This story has been updated to add comment from BART Board member Debora Allen.
Only 4 days after U.S. District Judge Kathryn Mizelle’s ruling that the Centers for Disease Control does not have the authority to issue a mask mandate for air travel, or on public transportation, Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer announced that masks will again be required on all public transit within the County, including buses, trains, taxis and ride-sharing services, under her latest COVID-19 health order.
Judge Mizelle ruled that “the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention exceeded its statutory authority and violates the procedures required for agency rulemaking under the Administrative Procedures Act.” The judge acknowledged in her ruling that one day after taking office, President Biden issued an executive order stating that wearing masks can mitigate the effects of COVID-19 among travelers. Two weeks later the CDC published the mask mandate without without allowing public participation through the Administrative Procedures Act’s notice and comment procedures. (Read the ruling HERE)
Her ruling makes clear that the CDC and Biden administration essentially colluded on the non-scientific, non-medical, non-public health order because they wanted people to comply with their mask orders.
Last week, Bay Area Rapid Transit Board members voted to reinstate the mask mandate “effective until July 18, 2022, unless it is extended by the BART Board.” Why July 18th? Because they can?
Both of these public transit systems have serious financial woes, internal management and union issues, as well as horrific crime and low ridership issues, having nothing to do with masks.
It may take lawsuits from public transit riders in Los Angeles and San Francisco to overturn these mandates.
“The spread of COVID-19 continues to be a significant risk for many in Los Angeles County,” the LA County public health website says. That’s all it says, other than offering guidances for mask wearing.
In February, photos of the NFC Championship game in Los Angeles on social media brought us images of unmasked California Gov. Gavin Newsom, San Francisco Mayor London Breed and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, posing for pics with Magic Johnson, despite the Los Angeles County mask mandate and SoFi Stadium requirements. And they followed it up with a maskless Super Bowl two weeks later demonstrating the two-tiered system of mask rule enforcement.
The “BART Board of Directors approved a temporary amendment to the District’s Code of Conduct to require riders to wear masks in paid areas of the system with limited exceptions,” with no reason provided. It’s just a dictate.There is no medical, scientific, or actual public health reason provided for the reinstated mask mandate.
“COVID cases are rising and we must keep riders safe, especially folks with health conditions, immunocompromised, and kids not yet eligible to get vaccinated,” said BART board President Rebecca Saltzman on Thursday.
Notably, “BART police – not station managers – will enforce the mandate,” the East Bay Times reported.
Who are these people issuing face mask orders? Not one is a scientist, virologist, epidemiologist or medical doctor.
Rebecca Saltzman “spent years as a public transit and policy advocate, coalition builder, organizer, and manager with local, state, and national issue-based organizations,” her BART bio says. “Saltzman previously served as Vice-Chair of the Oakland Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, where she advised the City of Oakland on pedestrian and bicycle policy and infrastructure.”
Saltzman is a long-time advocate for public transit and bicycles. She’s not a medical professional or scientist.
Other BART Board members include a financial and business management specialist, an East Bay Municipal Utility District employee, a geography and urban planning teacher and bicycle advocate, a retired Oakland Fire Department Chief Officer and Safety Specialist, a Professional Civil Engineer, a civil rights and racial justice advocate, a community organizer with the SF Bicycle Coalition, and a 40-year public servant to elected lawmakers.
Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer is not an epidemiologist, virologist or even a licensed M.D. She does not have a medical degree, but is highly credentialed… Her Ph.D. is in “Social Welfare” from from Brandeis University. She has a Master’s Degree in “Public Health” from Boston University, and a BA in “Community Studies” at UC Santa Cruz.
Following Judge Mizelle’s ruling, the Biden administration threatened to appeal. And then the CDC issued this odd media statement:
“To protect CDC’s public health authority beyond the ongoing assessment announced last week, CDC has asked DOJ to proceed with an appeal in Health Freedom Defense Fund, Inc., et al., v. Biden, et al. It is CDC’s continuing assessment that at this time an order requiring masking in the indoor transportation corridor remains necessary for the public health.”
“To protect CDC’s public health authority beyond the ongoing assessment announced last week…” is how the CDC media statement opens. To protect their authority.
It is only two sentences into the second paragraph that the CDC acknowledges its actual mission:
“CDC’s number one priority is protecting the public health of our nation.”
News of Judge Mizelle’s ruling spread across the country like wildfire. People in airports, on planes and public transit posted videos cheering at the announcement and of masks being ripped off. Because universal mask-wearing is dehumanizing and malevolent.
This popular decision and nearly universal reaction went viral. But it was only a matter of time before threats of a Biden Administration appeal were leaked, and then filed.
This only emboldened the country’s most authoritarian public health officials, proving that it is really only about their authority.
UPDATE: BART Board member Debora Allen contacted the Globe noting that she is the “financial and business management specialist” described in the article. Allen said, “2 Directors (myself and Raburn) abstained from voting on the measure because NO presentation was given to board members on the scientific evidence of masks in the prevention of the spread of the virus. Our board almost always gets a ‘factual’ presentation from staff on any new initiatives, but this time they took a hard pass. As I questioned staff during the public meeting, we learned that the BART station agents, ambassadors, and police officers all hand out CLOTH masks, something studied and known to provide little to no protection from the virus. I raised this issue along with the enforcement aspects in my questioning before abstaining on the measure due to lack of information.”