Live Covid updates: Omicron news, vaccines and more

Credit…Dave Sanders for The New York Times

ALBANY, NY – New York State’s indoor mask mandate will remain in effect after an appeals court judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked a lower court ruling from a day before that abruptly overturned rule and caused confusion in schools and businesses.

Tuesday’s ruling came after a Monday ruling by Nassau County State Supreme Court Judge Thomas Rademaker who said the rule requiring masks violated the state Constitution.

His decision abruptly overturned part of the rule Governor Kathy Hochul imposed last month amid a surge in coronavirus cases driven by the Omicron variant, which required masks or proof of full vaccination in all spaces. internal state audiences.

Ms. Hochul immediately vowed to challenge the decision, with Letitia James, the state’s attorney general, filing a motion to stay the decision in an attempt to suspend it while the state files a formal appeal.

On Tuesday afternoon, state appeals court judge Robert J. Miller sided with the state and granted the stay, allowing the mask rule to temporarily return. in force. Judge Miller has scheduled another hearing on the matter for Friday morning.

Despite the reprieve, Monday’s decision had injected a jolt of uncertainty across the state at a time when New York still grapples with the end of a spike in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. It left parents and teachers scrambling all Tuesday to decipher whether children would be required to wear masks in schools and it reignited political flashpoints on mask-wearing.

While officials said the decision only affects the state’s mask rule and does not replace any local or federal rules regarding masking, state officials rushed Monday night to let hundreds know. school districts that they should continue to follow the mask rule while the legal issues have been ironed out.

But some schools, particularly on Long Island, where mask mandates have become particularly divisive, said they would take Judge Rademaker’s ruling as license to change their policies. They informed parents through late night and early morning posts on their websites and social media pages that masks would be optional for staff and students on Tuesday.

City hall officials, for example, said the decision had no immediate impact on schools in New York City since the city’s education department had its own masking policies in place before Mr. the state.

Ms. Hochul defended the mandate during a Tuesday virus briefing in Syracuse.

She asked parents and students to continue to follow the mask policy, which she said was key to fending off the Omicron variant and keeping children in school.

“The last thing I want to see is a different trend because people have given up on masks,” she said.

Omicron’s surge has receded in New York, but it’s not over. An average of about 20,000 people in the state are now testing positive for the coronavirus each day, down sharply from the peak of 90,000 people testing positive on January 7. The positivity rate also halved, from over 22 percent to 10 percent.

But the number of daily cases in New York remains far higher than when the outbreak began in early December, and hospitals are still struggling to treat around 10,000 Covid patients statewide. Hospitalizations have started to decline but remain higher than at any time since May 2020. More than 130 people die from the virus each day across the state.

Judge Rademaker, who ran on the Conservative Party line, was elected to the Nassau County Supreme Court in 2019. The New York Supreme Court is the highest trial court in the state, but not the court of last resort; the Court of Appeal is the highest court.

Following his decision, some school districts on Long Island began telling parents that masks were optional starting Tuesday morning.

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