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Source and Scope of Public Health Legal Powers

Health Freedom Defense Fund, Inc., et al. v. Biden, et al.


Health Freedom Defense Fund, Inc., et al. v. Biden, et al. (U.S. District Court, M.D. Fla., Apr. 18, 2022): A federal judge struck down the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) mask mandate for public transportation as unlawful, concluding the CDC lacks authority to require face coverings on public transportation. On February 3, 2021, the CDC issued an order requiring face masks on public transportation under the authority of the Public Health Services Act of 1944 (PHSA). CDC argued that requiring masks on public transportation falls within the PHSA’s definition of sanitation, a subject over which CDC has regulatory power. Rejecting CDC’s argument, the court found that sanitation is limited to cleaning measures for property and not humans. Although masks reduce the spread of COVID-19 droplets, mask use does not result in cleansing property; thus, the mandate does not fall within CDC power to regulate sanitation. The court held that the mask mandate exceeds CDC’s statutory authority under the PHSA. CDC appealed the decision to the Eleventh Circuit. Read the full decision here.

View all cases in the Judicial Trends in Public Health – June 15, 2022.

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