Florida is joining 20 other states in taking legal action against the federal mask mandate for travelers on planes and public transportation, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Tuesday.
The mask mandate was scheduled to expire March 18, but the Transportation Security Administration said earlier this month that it will extend the requirement through April 18.
Speaking at a news conference in Tallahassee Tuesday, DeSantis said it's time to end the requirement.
"It's not something that's grounded in any science because if you have somebody sitting in the window seat and they're nibbling on peanuts for two and a half hours, they can have their mask down, you have the person in the middle seat that is not eating if they just wanted to read a magazine without their mask, then somehow that would be a big problem," DeSantis said. "I think more people would want to fly if they did not have to have that for two hours or two and a half hours."
TSA officials said the extra month will give the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention time to develop new, more targeted policies that will consider the number of cases of COVID-19 nationally and in local communities, and the risk of new variants.
The CDC's rule requires “the wearing of masks by people on public transportation conveyances or on the premises of transportation hubs,” according to the agency's website.
The TSA enforces the rule, which extends to planes, buses, trains and transit hubs.
DeSantis said the duty to enforce it has instead fallen on airline employees.
"It's turned the airlines into having to police this, it's created a lot of unruly passenger situations cause it's so frustrating for people," DeSantis said.
A spokesperson for the CDC said Tuesday that the agency doesn't comment on ongoing litigation.
The Republican DeSantis, who is running for reelection and is considered to be a possible 2024 presidential candidate, has become popular in the GOP in part because of his opposition to federal public health rules on the coronavirus, including mask mandates.
Other states in recent weeks, even those led by Democratic governors, have relaxed their own mandates for wearing masks indoors, and the CDC eased its recommendations for masking indoors.
Last week, the CEOs of several major airlines and cargo carriers sent a letter to President Joe Biden to request that the mask mandate be lifted for travelers.
Florida is joined by Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia in the legal action.