Why Hasn’t the U.S. Asked for a Stay in the Mask Mandate Case?


WASHINGTON — Does the Biden administration really want and intend to fight for a higher court reversal of the ruling this week striking down its mask mandate on airplanes, trains and other public transportation — as its high-profile appeal of the case seemed to suggest?

Legal specialists raised another possibility on Thursday: The administration may instead be buying time and thinking about trying to erase the ruling — a move that would allow it to protect the powers of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to respond to a future crisis — but without reviving a mask mandate.

The tell, several outside specialists said, was that the Biden administration was letting days pass without seeking a stay of the ruling, the step that could most immediately resurrect the mask requirement.

“Basically, it is giving up on the mask mandate,” said Lawrence O. Gostin, a Georgetown University professor of global health law who advised the White House on the case. “The administration’s goal is a legal principle, which is to ensure that the C.D.C. has strong public health powers to fight Covid and to fight future pandemics. And it appears much less important to them to quickly reinstate the mask mandate.”