New York claims mask mandate still in place amid appeal, despite judge's order

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The New York state government is instructing schools to ignore a court ruling that blocked a school mask mandate, claiming that the requirement remains in effect while they appeal.

The State Education Department told schools that they need to continue to follow the pandemic-inspired mandate because it is “automatically” put on hold as the appeals process plays out, but not everyone is going along with this.

“It is SED’s understanding that the Department of Health will appeal the Nassau County Supreme Court decision, which will result in an automatic stay that will unambiguously restore the mask rule until such time as an appellate court issues a further ruling. Therefore, schools must continue to follow the mask rule,” the Department said in a statement.

In this image taken from video, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks during a virtual press conference, Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021, in New York. 
(AP Photo)

Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., blasted Gov. Kathy Hochul and her administration for the directive, asserting that it is based on false information.

“Kathy Hochul and her Department of Education are LYING to Superintendents causing unnecessary confusion,” Stefanik tweeted Tuesday morning. “There is no STAY on this court ruling. Kathy Hochul’s Authoritarian mandate was deemed ILLEGAL by NY Supreme Court. Masks are not mandatory for students as of RIGHT NOW!”

State court rules do provide for automatic stays in certain types of cases, but generally a court issues an order to grant a stay. New York Attorney General Letitia James said Tuesday morning that her office was appealing the decision, but the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division confirmed early Tuesday afternoon that the court had yet to issue any orders in the case.

Nassau County Judge Thomas Rademaker ruled Monday that the state’s executive branch does not have the authority to issue a mask mandate now that emergency powers once wielded by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo have been curbed. Such a mandate would have to come in the form of a law passed by the legislature, he said.

The appellate court is expected to hold a hearing on the state’s request for stay at 2 p.m. local time.

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