New York State will extend its indoor mask mandate which had been set to expire as soon as Tuesday, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Friday.
The mandate will now remain in effect until at least February 10th.
During a briefing on Long Island, Hochul touted the general trajectory of the state’s COVID-19 case and hospitalization numbers, saying they are headed in the right direction after a winter surge.
But she said it was too soon to lift the mask requirement, which applies to businesses and venues that do not require full vaccination. Hochul’s administration first put the rule into place in December and later extended to February 1st.
Hochul said she will re-evaluate the need for the mandate in the days leading up to February 10th – which is three days before the Super Bowl, a major day for gatherings.
If she decides to extend the rule, it will be in two-week increments, she said.
“We're going to continue doing this not by month, not by three months, we're going to do it every two weeks now,” she said.
Hochul’s extension – which will be carried out by state Health Commissioner, Dr. Mary Bassett – comes as the mandate is being challenged by multiple lawsuits.
Earlier this week, a state Supreme Court justice in Nassau County struck down the mask-or-vaccinate mandate, ruling it was beyond the power of the governor’s administration to enact it without legislative approval.
But a state Appellate Division judge quickly granted a stay, keeping the rule in place while appeals are heard. The plaintiffs had until Friday to submit their papers opposing the stay, and the state attorney general's office told WNYC/Gothamist that they expect another decision will likely be made in the coming weeks.
The vaccine-or-mask requirement has mostly been an issue outside of New York City, where critics are challenging it with lawsuits. The city continues to require inoculation to participate in many indoor activities, including dining but businesses lacking the workforce to check vaccine cards -- such as most stores -- still rely on the state's mandate. But the mandate has been a hotter topic in the suburbs and throughout the rest of the state, where critics – including many Republican lawmakers – have been calling on Hochul to rescind the rule.
“Enough,” tweeted state Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt, a Buffalo-area Republican. “It is PAST TIME for NY to go back to a system of checks & balances, where legislators legislate, & no one person can make these kinds of decisions w/o explanation."
Caroline Lewis contributed to this report.