New York State’s Mask Mandate Reinstated, For Now

Governor Kathy Hochul, masked up at an event earlier this month. Photo: John Angelillo/UPI/Shutterstock

New York State’s indoor mask mandate was restored on Tuesday after the state filed a lawsuit to overturn a ruling, issued on Monday, which struck down the mandate. A state appellate court judge granted a stay in response to the lawsuit, which means the mask mandate will remain in place until the appeals process plays out.

On Monday, a state judge struck down New York State’s indoor mask mandate on Monday, ruling that Governor Kathy Hochul and state Health Department officials exceeded their authority in enacting the mandate without the approval of the state Legislature. Nassau County Supreme Court Judge Thomas Rademaker said in his ruling that while the face-mask mandate was clearly “well aimed” with good intentions, it was not lawful after state lawmakers last year barred any governor from independently issuing new emergency orders like a mask mandate. Hochul quickly responded: “We strongly disagree with this ruling, and we are pursuing every option to reverse this immediately.” The state then appealed the ruling on Tuesday. A hearing on the appeal is scheduled for Friday morning.

On Monday night the state Department of Education said in a statement that “schools must continue to follow the mask rule,” explaining that the impending appeal “will result in an automatic stay that will unambiguously restore the mask rule until such time as an appellate court issues a further ruling.” As of Tuesday night, the statewide mandate was indeed back, including for schools.

However, almost two dozen school districts in the state quickly announced that masks were optional on account of Monday’s ruling, WABC-TV reported Tuesday — prompting confusion among parents and educators. While the number of new daily COVID-19 cases in the state has been dropping steadily over the past two weeks, the Omicron wave has not subsided, and face masks remain one of the most effective ways to protect against transmission of the coronavirus.

Monday’s ruling did not apply to local mask mandates.

The state’s mandate, which Hochul reinstated on December 13 amid the rising Omicron wave, required New Yorkers to wear face masks in indoor public places unless those places required vaccination for entry, including all New York schools, nursing homes, and public transit. The mandate was set to expire February 1 if state officials didn’t extend it again.

New York State’s Mask Mandate Reinstated, For Now