Hochul gives first COVID update since judge ruled mask mandate unconstitutional

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Gov. Kathy Hochul Tuesday gave her first COVID update since a judge ruled her mask mandate is unconstitutional on Monday.

New York State filed an appeal Tuesday and an Appellate Court Judge said to expect a decision Tuesday or Wednesday.

Hochul said that she felt Judge Thomas Rademaker’s decision ruled that the "Department of Health doesn’t have the authority to make decisions about public health" and that she will only lift the mask mandate "when it is safe to do so".

Hochul also said the state has other options to continue to enforce the mask mandate, such as having the State Legislature pass a law.

When asked when she would feel comfortable with children no longer wearing masks in school, she said she’d be looking at positivity rates, vaccination rates for children and hospitalization rates to determine that.

"I’ll be looking at positivity, looking at our rates of vaccination in regions," Hochul said. "If we can get those numbers up I’m going to feel better. I can tell you right now – I’d feel a lot better if more kids were vaccinated. But also hospitalizations. How many pediatric hospitalizations there are. So I have a lot of metrics to look at. And we will get to that day. We will absolutely get to that day. And I’m looking forward to that as well."

In the past week, more than 2,000 school-aged children in Monroe County tested positive for COVID-19.

There are 22 people under the age of 20 in Monroe County hospitals who are COVID-positive, though it’s not know how many of them are in the hospital for COVID or COVID complications and how many were admitted for another reason. Among all age groups, 53% of COVID-positive people in the Finger Lakes were admitted for COVID or COVID complications and 47% were admitted for something else.

Around 64% of 12 to 18-year-olds have at least one shot and 33% of children 5 to 11 have at least one shot.

Watch the full press conference in the video in the player below (mobile users, click here):

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New York State United Teachers President Andy Pallotta released the following statement Tuesday:

“Public health experts have been clear that masks are an important part of the strategies designed to keep students, educators and our communities safe. Their current guidance is that masking up is the right thing to do, particularly given the still-elevated infection rates. In the meantime, we’re looking to state health officials to set a clear off-ramp for when mask requirements in schools can be relaxed so students, families and educators have some certainty that there is light at the end of this long tunnel.”