Appeal Hearing Possible this Afternoon after Judge Strikes Down Governor’s Mask Mandate

Appeal Hearing Possible this Afternoon after Judge Strikes Down Governor’s Mask Mandate

By Yehudit Garmaise

Attorney General Letitia James’ office immediately filed her intent to appeal state Supreme Court Judge Thomas Rademaker’s decision yesterday that Gov. Kathy Hochul does not have the legal authority to issue a statewide mask mandate, which only the state legislature could issue, he said.

James’ office said that, for now, the New York state mask mandate was not in place until a hearing could be held, however, that hearing might take place this afternoon. 

“We strongly disagree with this ruling, and we are pursuing every option to reverse this immediately,” Gov. Hochul said. “It is my responsibility as governor is to protect New Yorkers throughout this public health crisis, with measures that help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and save lives.”

After New York state’s year-long mask mandate ended in June 2021 for those who were vaccinated, on Dec. 10, to combat the Omicron variant, which was spreading at lightning speed, Gov. Hochul announced a new statewide mask mandate that would stay in effect for at least a month. 

Gov. Hochul’s mask mandate was issued for all indoor public places: unless the businesses already enforced vaccine requirements, and noncompliant businesses could be subject to both civil and criminal penalties with maximum fines of $1,000 per violation. 

The state health department said earlier this month that the mandate would be in place until Feb. 1, and that local health departments will enforce the mandate, however, many counties immediately said they would not comply.

Judge Rademaker’s ruling came as the fast and furious Omicron variant seems to be fading. While in early January, when the new variant was at its peak, New York was seeing 74,600 new cases of COVID per day, by Jan. 24, the state was seeing approximately 23,400 new COVID cases of the virus per day. 

In the last seven days, hospitalizations in New York have also declined by 17%.

After yesterday’s news of the ruling, public school districts statewide are not sure what to tell parents about whether children will still be required to wear masks in school today.

Some school districts said that masks would be optional for students, and other school districts, which said they understand the state is appealing the decision, are keeping the mask rules in place.

“The situation could change again at any time,” at least two district officials told NBC New York.

 Photo by: Flickr

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