Travelers through Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and on major airlines will no longer be required to wear a face mask, following a district court ruling on Monday.
Metro Transit in the Twin Cities and Amtrak have followed suit, making masks optional on its services.
Florida U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, who in 2020 made headlines by becoming the youngest district judge appointed to a lifetime position by then President Donald Trump, said requiring face masks on planes exceeds the authority of the CDC.
The mask mandate had been set to expire on Monday, but the CDC had planned to extend it by 15 days in order to study the BA.2 omicron subvariant, which is causing cases to rise in parts of the United States, including Minnesota.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) had said it would extend its mask requirement in airports till May 3, but dropped this in the wake of the court ruling.
In response, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport it would no longer enforce the requirement.
Airlines followed suit, with major carriers from MSP including Delta, American Airlines, and Sun Country dropping their own mask requirements.
"Thank you Sun Country guests for your patience & for masking up," Sun Country tweeted Monday evening. "Effective immediately, wearing a mask on Sun Country flights is optional for our passengers & employees. We look forward to seeing your smiles on board & encourage kindness & respect for those who continue to mask."
In her opinion, Mizelle said that the mask rule was "arbitrary and capricious" because the CDC didn't explain the reasoning behind it, despite many of the nation's leading health experts and organizations calling for the continued use of medical grade masks or N95/KN95 masks, along with other mitigation measures, to prevent the spread of COVID.
In its statement, Delta said it was relieved to see the mandate be lifted as COVID-19 "has transitioned to an ordinary seasonal virus," even though the virus remains deadlier than seasonal viruses like influenza, and there remains the risk of cases rising at any time of the year due to the development of new, more contagious variants.
"Delta employees and customers may continue wearing masks if they so choose," Delta added. "Wearing a well-fitting mask protects the wearer, even if others around them are not wearing masks."
Delta also noted that local mask mandates for those traveling to other countries may still be in effect.
After a few weeks in the low hundreds, Minnesota has seen its COVID-19 cases rise above 800 a day for three consecutive days, as the BA.2 variant takes hold in the state.