New York Appeals Court Grants Stay, Allowing State to Reinstate Mask Mandate

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New York’s indoor mask mandate for schools and other public locations will remain in effect after an appeals court judge granted a stay on Tuesday, temporarily blocking a ruling from a lower court that struck down the mandate one day earlier.

Justice Robert Miller’s ruling on Tuesday effectively allows the mask requirement to temporarily go back into effect while the state files a formal appeal of the Monday ruling. Another hearing is scheduled on the mask mandate for Friday morning.

“As Governor, my top priority is protecting the people of this state. These measures are critical tools to prevent the spread of COVID-19, make schools and businesses safe, and save lives,” Governor Kathy Hochul said Tuesday. “I commend the Attorney General for her defense of the health and safety of New Yorkers, and applaud the Appellate Division, Second Department for siding with common sense and granting an interim stay to keep the state’s important masking regulations in place. We will not stop fighting to protect New Yorkers, and we are confident we will continue to prevail.”

A New York State Supreme Court judge on Monday ruled that Hochul’s mask mandate is unconstitutional. Judge Thomas Rademaker found that the governor and the state health commissioner did not have the authority to enact a mask mandate without the state legislature, given that the governor no longer has emergency powers.

The mask mandate has been in place since mid-December, when the state saw a surge in the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

“There can be no question that every person in this State wishes, wants and prays that this era of COVID ends soon and they will surely do their part to see that is accomplished,” Rademaker wrote in his decision. “However, enacting any laws to this end is entrusted solely to the State Legislature. While the intentions of Commissioner Bassett and Governor Hochul appear to be well aimed squarely at doing what they believe is right to protect the citizens of New York State, they must take their case to the State Legislature.”

Monday’s decision came out of a state Supreme Court based in Nassau County, which is a trial court. The New York Court of Appeals is akin to a more traditional “Supreme Court” in terms of authority, in that it is the state’s highest court.

Hochul said Monday she planned to fight Rademaker’s decision. New York State attorney general Letitia James filed a motion to stay the ruling to allow the mandate to remain in effect while the state filed a formal appeal.

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