Mask Mandate?

Judge’s Ruling: The Mask Mandate Across Nassau County

On Monday January 24th, a ruling was made by the Nassau County Supreme court Judge Thomas Rademaker calling the mask mandate set in place by Gov. Hochul to be “unlawful”. The ruling reached district administrators and prompted an email to be sent late that night about masks being optional for the next school day. Indeed, many students and staff had read the email and entered school looking a little different: this time you could see their faces. 

On Tuesday, January 25th, students walked into the building with a mixture of masked faces and newly unmasked faces. For some, it put them at ease since the mask can be hard to wear at times and can make it difficult to breathe. However, for others, it was nerve wracking to see other students not following the mandate that had been in effect for the entire school year thus far. There were some people that were judged harshly for either decision they made, and reflected the same confusion happening in the local courts and government buildings. Everyone asked themselves that day: are masks done with or not? 

The court case addressing the mask mandate made by the NY Governor had been filed by parents in the Long Island community who feared that, “it was [not] healthy for their children to be forced to wear masks and they wanted to have that choice…” according to Bruce Blakeman, Nassau County Executive in a New York Post article. 

Who’s the Judge?

For many, the name Judge Thomas Rademaker doesn’t come to mind when thinking about mask mandates, perhaps Governor Kathy Hocul or members of the CDC do instead. So who is Thomas Rademaker? 

As aforementioned, he is a judge of the Nassau County Supreme Court and will be up for reelection in 2024 after serving a 10-year term as a judge for the county. He was a Conservative Party candidate for the 10th Judicial District Supreme Court in NY, and was also a judge in the Nassau County Family Court. Many may also ask, who is he to make such a ruling for masks? Doesn’t the Governor have the power to do that, and what about the people in Albany?

About the Case 

First of all, according to my history teacher, the reason that masks appeared to be optional that Tuesday in school was because, “The ruling was made based upon the timing of the court cases being filed and proceeding at a normal pace.” It hadn’t gotten into the courts system until that Monday, where a quick decision was reached. Next, the case went to the appellate court to have a final decision made about the mask mandate and, “a stay was issued which in legal terms puts a time out on the recent ruling that masks would not be mandated. The stay was issued so that the court system could resolve the issues of this case. Only the specifics of the case will be addressed, not a mask mandate as a whole issue.” This means that the case will go back to the appellate court for a true and final decision. The reason it hasn’t happened yet is because officials are simply pushing back the stay, issuing it longer and longer which has increased the duration of the stay. 

Photo Credit: News 10 ABC

On Friday, January 28th 2022, the case was heard in the appellate court. No decision was made but additional briefs were called for instead. Meanwhile, the Governor has extended the mandate until February 10th of 2022. More news came out about this February date, and it was heard that the mandate would be extended until March 2nd instead. After this date, there will be a necessary hearing in the appellate court about masks in schools and in businesses. 

Eventually, the governor did overturn the mask mandate for businesses, meaning that neither customers nor employees would have to wear masks while in any restaurant, store, or market. However, Gov. Hochul did maintain the mask mandate for students and staff in schools. According to Eyewitness News, “The mandate will remain in effect at homeless shelters, healthcare centers, state-run nursing homes, correctional facilities, and in schools and daycares.” In addition, the city will maintain its citywide mandate, and all New Yorkers are still encouraged to wear masks and get vaccinated and boosted. 

Data on the Cases

The most recent data about COVID in New York state has been announced by the Governor. She stated that, “‘we hit our peak on January 7, but now we’ve noticed a 93% drop in cases,’” Hochul said. ‘That is exactly what we’ve been waiting for.’” This is the rationale for the dropping of the mask mandate on Monday, Jan. 24 and why now, the governor believes that dropping the mandate for businesses is the best course of action, however; private businesses can choose whether or not to allow masks. 

The reasoning behind the maintenance of the mask mandate in schools is that younger kids aren’t able to get vaccinated nor are they getting vaccinated at the same rates as adults. Furthermore, according to Eyewitness News, “The state currently has 4,600 hospitalizations, down 63% from the peak. Hochul noted that hospitals are still quite full, but thanks to help by the National Guard, most hospitals have at least 20% capacity available.” 

In the Meantime…

As students, we just want answers. Already, it’s tough enough to be a high school teenager: you have tests and grades thrust in your face, and on top of it homework, and the overwhelming sense of not belonging. Tuesday Jan. 25 was surely a sign of the discomfort for students to make the decision of wearing a mask or not. We just want the officials to tell us and the staff members of OHS what the best thing to do is. It doesn’t have to be controversial, and it doesn’t have to be political. It can just be what’s happening all around us and see what the best course of action is. So, just remember, do what is best for you and the community. 

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