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Editorial: Toss mask mandates for good

The Biden administration’s latest defeat in its stubborn fight to keep in place COVID-19 safety protocols should bring the president to the reality that Americans are done with pandemic mandates. They're ready to make their own decisions about how to protect themselves.

Airline passengers can literally breathe easier now after a federal judge in Florida on Monday struck down President Joe Biden’s recent extension of the national mask mandates covering public transportation, including airlines, trains, subways and even ride-sharing.

Major airlines, including Delta, American and Southwest, announced right away that masks would no longer be required on domestic flights.

More: Jacques: We don’t need a nanny president

The mandate, which was issued through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, had been extended several times this year — most recently last week, when Biden said it would continue through May 3. 

U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle said the agency had exceeded its authority and not offered proper rationale for the extension — even if the CDC had good intentions.

“Because our system does not permit agencies to act unlawfully even in pursuit of desirable ends, the court declares unlawful and vacates the mask mandate,” she wrote.

Thank goodness for the courts. This is the third time in the past year that the Biden administration has had its mandates overturned for their overreach. The U.S. Supreme Court last summer ended the CDC’s eviction ban, saying it didn’t have the power to issue such sweeping orders without approval from Congress. 

Early this year, the Supreme Court in a 6-3 ruling quashed Biden's mandate that all employees of private businesses with more than 100 workers be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus or tested weekly.

The court said that Congress hadn’t given the Occupational Safety and Health Administration the authority to issue orders of that magnitude. 

Business groups, including those in Michigan, had warned Biden the vaccine mandate would worsen workforce shortages and that they should be free to set their own rules. 

But Biden refused to listen, just as he ignored the pleas from airline industry leaders that placing the burden of mask enforcement on them was unfair and even dangerous for flight attendants stuck with making unruly passengers cooperate.

Vaccines are readily available and the threat of COVID is receding. It’s also clear COVID is not going away, and we have to learn to live it. 

After the judge’s decision, White House press secretary Jen Psaki called it “disappointing,” noting the CDC is still recommending masks on public transit. 

A recommendation is fine. Those who wish to continue wearing masks should do so.

Yet pandemics don’t give federal agencies unlimited authority to control our lives. It’s time for the rest of the top-down government mandates to end.