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Appeals court keeps New York's mask mandate in place for now

Appeals court keeps New York's mask mandate in place for now
Students wear masks when they enter the East Side Community High School in the East Village on Tuesday in New York City. On Tuesday, an appeals judge blocked a ruling that struck down the state's indoor mask mandate amid litigation. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 25 (UPI) -- An appeals court judge ruled Tuesday that New York's indoor mask mandate will remain in effect as litigation on the COVID-19 mitigating measure continues.

The ruling comes a day after Judge Thomas Rademaker, of the state Supreme Court in Nassau County, struck down Gov. Kathy Hochul's mask mandate on the grounds it was unconstitutional.

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"There can be no doubt 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 solely to the State Legislature," Rademaker wrote.

However, Hochul vowed to appeal it, and Judge Robert Miller on Tuesday ordered the rule to stay in place amid the proceedings.

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"[M]y top priority is protecting the people of this state," Hochul said in a statement applauding Miller for his ruling. "These measures are critical tools to prevent the spread of COVID-19 make schools and businesses safe and save lives."

"We will not stop fighting to protect New Yorkers and we are confident we will continue to prevail," she continued.

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Attorney General Letitia James said after her office was granted the stay that it was a critical move to stop the spread of the pandemic and save lives.

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"We will continue to do everything in our power to prioritize the health and wellbeing of all New Yorkers," she said.

The rule is set to expire Feb. 1, but Rademaker struck it down on Monday, stating Hochul no longer had the authority to enforce it.

In his ruling, Rademaker said the state legislature passed a law last March under then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo to curb the governor's powers to issue executive orders during a state disaster emergency.

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Following his decision, the state's Department of Education informed parents, students and staff that masks would still be required in schools, attracting the condemnation of some Republican lawmakers.

Rep. Elise Stefanik issued a statement on Tuesday lambasting Hochul and the Department of Education for "still trying to force young children to wear a mask in school, shamefully disregarding the rule of law."

"I will hold the New York State Department of Education accountable," she said.

On Tuesday, the state's Department of Education said it was "pleased" with Miller's stay.

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"As such, the mask mandate remains in effect for schools across the state," Commissioner Betty Rosa said in a statement. "We support Gov. Hochul and the state Department of Health as they continue with the appeal."

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