Court Strikes Down New York State Mask Mandate

AP Photo/Seth Wenig

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s controversial statewide mask mandate, which took effect on Dec. 13, has been ruled unlawful by a judge in Long Island.

The mandate required face masks to be worn in all indoor public places that don’t have a vaccine requirement. Violations of the mandate were subject to a maximum fine of $1,000.


Nassau County Supreme Court Justice Thomas Rademaker said the rule amounted to “a law that was promulgated and enacted unlawfully by an Executive branch state agency, and therefore void and unenforceable as a matter of law.”

Hochul’s mandate faced enforcement problems from the very beginning. County health departments were put in charge of enforcing the mandate, and most counties ultimately refused to enforce it, citing a lack of resources or objections to the policy. The governor chose not to force counties to comply with the mask mandate. Hochul herself has been criticized for not wearing a mask during certain public events.

“While the intentions of [Health] 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,” Rademaker wrote.

Rademaker noted in his ruling that the state legislature had curbed the ability of Gov. Cuomo and “as well as any future Governor,” from issuing executive orders during a state disaster emergency.

The case resulted from a lawsuit filed by several parents “on behalf of all minor school children and persons similarly situated.” In August, the New York State Department of Health issued a mask mandate for public schools. That mandate has also been lifted as a result of this ruling.


Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman called Rademaker’s decision “a tremendous victory for the people of New York State, especially the school kids.”

“So many parents came to me and said that they didn’t feel it was healthy for their children to be forced to wear masks and they wanted to have that choice and I agree,” he added.

Hochul has promised to appeal.

“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. “We strongly disagree with this ruling, and we are pursuing every option to reverse this immediately.”

The State Department of Health, however, insists that masks must continue to be worn in schools, saying that the 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.”

“Therefore, schools must continue to follow the mask rule,” the department said in a statement.



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