New York Mask Mandate Back in Place After Appeals Judge Grants Stay

By Mimi Nguyen Ly
Mimi Nguyen Ly
Mimi Nguyen Ly
Mimi Nguyen Ly is a journalist based in Australia.
January 25, 2022 Updated: January 26, 2022

An indoor mask mandate is back in effect in New York State after an appeals judge on Tuesday granted a stay while the governor’s administration pursues an appeal.

New York Appellate Judge Robert Miller in New York City granted the state’s request for a stay after Nassau County Supreme Court Justice Thomas Rademaker ruled that Gov. Kathy Hochul’s mask mandate for schools and public places is unconstitutional and unenforceable.

Rademaker had written in his order that the state Legislature would need to approve such laws for the mask mandate to be imposed in schools and other public spaces.

The state said in its court filing, appealing the ruling, “The order, if not stayed will allow individuals to refuse to wear face coverings in indoor public settings where the risk of COVID-19 spread is high, including in schools where many children remain unvaccinated against COVID-19.”

After the stay was granted, Hochul, a Democrat, said that mask regulations “are critical to prevent the spread of COVID-19, make schools and businesses safe, and save lives.” She said she was confident the mask mandate would be upheld.

“I commend [the New York 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 our state’s important masking regulations in place,” Hochul wrote on Twitter.

New York Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt said he was disappointed in the decision to issue a stay.

“We are two years into this pandemic, and it’s absurd that this administration is still ruling by mandates—which continue to cause confusion, frustration and division among New Yorkers,” he said in a statement. “If the Governor truly thinks a mask mandate is in the best interests of New Yorkers, she should send a bill to be debated before the Legislature.”

New York first imposed a mask mandate for most public indoor settings in April 2020. The mandate was lifted for vaccinated people in June 2021.

Hochul, who came into office in August 2021, imposed a mandate on Dec. 13, 2021, requiring masks for all public indoor settings unless the spaces had vaccine mandates. The mandate has fines of up to $1,000 for each violation. However, Hochul said her administration would not seek to compel counties to comply with the mandate.

The governor later extended the mandate’s deadline from Jan. 15 to Feb. 1.

After the mandate was ruled unenforceable on Monday, the New York’s Department of Education, in anticipation of the state government’s appeal, signaled that schools must continue to enforce the mandate.

“It is [the department’s] understanding that the Department of Health will appeal the Nassau County Supreme Court decision, which will result in an automatic stay that will unambiguously restore the mask rule until such time as an appellate court issues a further ruling,” the Education Department said in a statement to local media outlets.

“Therefore, schools must continue to follow the mask rule.”

Mimi Nguyen Ly is a journalist based in Australia.