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COVID-19

Major Airlines, Amtrak end Mask Mandate after FL Judge Ruling

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Southwest Airlines

The Skies just got a little friendlier after a Florida federal Judge overruled the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) transportation mask mandate.

Following the ruling Monday by U.S. district judge Kathryn Mizelle, major airlines and Amtrak announced they were ending the requirement to wear masks while traveling. Mizelle ruled that the CDC mandate violated the Administrative Procedure Act, meaning it failed to justify the reasoning behind the mandate; a procedure federal agencies must adhere to.

Just hours after the ruling, a Biden Administration official told media outlets the mandate “is not in effect at the time.” A cause for celebration, “American, Delta, Southwest, United, and Alaska Airlines all said on Monday night that passengers could fly without masks” reports National Review.

Some pilots even made the announcement about the policy change mid-flight. United Airlines sent out a peppy tweet Monday evening with the announcement. “Masks are no longer required on domestic fights, select international flights (dependent upon the arrival country’s requirements) or at U.S. airports. More comfortable keeping yours on? Go right ahead…the choice is yours (you look Dino-mite either way)!”

Southwest encouraged passengers to make their own decision about whether or not to wear a mask based on what’s best for their “personal wellbeing.” Ten major airline CEOs wrote an open letter to President Biden last month calling on him to end the mask mandate.

“It makes no sense that people are still required to wear masks on airplanes, yet are allowed to congregate in crowded restaurants, schools and at sporting events without masks, despite non of these venues having the protective air filtration system that aircraft do” the letter stated.

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COVID-19

Watchdog: Pentagon likely rushed denials of COVID-19 vaccine Religious Exemption requests

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Afghanistan 676001056

The Army only approved just 24 religious COVID-19 vaccine exemption requests out of a total 8,514 requests submitted by active duty soldiers, and  1,602 requests have been rejected while the rest remain pending.

Military.com obtained information showing the Pentagon rushed vaccine exemption denials:

Sean O’Donnell, the Pentagon’s inspector general, wrote in a June 2 memo to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin obtained by Military.com calling attention to a “concerning” trend in which military brass rushed to reject vaccine-exemption petitions rather than giving each request due consideration.

“We found a trend of generalized assessments rather than the individualized assessment that is required by Federal law and DoD and Military Service policies,” he said. “Some of the appellate decisions included documentation that demonstrated a greater consideration of facts and circumstances involved in a request.”

In March, a Texas judge blocked the Navy from dismissing sailors with pending exemption requests and in August, a Florida federal judge ordered class action relief and granted an injunction barring the federal government from enforcing the vaccine mandate for the Marine Corps.

National Review writes, “For the last year, military has been struggling with a recruitment problem. As of July, with only three months left in the fiscal year, the Army had met only 40 percent of its recruitment goal and reduced its active-duty force by 12,000 troops.”

O’Donnell calculated that officials likely gave each appeal a cursory glance rather than a thorough examination, possibly opening the door to litigation from service members who had to resign after they failed to obtain exemptions. Across all the branches, there were about 50 denials per day in a 90-day period, he determined. Over a thousand Coast Guardsmen have already tried to launch a class-action lawsuit in response to their being refused religious exemptions, the publication noted.

“The volume and rate at which decisions were made to deny requests is concerning,” the memo read. “Assuming a 10-hour work day with no breaks or attention to other matters, the average review period was about 12 minutes for each package. Such a review period seems insufficient to process each request in an individualized manner and still perform the duties required of their position.”

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