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NYS mask mandate back in effect; judge temporarily stays ruling

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NEW YORK (PIX11) — New York’s mask mandate was reinstated Tuesday afternoon after an appeals court judge granted a stay, temporarily blocking a ruling that struck down the mandate on Monday.

Gov. Kathy Hochul said in August that all students and staff would need to wear masks in schools. Then in December, she announced a mask requirement for all indoor businesses and venues unless they already require proof of vaccination to enter.

When Judge Thomas Rademaker ruled Hochul’s mandate unconstitutional, Hochul said she’d fight back. The State Attorney General’s Office filed a notice of appeal by Tuesday morning. Justice Robert Miller, after granting the stay, scheduled another hearing on the mask issue for Friday morning.

“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,” Hochul said. “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.”

In his ruling Monday, Rademaker said the mandate was unconstitutional and unenforceable because it was “enacted unlawfully by an Executive branch state agency” rather than the New York State Legislature.

“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.

Anthony Kuhn, a managing partner with Tully Rinckey PLLC who is not a part of the case, noted the lower court’s ruling focused on separation of powers.

“You have one Commissioner within the executive branch who essentially created this law,” Kuhn said. “The judge has stepped in and determined that the law is unconstitutional because the Legislative branch makes laws.”

Speaking in Syracuse Tuesday, Hochul disagreed with Rademaker’s reasoning.

“We disagree with the premise that it has to go through the Legislature,” Hochul said.

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