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Nassau County calls for New York’s highest court to expedite ruling on the state mask mandate

Courtesy Office of Nassau County Executive
Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman joins Michael Demetriou, who sued the state to end the indoor mask mandate in New York, and other parents, students, and school board members to rally against a decision Monday by the state's highest court to extend the stay on school mask mandates until March 2.

Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman rallied Tuesday to pressure the state’s highest court to expedite its decision on Governor Kathy Hochul’s mask mandate. He was alongside Michael Demetriou, who is one of 14 parents who sued the state over its mask mandate.

The state Court of Appeals on Monday extended its stay on the mandate until March 2 when the panel judges will next hear the case. Hochul plans to keep the mandate in place for another two weeks, but can extend it through the end of the month.

Blakeman said he doesn’t want to wait.

“Time and time again, we've asked the governor, what are the metrics for ending the masked mandate? And we still haven't gotten the answer,” Blakeman said. “Because there is no metric. There is no science.”

“This is all about control, and it's about power. It's about parents not having the right to decide what's best for their children,” Blakeman said.

Blakeman said with state coronavirus infections down 86% over the last three weeks, wearing masks indoors should be optional. Long Island’s COVID-19 weekly positivity rate remains around 7%, which the CDC classifies as high risk.

Demetriou, the parent who won the lawsuit in the lower court, expects he will eventually prevail in the higher court.

“They took the fight to court legally. And they won. And they still won. And they are still the winners today,” he said. “What is going on now is just smoke and mirrors, folks. It's politics. That's it at the expense of our children.”

Blakeman wants to make wearing masks indoors optional. Last month, he tried to allow schools and businesses to defy the state through an executive order. But he was threatened by Hochul, saying she would withhold state funding from violators.

“We have the tools, we're going to keep things open, as we always have. The whole objective to everything we put in place, vaccination requirements, masking, et cetera…. It was all for the dual purpose of keeping people healthy, but also keeping our schools open, keeping our businesses open, keeping our lives once again, being as normal as possible,” Hochul said at a separate event in the Bronx on Tuesday.

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.