Federal judge’s ruling strikes down CDC requirements
Masks will no longer be required on TranGO buses in Okanogan County, after a federal judge in Florida struck down the nationwide requirement set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for all public transportation, including buses, trains and planes.
TranGO is still encouraging the use of masks and will supply them to passengers, but they are not requiring them, General Manager Brent Timm said.
In the decision issued Monday (April 18), U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle said the CDC had overstepped the authority granted it by Congress to prevent transmission of communicable diseases. In her 59-page ruling, Mizelle pointed to sections of the Public Health Services Act that say the CDC’s power only covers situations when the CDC “‘reasonably believe[s]’ that the person is ‘infected with a communicable disease’ and is a ‘probable source of infection’ to others.”
Although the act grants the CDC power to issue regulations it deems necessary, Mizelle said examples of allowable regulations in the act — including inspection, fumigation, disinfection and sanitation — narrowed the CDC’s power. “A requirement that individual travelers wear a mask is not inspection fumigation, disinfection, destruction, or pest extermination,” Mizelle wrote.
The CDC order was challenged by the Health Freedom Defense Fund, a nonprofit that asserts that people can’t be forced to put something into their body against their will, and two individuals who said wearing a mask increased their anxiety and panic attacks.
Last week, the CDC extended the mask mandate for public transportation through May 3. The federal government hasn’t said whether it will appeal the ruling.
Most commercial airlines, bus companies and Amtrak said they would no longer require masks.
Masks have not been required on school buses in Washington since March, although the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) suggests their use. OSPI also recommends keeping windows open for ventilation and providing ample space between riders.
Children will not have to get a COVID vaccination as part of their required immunization for school or day care. At its April 13 meeting, the state Board of Health voted not to include COVID in the requirements, following the recommendation of the board’s technical advisory group, which conducted a thorough review of the matter, according to state Secretary of Health Umair Shah. The Department of Health (DOH) supports the group’s recommendation not to require the COVID vaccine, he said.
DOH and the board stated that they support COVID vaccines as safe and effective; in particular, for their effectiveness in preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death. They recommend that everyone stay up to date on COVID vaccines and boosters to protect themselves and their communities, Shah said.
COVID vaccines are available for everyone age 5 and above, either through full approval or an emergency-use authorization by the U.S. Food & Drug Association.
Cases low in county
COVID cases continue to fall in Okanogan County, with a seven-day rate of just 23 cases per 100,000 population as of April 9, the most recent numbers provided by DOH.
But new cases in the state have started to go up again, with a seven-day rate of 79 per 100,000 people, almost twice the recent statewide low of 41 on March 21.
The uptick in cases is driven primarily by increases in the most populous counties in western Washington, with the highest rate in King County, followed by Pierce, Snohomish and Whatcom, as well as some areas on the Olympic Peninsula.