An appeals judge restored New York’s mask mandate Tuesday, a day after a judge in a lower court ruled that Gov. Kathy Hochul’s administration lacked the constitutional authority to order people to wear face coverings during the COVID-19 pandemic.
After hearing brief arguments, Appellate Division Justice Robert Miller granted the state's request to keep the masking rule in place while the governor's administration pursues an appeal. He offered no opinion on the mandate's legality.
The stay came after a day of confusion, in which some New York school districts — particularly in areas that lean Republican — rushed to make masks optional for students and teachers, and state education officials told administrators they should continue enforcing the mask mandate.
Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, said her office would continue defending the mandate in court.
At issue is the legality of an order the state's health commissioner issued in mid-December as the Omicron variant fueled a huge wave of COVID-19 infections in the state.
The order required masks in schools, health care facilities, homeless shelters, jails, public transportation, and in any indoor public area where vaccination wasn't required for entry.
As of now, the statewide mandate is only set to be in place until Feb. 1.
Additional reporting by The Associated Press.