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Gov. Kathy Hochul’s team announced a stay was granted Tuesday on her coronavirus mask mandate.
She said, "As governor, my top priority is protecting the people of this state. These measures are critical tools to prevent the spread of COVID-19, make schools and businesses safe, and save lives. I commend the attorney general for her defense of the health and safety of New Yorkers, and applaud the Appellate Division, Second Department, for siding with common sense and granting an interim stay to keep the state's important masking regulations in place. We will not stop fighting to protect New Yorkers, and we are confident we will continue to prevail."
A Nassau County Supreme Court ruled Monday the mandate couldn’t be enforced, as it wasn’t first approved by the New York State Legislature. Hochul replied by stating, "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."
On Dec. 10, Hochul announced masks would be required to be worn in all indoor public places statewide, unless businesses or venues implement a vaccine requirement. That began Dec. 13, and is set to continue until Feb. 1.
Earlier in the day, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz issued a statement regarding the status of emergency orders issued by Erie County, including the requirement to wear masks in all indoor public locations, issued on Nov. 23.
“Yesterday, a Nassau County State Supreme Court judge issued a decision on the constitutionality of an order issued by New York state. The judge did not rule on the merits of a mask mandate, nor on the constitutionality of emergency orders issued by local governments. All local orders, including Erie County's, are still valid because they were issued under a different section of New York’s executive law,” he said. “As such, all prior Erie County emergency orders are still in full effect, including the emergency order issued on Nov. 23, 2021, requiring all patrons and public-facing staff in indoor Erie County public locations to wear masks. ‘Indoor public locations’ includes, but is not limited to bars, restaurants, hotels, barber shops, beauty parlors, bowling alleys, schools, office complexes, shopping centers, malls, stores and any other location that is open to the public.”
New York State Education Commissioner Betty A. Rosa said, “We are pleased the Appellate Division granted the application by the Department of Health and the governor’s office, confirming the lower court’s decision is stayed pending further proceedings. As such, the mask mandate remains in effect for schools across the state. We support Gov. Hochul and the state Department of Health as they continue with the appeal. We thank the members of our school communities for their patience during this process.”
Prior to the stay order, New York State United Teachers President Andy Pallotta said, “Public health experts have been clear that masks are an important part of the strategies designed to keep students, educators and our communities safe. Their current guidance is that masking up is the right thing to do, particularly given the still-elevated infection rates. In the meantime, we’re looking to state health officials to set a clear off-ramp for when mask requirements in schools can be relaxed so students, families and educators have some certainty that there is light at the end of this long tunnel.”
Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt said, “I am disappointed the Appellate Division issued a stay that will keep the unconstitutional mask mandate in place while the appeals process plays out in the courts.
“We are two years into this pandemic, and it’s absurd that this administration is still ruling by mandates – which continue to cause confusion, frustration and division among New Yorkers.
“If the governor truly thinks a mask mandate is in the best interests of New Yorkers, she should send a bill to be debated before the Legislature.
“New Yorkers are fed up – it’s time to move beyond one-size-fits-all mandates and return to a system that provides checks and balances.”