A New York State Supreme Court judge struck down the state’s public mask mandate on Monday, saying the governor and top health official aren’t able to enforce such rules without the approval of the state legislature.
Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) reenacted the mask mandate in December amid the spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus, requiring people to wear face coverings in all public spaces that don’t require vaccination for entry. It was set to expire on Feb. 1 but prompted fierce backlash from lawmakers and businesses despite a surge in cases and a strained hospital system.
Hochul said her office was exploring how to take immediate action to reverse the ruling.
“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.”
Judge Thomas Rademaker noted in his ruling that, although there were “good intentions” behind the mask mandate, the power to do so rested with state lawmakers, not the governor’s office.
“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,” he 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, a vocal opponent of mask mandates, cheered the news on Monday, calling it a “major win for students & parents.”