In an opinion released Monday, Nassau County Supreme Court Judge Thomas Rademaker argued that because New York was no longer under a state of emergency at the time the mask mandate was announced, the governor and health commissioner did not have the additional authority to order such a mandate, adding the mandate is now unenforceable.
In March 2021, New York’s state legislature passed a bill
limiting the governor’s ability to issue emergency orders. In December, amid a new Omicron wave emerging, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced a temporary mask mandate that required New Yorkers to wear a mask in all indoor public spaces unless businesses implement a vaccine requirement.
“While the intentions of Commissioner Bassett and Governor Hochul appear to be well aimed squarely at doing what they believe is the right to protect the citizens of New York State, they must take their case to the State Legislature,” Rademaker wrote. “Should the State Legislature, representative of and voted into office by the citizens of New York, after publicly informed debate, decide to enact laws requiring face coverings in schools and other public places then the Commissioner would likely be well grounded in properly promulgated and enacted rules to supplement such laws.”
Hochul said she was working to reverse the decision immediately.
“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 in a statement
Monday. “We strongly disagree with this ruling, and we are pursuing every option to reverse this immediately.”
Rademaker said his decision was only about whether the mandate was properly enacted.
“To be clear, this Court does not intend this decision in any way to question or otherwise opine on the efficacy, need, or requirement of masks as a means or tool in dealing with the COVID-19 virus,” Rademaker wrote. “This Court decides only the issues of whether the subject rule was properly enacted and if so whether same can be enforced.”
Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, who took office earlier this month, signed an executive order the week he took office allowing school boards to determine if school children should be required to wear masks.
Nassau County is based on New York’s Long Island and has a population of nearly 1.4 million people.
“This is a major win for students & parents,” Blakeman said in a tweet
responding to the ruling.
CNN has reached out to the New York State Education Department for comment but has not heard back yet.