NY Gov's mask mandate shot down at state Supreme Court

AP Photo/Hans Pennink, Pool

When Kathy Hochul took over Andrew Cuomo’s old job as Governor of New York State, she initially seemed to take a cautious approach to imposing COVID restrictions on the Empire State. She continues to insist that she doesn’t want to do anything to shut the economy down again, but her “impatience” with those who refuse to be vaccinated has been obvious. Her position changed a bit last month, however, when new case numbers began rising again in parts of the state, particularly in and around New York City. At that point, she imposed a statewide face mask mandate, saying she would revisit the issue this winter as circumstances evolved. But last night a State supreme court judge took the decision out of her hands, striking down the mandate as being an overreach of her powers as the head of the state’s executive branch. (Daily Wire)

A New York state Supreme Court judge on Monday struck down Democrat Governor Kathy Hochul’s mask mandate for schools and public locations.

“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,” Judge Thomas Rademaker said in the ruling. “However, enacting any laws to this end is entrusted solely 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 take their case to the State Legislature.”

Judge Rademaker wasn’t ruling out the possibility that a mask mandate could be put in place. He instead ruled that the Governor issuing such a decree violates both the State Administrative Procedure Act and the Public Health Law. As such, he ruled that the mandate was “null, void, and unenforceable as a matter of law.” So if Hochul wants a mask mandate, she will have to take the matter to the state legislature and get them to pass one which she could then sign into law.

That’s going to be a lot harder than the judge makes it sound. This ruling ends the free ride for legislators who were able to let the Governor(s) take all the blame for mask mandates while not being forced to vote on them themselves. Given the number of counties around the state that have already been refusing to enforce Hochul’s mandates, it’s unclear if there are enough legislators in Albany, even among the Democrats, who would be willing to go on the record voting in favor of such a mandate.

Of course, this may turn out to be a non-issue in the long run anyway. Hochul is publicly saying that she opposes the judge’s decision and will seek to get it overturned, but she doesn’t sound terribly enthusiastic about it. Also, as I noted above, she had already indicated that she would “revisit” the mandate question when the new COVID case numbers were back under control. Just yesterday, the state reported yet another sharp drop in new cases. This could give Hochul an easy exit from this dispute, allowing her to basically say, ‘whatever. I was going to cancel it anyway.’

As is the case in many other places, the Omicron wave may have already peaked and gone into a sharp decline in New York. At some point, most of the people who are going to eventually contract this variant, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, will have probably gotten it. If that’s the point that New York is reaching now before February even arrives, this may have turned out to be a considerably shorter “COVID season” than many feared. Here’s to hoping that’s the case, anyway.