Nassau County Executive Blakeman tells Hochul to ‘stand down’ with appeal on mask mandate ruling

NEW YORK (WABC) — New York State quickly filed an appeal after a Supreme Court judge in the state ruled that the New York’s mask mandate can’t be enforced after it was reinstituted over concerns about a winter surge of coronavirus cases.

The State Education Department released a statement Tuesday saying, “The Governor and State DOH have filed a Notice of Appeal and are seeking confirmation that the Court’s order is stayed. While these legal steps occur, it is NYSED’s position that schools should continue to follow the mask rule.”

Some districts told parents that masks in classes would be optional until the appeal was formally filed, which it has been.

Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman said Governor Kathy Hochul should “stand down” on the state’s appeal.

Blakeman said they’ve had the county attorneys read the judge’s ruling and say it’s “well-founded.”

They think it will be upheld because “on the law and the facts the judge is absolutely right.”

The county executive went on to say the governor should, “bend to the will of the people.”

“This is about choice, if a parent chooses to send their child to school with a mask, that’s fine,” Blakeman said. “We’re not anti-mask, we’re anti mandate.”

The Massapequa School District was one of several in the state now telling students and teachers if you don’t want to wear a mask, you don’t have to.

They’re not alone.

At least 20 districts across Long Island have wasted no time ditching their mask mandates, given this new leeway from State Supreme Court Judge Thomas Rademaker.

The districts allowing students and staff to unmask include the following: Plainedge, Massapequa, North Merrick, Smithtown, Levittown, East Meadow, Sachem, West Islip, Farmingdale, Franklin Square, Rockville Centre, Sewanhaka, Bellmore-Merrick Central High School Districts, Copiague, Carle Place, Harborfields, Commack, Connetquot, Lindenhurst, and South Huntington.

Masks remain mandatory in Jericho, Baldwin, Syosset, and all Catholic schools.

Judge Rademaker says the latest mask rule issued by the state department of health in December is unconstitutional.

He says the health department doesn’t have the authority to make new laws.

The legislature also stripped the governor’s office of its emergency pandemic powers because of former Governor Andrew Cuomo’s scandals.

The plaintiff in the case 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,” said Michael Demetriou, Anti-Mask Mandate Plaintiff.

Gov. Hochul released the following statement on Monday night:
“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.”

The state had initially instituted a mask mandate in April 2020 that ended in June 2021 for vaccinated individuals; Hochul announced in mid-December that it would go back into effect for at least a month. Earlier this month, the state health department said the mandate would be in place until Feb 1.

The ruling comes as the omicron wave that gripped New York state appears to be fading. The state averaged around 23,400 new cases of the virus per day in the 7 day period that ended Sunday, down from 74,600 per day during the wave’s peak in early January. Hospitalizations are dropping, too, declining 17% statewide in the past 7 days.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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