Judge Temporarily Reinstates New York’s Mask Mandate

An appeals judge temporarily reinstated New York’s mandate to use masks on Tuesday, a day after a lower court judge ruled that Gov. Kathy Hochul’s administration lacked the constitutional authority to order people to wear face masks.

Judge Robert Miller in New York granted the state’s request to stay the Long Island judge’s decision while the governor’s office considers the appeal.

Speaking to Miller on Tuesday, Judith Weil, the state’s attorney, said Judge Thomas Rademaker’s earlier ruling would “drastically disrupt the status quo” and endanger the health of students and school staff.

“The order, if not maintained, will allow people to opt out of wearing face coverings in enclosed public places where the risk of spreading COVID-19 is high, including in schools where many children remain unvaccinated against COVID-19,” the statement said. state courts. .

Lawyer Chad Lavella, who issued the challenge on behalf of the parent group, vowed to take the challenge “as far as it takes”.

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“The referee was completely wrong. Giving a delay is blatantly unconstitutional,” he said.

Monday’s decision to lift the mask requirement caused confusion among school districts and parents, with some administrators quickly announcing that masks would be optional while others continued to enforce them.

“While this decision is likely to run into legal challenges, until and unless there is other legal action, mask-wearing will be optional for Massapequah students and staff beginning Tuesday,” the Massapequah School District in suburban New York City on Long Bay said. Island. his website.

The state initially introduced a requirement in April 2020 that people must wear masks in most areas outside the home. This rule ended in June 2021 for vaccinated people. In mid-December, Hochul announced that due to a spike in COVID-19 cases in the state, it would be back in effect for at least a month. Earlier this month, the state health department said the mandate would run until Feb. 1.

Hochul, a Democrat, said she was confident the mandate would be supported.

“As governor, my top priority is protecting the people of this state. These measures are critical tools to prevent the spread of COVID-19, keep schools and businesses safe, and save lives,” she said following Miller’s ruling.

Senate Republican leader Rob Ortt criticized Hochul for relying on mandates and said she should instead send the bill to the Legislature for debate.

“This pandemic has been going on for two years now, and it is absurd that this administration is still ruling on mandates that continue to cause confusion, frustration and division among New Yorkers,” he said.

The Long Island judge’s decision did not stop school districts from enacting their own mask rules.

This happened as the omicron wave that swept New York State seemed to have weakened. The state averaged just under 22,000 new cases of the virus per day in the seven-day period ending Monday, compared to 74,600 per day during the wave’s peak in early January. Hospital admissions are also on the decline, down 17% statewide in the past seven days.

New York State United Teachers President Andy Pallotta cited current public health recommendations favoring masks during times of elevated infection rates.

“In the meantime, we are asking state health officials to set clear timelines for when mask-wearing requirements in schools can be eased,” Pallotta said, “so that students, families and educators have some reassurance that the school has lights.” the end of this long tunnel.”

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