us less safe,” said Gregg Gonsalves, an epidemiologist at Yale University.


He also said it was a “victory only for the virus.”

Dr. Jeremy Faust, an emergency physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, said it was “a huge gamble with the lives of the vulnerable.”

Saskia Popescu, an infectious disease epidemiologist and adjunct professor at University of Arizona’s College of Public Health, said, “Cases are going UP in the United States and yet we continue to do this.”

Mizelle also was criticized by Laurence Tribe, an emeritus professor at Harvard Law School. He said the decision was “misguided” and noted that the American Bar Association had found in 2020 that Mizelle, who was 33 at the time, was “not qualified” because of inexperience.

A March poll by the health group KFF found Americans were divided on whether the federal government should extend the mask requirement (48 percent) or let it expire (51 percent).

Material from Globe wire services was used in this report.

Martin Finucane can be reached at