New York is appealing a ruling by a Long Island judge that its mask mandate for schools and other public places is an illegal end run around the state constitution.
The mask-wearing rule was issued Dec. 10 by the state’s health commissioner at the urging of Governor
On Monday, Judge
“While the intentions of Commissioner Bassett and Governor Hochul appear to be well aimed squarely at doing what they believe is right to protect the citizens of New York, they must take their case to the state legislature,” Rademaker wrote.
New York filed a notice of appeal on Monday. On Tuesday New York State Supreme Court Justice Robert J. Miller temporarily halted Rademaker’s order until a Friday hearing in which the two sides will argue over a longer stay while the court considers the appeal.
‘Protect New Yorkers’
“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 Monday. “We strongly disagree with this ruling, and we are pursuing every option to reverse this immediately.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends universal indoor masking for all children ages 2 and up when they are in school. Additionally, the agency’s guidelines on masking back their use by staff and visitors, regardless of vaccination status. Since the spread of the omicron variant in the U.S., the agency has also begun to recommend that well-fitting, medical-grade masks are best at curbing the spread of the virus.
The parents who sued argued they should be permitted to make health care decisions for their children, saying the kids sometimes become lightheaded while wearing masks. The infection rate among children is low, making the mask rule unnecessary, they said.
Health regulations in the U.S. are generally handled at the state and local level, resulting in a patchwork of widely differing rules throughout the country.
In New York, Hochul and former governor
Rademaker’s decision, which is based on New York law, has no effect outside the state but could encourage critics of the rules to file challenges elsewhere. Courts across the country have been similarly divided over rules for vaccines.
The New York dispute reflects the state’s politics. Early in the pandemic, in March 2020, state lawmakers granted Cuomo extraordinary powers to enact sweeping new statutes to deal with the Covid-19 emergency without the approval of the state legislature. The legislature voted in March 2021 to rescind those powers.
By Tuesday, several New York school districts had said they’d dropped masking or made it optional, including schools in Bellmore-Merrick, Glen Cove, Massapequa and Farmingdale.
Others, including Lynbrook, Jericho and Hastings-on-Hudson, said they’re going to maintain the mask mandate, in some cases saying the state’s Education Department told them Rademaker’s ruling likely won’t go into effect until the appeals process is complete.
That question went to an appeals court judge Tuesday, when a lawyer for the state asked for a temporarily hold on Rademaker’s ruling and said that failing to provide one would “radically disrupt the status-quo masking requirements.” Judge Robert Miller said he would rule on the request by Wednesday.
New York City, the state’s largest school district, has a mandatory masking policy that has been in place since before the state adopted its requirement. In a television interview Tuesday, Mayor
Meanwhile local districts can institute their own mandates -- which are subject to further legal challenges.
The case is Demetriou v. New York State Department of Health, 616124/2021, New York State Supreme Court, Nassau County (Mineola).
(Adds stay of order in fifth paragraph.)
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