On Jan. 24, Nassau County Supreme Court Justice Thomas Rademaker ruled against New York Governor Kathy Hochul’s mask mandate.
The rule which had led Gov Hochul to order businesses without mandatory vaccination policies in place to require all workers, customers and guests wear masks, including schools, was previously issued by Health Commissioner Mary Bassett.
“[The] law that was promulgated and enacted unlawfully by an Executive branch state agency, and therefore void and unenforceable as a matter of law,” said Justice Rademaker. “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.”
However, an appeals court judge granted a stay in an appeal over mask mandates in New York on Jan 25, the following day, keeping the rule in effect according to New York Attorney General Letitia James.
Hochul responded to the ruling, “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. We strongly disagree with this ruling, and we are pursuing every option to reverse this immediately.”
Despite Hochuls orders, County Executive Bruce Blakeman signed a trio of executive orders on Jan 6, authorizing police to end the enforcement of mask mandates.
“We should protect the freedom and statutory rights of students and parents by resting with the parents on the decision whether their children should wear masks in school,” wrote Blakeman.
Adding, “A judge declared that Gov. Hochul’s student mask mandate is UNCONSTITUTIONAL, deeming mandates invalid statewide,” he wrote on Facebook Monday, calling the judge’s ruling a win for parents’ rights. “If you want to wear a mask, we support you. If you don’t, it’s your constitutional right.”
“State law prevails,” said Hochul when asked to comment on Blakeman’s orders.
The New York State Education Department reported that letters were sent about the ruling to superintendents around New York, saying that schools must follow the mask rule.
“The State Education Department understands that Nassau County Supreme Court has ruled that the Department of Health exceeded its authority in enacting the mask regulation… This regulation is the subject of conflicting decisions, insofar as Albany County Supreme Court recently upheld the regulation in Massapequa UFSD et al. v. Hochul, et al,” the Education Department wrote. “It is SED’s understanding that the Department of Health will appeal the Nassau County Supreme Court decision, which will result in an automatic stay that will unambiguously restore the mask rule until such time as an appellate court issues a further ruling. Therefore, schools must continue to follow the mask rule.”
A spokesman for the New York City Department of Education confirmed that students should continue to attend city schools with masks saying, “Mandatory masking has also been DOE policy since before the state adopted its mandate, so this decision has no immediate impact on New York City schools.”
Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked President Joe Biden’s vaccination-or-testing mandate for large businesses. A judge in Texas last week ruled that Biden could not require federal employees to be vaccinated.