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Newly sworn in Nassau County executive defies New York's indoor mask mandate

Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman signs executive orders on January 6, 2022, bucking the state's indoor mask mandate.
Artie Raslich
Office of Nassau County Executive
Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman signs executive orders on Thursday bucking the state's indoor mask mandate.

Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman said his administration will not enforce the state’s mask mandate for indoor public spaces and schools.

Blakeman signed several executive orders Thursday that give parents and local school boards the option of whether to require school children to wear masks. That’s despite Long Island’s seven-day COVID-19 positivity rate being 27%, and more children becoming infected.

"School boards are composed of elected officials who make decisions based upon the unique circumstances of each district. They are in the best position to make these decisions, not an autocracy in Albany," Blakeman said, referring to Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul, who issued the mandate.

Blakeman is a Republican who was sworn into office on Monday, after he beat incumbent Democrat Laura Curran in the November election. In his first week on the job, he will also give other government workers the option to wear a mask. He said the county will not fine businesses that do not comply with the state’s mask mandates.

"Let no one be fooled that we in Nassau County are not taking the challenges and risks of COVID-19 lightly. We are taking a very aggressive approach in fighting COVID-19," Blakeman said. "But this aggressive approach must be balanced by keeping in mind the psychological and economic risks of every decision we make as well as individuals' constitutional rights."

Nassau County will double the distribution of free test kits this weekend. Over 160,000 COVID-19 test kits will be distributed on Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Tobay Beach and Eisenhower Park.

A vaccination pod will also provide free COVID-19 vaccinations on Saturday and Sunday at Nassau County Community College from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Appointments are required.

A native Long Islander, J.D. is WSHU's managing editor. He also hosts the climate podcast Higher Ground. J.D. reports for public radio stations across the Northeast, is a journalism educator and proud SPJ member.