A New York appellate judge ruled that the state can continue enforcing its mask mandate while it appeals a ruling Monday that struck down the rule.

"Nearly three years into the COVID-19 pandemic, we know that wearing a mask saves lives," New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement Tuesday. "This mandate and today’s decision are critical in helping to stop the spread of this virus and protect individuals young and old. We will continue to do everything in our power to prioritize the health and wellbeing of all New Yorkers."

New York state Attorney General Letitia James. (Reuters)

New York state Attorney General Letitia James. (Reuters)


The statement comes after State Supreme Court Judge Thomas Rademaker ruled Monday that the state Department of Health did not have the legal authority to enforce Gov. Kathy Hochul’s updated mandate, which required masking in all indoor spaces unless a business opted to have a vaccine requirement in place.

Hochul announced the new mandate in December after the state was hit with a surge of cases as the omicron variant reached the U.S.

New York State Governor Kathy Hochul

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul. (John Lamparski/Getty Images)

But Rademaker said that "enacting any laws to this end is entrusted solely to the State Legislature," making the mandate "void and unenforceable."

Hochul immediately vowed to fight the ruling, resulting in the stay as the appeal process plays out.


The stay was criticized by Assembly Republican Leader Will Barclay, who called for decisions on masking to be made at the local level.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul. Angus Mordant/Bloomberg via Getty Images

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul. Angus Mordant/Bloomberg via Getty Images (Angus Mordant/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

"The confusion and chaos surrounding Gov. Hochul’s overreaching mask mandate reached an unfortunate peak today," Barclay said in a statement Tuesday. "I have said that unilateral requirements like the one being forced onto New Yorkers by the Hochul Administration are decisions that should remain at the local level. The Appellate Division has granted a stay of the governor’s order, but it’s time for all of us to move on from mandates, fear and confusion."