Hochul extends NY COVID mask mandate as Appellate Court hears appeal

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Governor Kathy Hochul on Friday extended New York's COVID face mask mandate until February 10, this as the state Appellate Court has begun hearing arguments on the legality of the emergency order.

The mandate, which applies to all indoor public places, businesses and schools -- including teachers and students -- was set to expire on February 1.

"We are going to extend that just through February 10, probably a couple days before that we will be evaluating," she said. "But if we continue on this rapid trend downward, we will be in a good place. if it levels off, or something else happens, I need that flexibility, and I'm going to continue to reserve that. But also, people are waiting to hear when some of these restrictions are going to be lifted. We are going to continue with our flexibility."

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Hochul said the state will now reevaluate the policy every two weeks, and lift it as early as possible.

"That has been a critical tool in driving those numbers down," Hochul said. "They could be even more out of control, but we're going to continue doing this, not by month, not by three months, we're going to do it every two weeks now...So we can be ready to suspend, give businesses the notice they've been waiting for."

Hochul added that "our school masking policy remains in effect, despite the fact there was a little blip, we are back on track legally."

As for the appeal, lawyers have until the end of the day Friday to file arguments in the ongoing battle.

The judge initially indicated a 10 a.m. hearing in Downtown Brooklyn, but he has since notified lawyers representing the state and a group of parents who sued over the mandate that he will instead accept additional written arguments by the end of the day as he considers the appeal.

Separately, at least six school boards -- Massapequa, Connetquot, Island Trees, Lindenhurst, Carle Place and Locust Valley -- voted to allow a separate lawyer to file an amicus curiae brief on their behalf, supporting the initial ruling that found the school mask mandate was improperly implemented.

Last week, a Supreme Court judge in Nassau County ruled the mandate was unconstitutional and could not be enforced, causing a day of confusion at many Nassau County schools after nearly two dozen districts made masks optional for students.

An Appellate judge then granted a stay earlier this week, meaning the mandate remains in place until a decision is made in by the Appellate Court.

Schools are currently being ordered to enforce it.

The Appellate Court hearing 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 the court upholds the lower court ruling.

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

"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.

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