UPDATE: On Wednesday Jan 26 an Appellate Court Judge granted a stay in the State’s lawsuit on Tuesday. The mask mandate, therefore, remains in place while the case is appealed. A hearing has been set for Friday at the State Appellate Court, Second Department, in Brooklyn to determine the future of the mandate.
Original Story: From the onset of her order, Governor Kathy Hochul has faced an uphill battle to reinstate previous safety measures put in place at the beginning of the pandemic. After multiple County Executives, including Rockland’s own Ed Day, refused to enforce the mask mandate resurrected by Hochul last December, the state Supreme Court struck another blow to the governor’s efforts on Monday by declaring her order unconstitutional. While a planned appeal from the State Department of Education will likely preserve compulsory mask use in public schools, the court’s decision will now allow New York’s private businesses to make their own decision on mask requirements.
In an opinion written by Nassau County Supreme Court Judge Thomas Rademaker, the court argued that because New York was not under a state of emergency at the time of Hochul’s order, the governor and health commissioner did not have the authority to implement the mandate. While acknowledging the good intentions of her decision, referring to the mandate as “well aimed,” Judge Radmaker and his colleagues affirmed that Houchul had acted unconstitutionally by enacting the ban without the approval of the State Legislature. Radmaker emphasized that the court’s decision was not intended to “question or otherwise opine on the efficacy, need, or requirement of masks as a means or tool in dealing with the Covid-19 virus,” but simply decide if the governor’s order was properly enacted.
Governor Hochul’s administration is already working to reverse the court’s decision: the office of the state attorney general, Letitia James, filed a notice of intent to appeal the ruling on Monday night. The mask mandate was originally set to expire on Jan 15, but was extended to Feb 1 by the governor after “reevaluating” the state’s progress in preventing the spread of Covid-19.
The court’s decision echoes criticisms voiced by Rockland representatives when the order was first implemented. Executive Day accused the governor of acting unilaterally, while Assemblyman Mike Lawler called the move “government overreach” accusing Hochul of acting outside her authority.
Governor Houchul, unperturbed by these criticisms, has vowed to reinstate the mask mandate. “My responsibility as Governor is to protect New Yorkers throughout this public health crisis, and these measures help prevent the spread of Covid-19 and save lives,” she said Monday in a statement.
“We strongly disagree with this ruling, and we are pursuing every option to reverse this immediately.”
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