New York’s mask mandate was struck down by a judge one week before it expired, ruling that the governor lacked authority to enact the rule without proper approval from the state legislature.
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Governor Hochul reintroduced the mandate in December 2021, but state legislators had ruled in March that New York was no longer in a state of emergency, thus limiting their authority.
The law, which mandated masks to be worn indoors and imposed fines of up to $1,000 on those who did not comply, was declared unenforceable, and the rules are now null and void, Judge Thomas Rademaker ruled.
The setback is the latest in a series of legal squabbles surrounding state and federal mask regulations.
A few weeks ago, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the vaccination and testing requirements for large companies implemented by Biden.
A Texas judge ruled last week that Biden could not require federal employees to receive vaccinations.
In a statement, Hochul, a Democrat, said: ‘We strongly disagree with this ruling, and we are pursuing every option to reverse this immediately.’
‘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,’ Hochul went on.
After a surge in Covid cases in December, she reintroduced the mask requirement, requiring residents to wear a mask in public areas unless a business had its own vaccine policy.
Masks are required to be worn in schools, on public transit, and in other public indoor places in New York, where 20 million people live.
Upon imposing the rule on December 31, Hochul called it a temporary measure. The original deadline of January 15 was later extended until February 1, with those who didn’t obey risking fines and civil and criminal penalties.
Several states have taken legal action over mandates, resulting in a rift between Republicans and Democrats during the current pandemic response.
In response to the WHO’s designation of Omicron as a variant of concern on November 26, Hochul declared her own state of emergency.
There were approximately 6,400 new cases daily in New York state at that time. The number spiked to 73,815 on January 10, where it peaked. However, it has since dropped to less than a third of that.
In his ruling, Rademaker stressed that his ruling is not intended as an opinion on whether masks are an effective or necessary tool to deal with the COVID-19 virus, but that enacting laws to that end must be left to the Legislature.
New York’s state legislature is dominated by Hochul’s Democrats.
The ruling comes amid ongoing national discontent over continued Covid restrictions and mask mandates.
In Loudoun County School District, which has been affected by scandal after scandal over ‘equity’ lessons based on race theory and transgender issues, teachers prohibited pupils from entering their classes if they didn’t wear facemasks on Monday.
Republican Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin had signed an executive action within hours of him taking office in January that aimed to let parents opt out of school mask mandates.
There has been confusion over the implications of the order since Monday when it was supposed to take effect.
Some districts either interpreted his instructions differently or ignored them, continuing to impose mask policies on students.
It has been interpreted by some school districts as being in conflict with state law, which governs mitigation of COVID-19 in schools.
On the other hand, California extended its indoor mask mandate until February 15 earlier this month.
As originally planned, the mandate entered into force on December 15 of last year and was meant to end nine days later, on January 15.
Nevertheless, Californians must now wear masks indoors regardless of whether they have been vaccinated.
Gov. Ron DeSantis banned schools from imposing mask mandates in Florida, but some schools refused to comply with the ban.
Parents alone have the right to decide whether or not their children should wear masks to school, according to the Republican governor.
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According to Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former director of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and current board member of Pfizer, the decline in cases should signal officials to begin removing mask requirements nationwide.
‘I think certainly on the east coast where you see cases declining dramatically we need to be willing to lean in and do that very soon I think as conditions improve we have to be willing to relax some of these measures with the same speed that we put them in place,’ Gottlieb said on CNBC’s The Squawk Box.
‘We haven’t described clear goalposts for when we’re gonna withdraw a lot of these measures and the two most contentious things right now in the U.S. are the masks among children in schools and the vaccine mandates,’ he continued.
He concluded that in order for people to comply with Covid rules, health officials must ‘have a flexible doctrine’ that changes as the pandemic evolves.