Updated Jan 24, 2022 - Health

N.Y. Supreme Court strikes down state's mask mandate for public areas

Photo of Kathy Hochul speaking from a podium

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks during a news conference in Albany, N.Y., on Jan. 24. Photo: Angus Mordant/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The New York State Department of Education (NYSED) issued a statement Monday telling schools to continue following Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul's mask mandate after a state Supreme Court judge struck down the rule.

Why it matters: The agency pointed to a case in Albany County where a state Supreme Court judge denied a challenge from two school districts, ruling that Hochul and the state's health commissioner have the authority to enact a mask mandate in schools.

  • The state Department of Health will appeal Monday's decision, which will "result in an automatic stay that will unambiguously restore the mask mandate until such time as an appellate court issues a further ruling," NYSED said in a statement.

Driving the news: Enacting any laws to end COVID "is entrusted solely to the State Legislature," Nassau County Judge Thomas Rademaker wrote in the opinion.

  • "Should the State Legislature, representative of and voted into office by the citizens of New York, after publicly informed debate, decide to enact laws requiring face coverings in schools and other place places then the Commissioner would likely be well grounded in properly promulgated and enacted rules to supplement such laws."

What they're saying: "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."

Worth noting: New York's court system includes a Supreme Court in each county that acts as a trial-level court of general jurisdiction. The state's Court of Appeals is the highest court in New York.

The big picture: The ruling comes amid a spike in cases in New York state.

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