Hochul, Zeldin Lock Horns Over Mask Mandate Court Decision

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Gov. Kathy Hochul, left, and U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, right.

Just days before the state’s school mask mandate was set to expire, a State Supreme Court judge has ruled that the Hochul Administration’s rule is unconstitutional. 

It’s not clear how meaningful a ruling like this is when the mandate was allowed to be enforced for almost a year of schooling until now, but U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Long Island), the front-running Republican opponent to Gov. Kathy Hochul in this year’s general election for governor, is saying the court decision is proof that her administration overreached. 

“We did it. The overreach of this statewide mask mandate that relies on partial science rather than all of it has been very widely and adversely felt by all of New York,” said Zeldin, in claiming victory with the court decsion.

On his Twitter account, Zeldin said he was fighting for common sense and science, as well as freedom, against what he calls a “Hochul knows best” attitude. 

Hochul immediately moved to appeal the ruling once it was announced.

“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,” said Hochul.

Meanwhile, both the State Department of Health and the State Education Department – both agencies under Hochul’s executive branch – remain in lock-step with the governor. 

“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,” the State Education Department said in a statement. 

Alongside Zeldin is Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, who wants Hochul to “stand down” from fighting back with an appeal.

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

ABC 7 reported that these school districts on Long Island are planning to do away with their mandates: 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.

Zeldin vowed that regardless of what happens in the courts, he will reverse those mandates if he becomes governor.

“On my first day next January as your next Governor, all COVID-related vaccine and mask mandates end, and the attacks on our wallets, safety, and kids’ education start getting instantly reversed,” he said. 

Editor’s Note: After this story was posted, an appeals court judge granted a motion to temporarily block a lower-court ruling that had struck down the state’s mask mandate. A hearing on the issue is slated for Friday.