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New York says statewide mask mandate is still in effect despite court order declaring it unconstitutional

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Angus Mordant/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The New York state government is claiming that schools must continue to enforce its statewide mask mandate despite a court ruling declaring the order unconstitutional.

In a statement released Tuesday, the State Education Department informed schools that Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul's office and the state Department of Health have filed an appeal after the state Supreme Court (only a trial court in New York, not the highest court) declared the mask mandate illegal Monday. The department claimed that the appeal process triggers an automatic stay on the court's orders, meaning "schools should continue to follow the mask rule."

"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 Education Department said, according to Fox News.

After the Education Department released its statement, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) accused the Hochul administration of lying about its mask requirements.

"Kathy Hochul and her Far-Left Department of Education are lying to Superintendents causing unnecessary confusion. There is no stay on this court ruling. Kathy Hochul’s authoritarian mandate was deemed illegal by NY Supreme Court," Stefanik said in a statement put out Tuesday.

"Masks are not mandatory for students, period. Yet Kathy Hochul is still trying to force young children to wear a mask in school, shamefully disregarding the rule of law," she added.

Stefanik directed her constituents to contact her office if their children are being told they must wear a mask in schools, contrary to the Supreme Court's order.

Hochul enacted the mask mandate in December 2021. It required that face coverings be worn in schools and other indoor public places to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. But Hochul's rule was challenged in court by opponents who said the state overstepped its authority by implementing the mandate without going through the state legislature.

On Monday, Nassau County Supreme Court Judge Thomas Rademaker ruled that the mask mandate was an unconstitutional overreach by the executive branch.

"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," Rademaker said. "However, enacting any laws to this end is entrusted solely to the State Legislature."

Some New York school districts have informed parents that masks will be optional until the state formally filed an appeal, which it has, WABC-TV reported.

The state has asked the Appellate Division court to issue a stay vacating the Supreme Court's order, which would leave the mask mandate in place during this legal process. Judge Robert Miller presided over a hearing on the state's request for an interim stay and said he would issue a ruling later Tuesday or Wednesday.

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