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What's next for NY's mask mandate after being struck down by judge?

Mike Groll
Office Of The Governor

After New York’s indoor mask mandate was overturned late Monday by a judge on Long Island, the state Attorney General’s Office filed papers on Tuesday saying it would appeal the ruling and seek to have the requirement reinstated.

A notice of appeal — the first step to have a decision considered by an appellate court — was filed overnight, according to the case docket.

Gov. Kathy Hochul, in a statement Tuesday evening, had said the state wouldn’t back down from the mandate. It’s unclear if any actions beyond the appeal are planned for the time being.

"We strongly disagree with this ruling, and we are pursuing every option to reverse this immediately,” Hochul said.

A mask mandate will still be enforced in schools, according to the state Education Department, as reported by the Times Union Tuesday morning.

Hochul implemented the mask mandate in December for public indoor spaces that don’t require proof of vaccination upon entry. In other words, if vaccines aren’t required in that space, then masks had to be worn regardless of vaccination status.

State Supreme Court Justice Thomas Rademaker from Nassau County wrote in a decision Monday that Hochul, and specifically then-Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett, didn’t have the authority to issue the mandate.

“While the intentions of Commissioner Bassett and Governor Hochul appear to be well aimed squarely at what they believe is right to protect the citizens of New York State, they must take their case to the state Legislature,” Rademaker wrote.

He wrote in the decision that state statute didn’t allow Hochul to create new laws, which he said applied to the mask mandate.

There's been no indication from the state Legislature that it plans to codify Hochul's mandate. Lawmakers have largely allowed the executive branch to manage the state's response to the virus since the pandemic began.

New York had argued that Hochul and Bassett were within their authority to create the emergency rule, and plan to make the same case on appeal, according to filings.

The case will now be considered by the Appellate Division, Second Department, and could make it to New York’s Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, depending on how long the legal process takes.

Dan Clark is the host and producer of New York NOW, a weekly television show focusing on state government produced by WMHT in Albany. Clark has been reporting on New York state government and politics for the last six years, during which time he's worked out of the state Capitol in Albany. Clark reported for the national political fact-checking publication PolitiFact, the Buffalo News, the statewide political television show Capital Tonight, and most recently the New York Law Journal. At the New York Law Journal, Clark has focused on state legal challenges to President Donald Trump, as well as litigation concerning laws enacted by the New York State Legislature. Clark covered the Legislature in each role he's held and is a familiar face to state lawmakers and staff. Clark is a native of Afton, NY in Chenango County. He's lived in Albany with his husband since 2011.