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Airline passengers have mixed reactions after judge strikes down federal mask mandate for public transportation

Cheers erupted at airports and aboard some flights Monday as a federal judge struck down the federal mask mandate for public transportation. But not everyone was pleased with the decision.

At Reagan National Airport outside Washington, D.C., there were mixed reactions among passengers and most people kept their masks on, CBS News transportation correspondent Errol Barnett reported Tuesday.

"It's a preventive measure," traveler Bob Mounter said. "If they tell me, for example, I don't have to wear seatbelts anymore, I will still wear my seatbelt."

The ruling from Florida's District Court Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, also drew criticism from the Biden administration. 

"This is obviously a disappointing decision," White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Monday, adding that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends masks on public transit.  

The CDC had recently extended the mask mandate by two weeks, until May 3, to allow more time to study the Omicron subvariant BA.2, which now accounts for the majority of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. The Biden administration is considering its options to challenge the ruling. 

Still, some eagerly embraced the end of one of the most high-profile coronavirus mandates in place for nearly two years.

A video shared on social media shows passengers cheering aboard an airplane as the pilot informed them of the ruling. One flight attendant appeared to turn the news into music, singing "throw away your mask" aboard a flight, according to a video posted on Twitter.

"It's ridiculous. We're so tired of it," traveler Mike Hirco told Barnett.

States can still choose to keep mask mandates for state-run public transportation. In Philadelphia, an indoor mask mandate just went into effect Monday following a sharp spike in COVID-19 cases in the city.

Dr. Céline Gounder, an infectious disease expert and editor-at-large for Kaiser Health News, said the two-week extension on the federal mandate was the "appropriate" and "cautious" approach. 

"We are now in a phase of the pandemic where we have put the onus entirely on those who are immunocompromised to protect themselves," she said Tuesday on "CBS Mornings."

Gounder said the judge's decision could make it harder for the CDC take similar actions in the future.

"We know that this virus that mutates. In fact, it's mutating very rapidly," she said. "We will see more variants, and we will see other pandemics after COVID. So I do think the idea of stripping ourselves of an essential tool and toolbox is a really bad idea."

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