State Watch

Judge strikes down New York’s indoor mask mandate

A New York judge struck down the Empire State’s indoor mask mandate on Monday, arguing that such a policy must be approved by the state legislature before taking effect.

Nassau County Supreme Court Justice Thomas Rademaker determined that Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) did not have the authority to enforce an indoor mask mandate in December, when she announced that she was renewing a face covering requirement for indoor locations for roughly a month.

Three weeks later, however, the state Health Department extended the requirement by two more weeks, according to The New York Times, putting it in place until Feb. 1.

Rademaker, in his ruling, said such a policy must be “tailored, necessarily related, and attached to a law that the State Legislature has passed,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

He noted that while the intentions of Hochul and state Health Commissioner Mary Bassett “appear to be well aimed squarely at doing what they believe is right to protect the citizens of New York,” they have to present their case to the state legislature, according to The Washington Post.

Democrats control both chambers of the New York legislature by large margins.

The decision is the latest setback to Democratic leaders looking to enforce mandates to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, especially as the country grapples with a spike in cases driven largely by the highly transmissible omicron variant.

The U.S. Supreme Court temporarily blocked the Biden administration’s vaccine-or-test mandate for large employers earlier this month, putting a pause on one of the president’s strategies to tame the pandemic.

Hochul on Monday vowed to fight Rademaker’s decision, writing that she disagrees with 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,” Hochul said in a statement. “We strongly disagree with this ruling, and we are pursuing every option to reverse this immediately.”

The New York State Assembly in March 2020 passed a bill that gave then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) wide authority to make directives he thought were needed to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the state lawmakers voted to eliminate those powers a year later, the Journal noted. The state of emergency then expired in June. 

Hochul, however, declared a state of emergency in late November as COVID-19 cases were increasing alongside concern about the omicron variant.

Tags Andrew Cuomo Kathy Hochul

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