New York’s mask mandate, issued by Gov. Kathy Hochul, was granted a reprieve by a state appellate court on Monday, which could result in protective face coverings remaining in schools and indoor settings until March 2.
Officials said the mandate, which expires Feb. 10 for indoor settings and Feb. 21 for schools, can stay in effect until at least March 2, the deadline for the state to file documents for its appeal of a lawsuit filed by a group of 14 parents. The lawsuit, filed on Jan. 24, claims Hochul’s mask mandate was unconstitutional.
“I commend the Appellate Division, Second Department for granting a full stay to keep our masking regulations in place for the duration of our appeal,” Hochul said in a statement following the court’s ruling Monday. “My primary responsibility as Governor is to keep New Yorkers safe. Mask regulations keep our schools and businesses safe and open, protect vulnerable New Yorkers, and are critical tools as we work to get through this winter surge.”
On Jan. 24, Judge Thomas Rademaker of State Supreme Court in Nassau County ruled that the mandates violated the state Constitution, resulting in a handful of school districts on Long Island making masks optional on Tuesday, Jan. 25. The next day, Appellate Judge Robert J. Miller’s verdict forced the school districts that chose to make mask-wearing optional to go back to following Hochul’s guidelines.
Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, who has strongly opposed Hochul’s masking requirements since taking office on Jan. 1, was joined by parents and children on Tuesday as he called on the governor to end the mandate.
“COVID cases are down 86% statewide yet the Governor refuses to even tell residents, business owners, parents, students, and school boards what metric must be reached to lift her unconstitutional mandate,” Blakeman said. “The Governor should adhere to the law, follow the science, and allow local officials to decide what is best for their hometown communities.”
Michael Demetriou, one of the parents listed on the lawsuit against the state, said the newly ordered stay on Rademaker’s ruling is “smoke and mirrors.”
“This is a victory,” Demetriou said Tuesday. “Whether the Governor likes it or not, she will answer to the people why she thinks she’s allowed to bypass our voices … The end is now in sight. She has placed herself in checkmate.”
Demetriou and Blakeman called on media organizations to ask Hochul what the requirements are for having the mandates lifted and provide specific metrics as to when protective face coverings can stop being enforced.
Efforts to reach Hochul for comment on the matter were unavailing.
Blakeman again touted Nassau’s progress in combating the coronavirus with more than 80 percent of the county’s eligible population being fully inoculated, according to statistics from the state Department of Health on Tuesday, the most up-to-date figures.
Blakeman, a Republican, received backlash from Democratic officials throughout the state for an executive order he signed in mid-January aimed at providing school districts with a choice to enforce mask mandates or not.
Hochul previously said local governments do not have the power to override state mandates on education and called Blakeman’s executive order an attempt “to assert authority with respect to what has already been declared a public health emergency.”