After day of confusion, COVID face masks back in NY schools pending mandate appeal

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Wednesday, January 26, 2022
Bruce Blakeman speaks out against Hochul's appeal of the overturning of the mask mandate
EMBED <>More Videos

Schools on Long Island were supposed to enforce the wearing of masks after an appeal was filed.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Face masks were back in schools across Nassau County Wednesday after day of confusion following a state Supreme Court ruling and a quickly filed appeal.

Nearly two dozen districts made masks optional after Supreme Court Judge Thomas Rademaker ruled on Monday that the mandate issued by the state Department of Health in December was unconstitutional, saying the health department doesn't have the authority to make new laws.

But on Tuesday, New York Appellate Judge Robert Miller granted a stay in the state's lawsuit over the COVID-19 mandate, meaning it remains in place while case is appealed -- and schools must enforce it.

Earlier this month, Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman signed an executive order that gave public schools the option to mandate masks, and on Wednesday, he once again said he believes Governor Kathy Hochul and the health department do not have the authority to issue the statewide school mask mandate.

ALSO READ | NJ tow truck driver hailed as a hero after saving driver from crash

"By what authority is the governor issuing this mandate and we believe that there is no authority," he said. "We believe that it's overbroad, that it's arbitrary, capricious, and it violates New York State law and it's unconstitutional."

Hochul has already implied the school mask mandate would be lifted once infection numbers went down.

"I don't want to keep any requirements for safety in place a day longer than necessary," she said. "But I will not do it a day before we can do it safely."

She also expressed optimism that the mandate would be upheld.

"As governor, my top priority is protecting the people of this state," she said. "These measures are critical tools to prevent the spread of COVID-19, make schools and businesses safe, and save lives. I commend the 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 the state's important masking regulations in place. We will not stop fighting to protect New Yorkers, and we are confident we will continue to prevail."

An Appellate Court hearing on Friday could determine the future of the policy, and the New York Archdiocese and Brooklyn Diocese have already told parents they will lift their mask mandates if court upholds the lower court ruling.

The mandate had been reinstituted over concerns about a winter surge of coronavirus cases, and parents are split over the issue.

"It's not invasive, it's effective, and it is simple," one parent said. "Our children do not appear to be complaining about it, mostly the parents are."

ALSO READ | MTA officials address alarming rise in crime, promise more uniformed officers on platforms

Michael Demetriou was a plaintiff in the case and said he thought it was time to speak out and take action.

"I'm just a father who said enough is enough, and we have to protect our children at all costs," he said.


* Get Eyewitness News Delivered

* Follow us on YouTube

* More local news

* Send us a news tip

* Download the abc7NY app for breaking news alerts Submit a News Tip