New York judge overturns state's mask mandate

A New York judge on Monday ruled that the state's current mask mandate is unconstitutional and cannot be enforced. 

Gov. Kathy Hochul reinstituted the mandate — through the state Department of Health — in December because of a surge in coronavirus cases.

Supreme Court Judge Thomas Rademaker said the Department of Health didn't have the legal authority to implement the mandate under the governor's current pandemic powers, which are limited, and that the state Legislature would have to do so. 

The mandate "is a law that was promulgated and enacted unlawfully by an executive branch state agency, and therefore void and unenforceable," the judge said.

In April 2020, then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo, under emergency powers, instituted a mask mandate, which ended in June 2021 for people who are vaccinated. 

In mid-December 2021, Hochul brought it back, saying it would be in effect for at least a month. Then earlier this month, the Health Department said the mandate would be in place until Feb 1.

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Gov Kathy Hochul sits among other people; she wears a blue suit, gray shirt, and a blue mask

Gov. Kathy Hochul in Buffalo, N.Y., Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022. (Courtesy of Governor's Office)

In a statement issued Monday evening, Hochul indicated her administration would find a way to enforce the mandate. 

"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," she said in the statement. "We strongly disagree with this ruling, and we are pursuing every option to reverse this immediately." 

New York's Supreme Court is a trial court, so the Hochul administration can appeal the ruling.

Legal experts told FOX 5 NY this ruling means that, for example, students can attend class without wearing a mask and that people can patronize businesses without a mask, too.

With The Associated Press.

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