In a victory for parental choice, a Staten Island judge struck down New York City's mask mandate for toddlers on Friday, calling the COVID-19 restriction "arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable" and issuing a permanent injunction against it.
The single-page ruling from Judge Ralph Porzio pushes back against the mayor's plans. The mandate for children under five-years-old was expected to expire Monday, but Mayor Eric Adams was set to address its status Friday afternoon.
In light of the declaratory judgement, the COVID-19 restriction colloquially known as the "toddler mask mandate" is "void and unenforceable," Porzio declared.
At the beginning of March, the NYC mayor had lifted the restrictive mask mandate for all residents except the city's youngest population ages two to four. It was a decision that outraged parents of young daycare-aged children and pre-K students.
Adams claimed that children under the age of five must wear masks so he doesn't have to "close down the city again," although pediatric cases have remained low throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, with children in the youngest age brackets experiencing some of the lowest infection numbers across demographics.
In response to the court's decision, Adams said later Friday the city would appeal and seek a stay of Porzio's ruling, according to NBC New York.
Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan said city leadership was not recommending that two-year-olds to four-year-olds stop masking yet.
"Cases are definitively rising and it's gotten our attention," Vasan said, also "recommending" residents wear masks in public, indoor settings. "They will continue to rise over the next few weeks, and it's likely that over these weeks, we will move into a different level of overall risk across the city."
Adams took to Twitter to state: "Because of the current #COVID19 numbers, we will continue to require children 2-4 to be masked up in schools. We will continue to assess these numbers and update New Yorkers in a week."
"New Yorkers have consistently led the country in fighting back against this pandemic. #COVID19 is a formidable opponent, but so are New Yorkers. We've come so far and we will not turn back. We will follow the science and do what's right to protect this city," the New York City mayor reiterated.
"We won!" attorney Michael Chessa, whose law office took on the child mask mandates on behalf of concerned parents by challenging their constitutionality, wrote just before noon Friday, following the judge's ruling. "Judge Porzio just ruled in the favor of parental choice and democracy," Chessa added on Twitter.
Chessa has garnered support on social media for his office's "Umask Our Children" lawsuit, raising over $6,000 on fundraising site Mightycause.
"For far too long NYC parents have had to endure City polices and regulations forcing their school age children to wear masks all day in school. Once the data was in on mask efficacy, the risk of Covid to young children and the damage caused by masking, these mandates should have been lifted. Regrettably, they were not and NYC was one of the last cities in the world to continue enforcing these mandates," the active Mightycause fundraiser's description reads.
The organizers of the legal fund called the city's mask mandates for school-aged children "anti-science, anti-child, anti-parent and against the law."
According to the fundraiser, Chessa took on the case pro bono until then to ensure that parents and children in the city "never have to endure these injustices again."
Chessa's legal team was reached for comment.