Republicans in the New York state Assembly released a letter on Wednesday to Gov. Kathy Hochul urging her to drop a statewide indoor mask mandate in New York and grant more authority over the pandemic to local governments.
But Hochul has said New York will continue to keep its mask rule in place for now after a spike in cases due to the omicron variant of COVID-19.
The letter comes also as the mask mandate is being challenged in state court. A Nassau County judge overturned the mandate; a stay was placed on that ruling by an appeallate court as the appeal by New York officials continue.
Opponents have argued New York did not have the authority to put the mask mandate in place through the state Department of Health; state officials point to regulations that give the Department of Health broad purview over protecting public health.
"We urge you to reverse course and return authority to our local governments as the New York State Public Health Law was designed to do," the letter states.
Republicans have been critical of the indoor mask rule, especially for schools in New York. Republican candidate for governor Lee Zeldin this week appeared at a rally outside of the Capitol, calling for the mask rule to be dropped in schools.
"If she truly respected the role of the Legislature, she wouldn't try to preserve this unlawful mandate," tweeted GOP state Assemblyman Christopher Tague.
Hochul, however, believes a mask rule needs to remain in effect for now in order to prevent further spread of COVID-19 in New York. She recently extended the mandate until Feb. 10. Hochul has argued masks need to remain on indoors in order to keep businesses and schools open, and prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.
Hochul's office on Tuesday reported 7,131 patients are hospitalized in New York who have COVID. Of those people, 46.1% are in the hospital for reasons other than COVID or COVID-related complications.
"We're in a much better place, but we have to decide what that looks like," she said on Tuesday when asked about the mask mandate during an event in the Bronx. "We're not prepared to throw in the towel and say we're done fighting COVID."