The New York State Supreme Court has struck down unelected Governor Kathy Hochul's statewide mask mandate. Judge Thomas Rademaker said that the issuance of a mask mandate without the state legislature actually voting on the measure is beyond the authority of either the governor or the state health commissioner.
Judge Rademaker of Nassau County said that enacting laws such as at these is "entrusted solely to the State Legislature." New York City still has a vaccine mandate in place, requiring all persons aged 5 or over to show proof of vaccination prior to entry into most indoor, public spaces other than shops.
The rules reads, in part, that "There can be no question that every person in this State wishes, wants and prays that this era of COVID ends soon and they will surely do their part to see that is accomplished.
"However, enacting any laws to this end is entrusted to the State Legislature. While the intentions of Commissioner Bassett and Governor Hochul appear to be well aimed squarely at doing what they believe is right to protect the citizens of New York State, they must make their case to the State Legislature."
Hochul issued a statement in response that read: "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. We strongly disagree with this ruling, and we are pursuing every option to reverse this immediately."
Governor Andrew Cuomo, who was forced from office amid sexual harassment scandals, had enacted emergency powers due to the pandemic. These were curbed by the State Legislature in March 2021, and applied to any future governor. That law rescinding power, Executive Law 29-A, "prevents the type of mandates and directives that former Governor Cuomo included in his various COVID-19 related Executive Orders."
Hochul reinstated a mask mandate for the entire Empire State on December 10 via tweet. She wrote that: "I share New Yorkers’ frustration that we are not past this pandemic, but the winter surge is here & we must take action. Starting Monday through January 15, businesses will have the option to implement either a vaccine or mask requirement.
"My two top priorities are to protect the health of New Yorkers and to protect the health of our economy. The measures I’m announcing today will help accomplish this through the holiday season.
"To the more than 80% of New Yorkers who have done the right thing to get fully vaccinated: Thank you. Let’s get more New Yorkers vaccinated so we can put this pandemic in the rear view mirror."
After she issued this mandate, the State Department of Health backed Hochul up three days later, saying that the mandate would be in effect. It required all people over the age of 2-years-old to wear a mask in indoor public spaces, regardless of vaccination status, and said that businesses could require masking or proof of vaccination for entry. Masking, however, would not be required in venues that already required vaccination.
Hochul recently defended the mandate forcing those 2 years of age and older to wear masks, saying that her daughter didn't like wearing sneakers in kindergarten, but she got over it. New York City schools still have a mask mandate in place for all students.
President Joe Biden issued a vaccine mandate for all businesses that employ more than 100 people, which was struck down by the Supreme Court. His vaccine mandate for federal workers was blocked by a lower court after the Supreme Court's ruling, citing that case.