The End of New York’s Mask Mandate is Long Overdue

Photo courtesy of JJ Gouin from

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Photo courtesy of JJ Gouin from

Robert Rose, Staff Writer

New York State’s decision to drop the indoor mask mandate couldn’t have come soon enough. Like most issues in the modern era, the COVID-19 Pandemic quickly became a cesspool for political chaos and social disarray. The outrage culture in American (and western) media has provided America the perfect breeding ground for disaster. It seems as if every other week there is a new “crisis” threatening the “very fabric of our democracy”. At the onset of the pandemic, many on both sides of the political aisle seemed hopeful that Americans could push aside their differences and come together as one. Unfortunately, unity was not what the pandemic had in store for us at all.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the differences between Americans. Whether it be on the subject of personal freedoms and civil liberties, or the role of state and local governments, everyone now appears to have an opinion on everything that they are not willing to compromise on. One of the areas in which the intense political divide is evident involves mask-wearing.

At the onset of the pandemic, many people (myself included) figured that the debates surrounding the wearing of masks could be solved simply by allowing everyone to make their own decisions on the subject. It was soon revealed that this was not the case. There is a sizable portion of people in the United States who subscribe to the idiom “my way or the highway”. Despite the numerous legitimate arguments both for and against the use of masks in the United States, our politicians elected to mandate their positions onto us. 

The drawbacks of masking students, especially younger ones, are enormous. For example, being able to see a person’s face while they talk is one of the key ways a child learns how to speak and interact with others. According to the CDC, children who wear masks have “difficulty inferring emotion from facial features”, meaning that the social development of children may be inhibited by masks. By removing the visible aspect of communication, the ability of younger students to learn and develop is being adversely affected. Masking also harms those who cannot hear. People who are deaf often rely on lip-reading and facial cues to understand what is being said. Masking removes their ability to do that adequately, forcing many to completely change their lifestyle in order to function normally in everyday life.

Despite these legitimate concerns over the effects of masking, everyone has forgotten about the most important thing of all – civil liberties. Regardless of whether or not masks work, does the government have the right to force masks upon a population in the public space? Does the government have the right to force businesses to impose mask mandates on their employees and customers? The answer, in my opinion, is no.

In regards to a federal mask mandate, the 10th amendment states that “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Nowhere in the constitution is the federal government granted the authority to impose a mandate such as this onto the states. This means that it falls to the states to decide how to proceed with regards to masking, not the federal government. The Supreme Court has ruled in the case New York v United States (1992) that the forced compulsion of states to impose federal regulations would violate the 10th amendment (in what is known as the anti-commandeering clause of the 10th amendment). The separation of powers between state and federal governments is one of the defining features of our society. Allowing the government to force states to implement their unconstitutional policies is a blatant violation of those separations of power. A federal mask mandate is unconstitutional, forcing the state governments to comply with their mandate is unconstitutional, and thus the federal government has no right to set in place a mask mandate.

In regards to the mask mandate imposed by the State of New York, that is also unconstitutional. In January, New York State Supreme Court Justice Thomas Radmacher threw out Governor Kathy Hochul’s mandate ruling that the Governor lacked the authority to impose such mandates. He wrote that because the state legislature did not directly approve the imposition of such a mandate, it was unconstitutional. If the state legislature passed a law giving Governor Hochul the authority to impose such a mandate, we could then debate the morality of such a mandate. However, many in the state legislature (along with local legislatures from around New York State) are staunchly opposed to the implementation of such a law, making the likelihood of this happening quite implausible. Because Governor Hochul was never granted the authority to impose a mask mandate by the state legislature, the mask mandate was unconstitutional, and never should have been implemented at all.

In New York State, the state legislature voted in March of 2021 to revoke then-Governor Cuomo’s emergency powers. The mask mandate should have been dropped then and there. Instead, we allowed an unconstitutional law (with potentially serious consequences) to be imposed on those who cannot defend themselves. Students, who have no ability to represent themselves on the floor of the state legislature, have become the pawn for politicians looking to score petty points in the political field of war. It is despicable that politicians have decided to use children to forward their public relations campaigns.

Governments have repeatedly abused their powers during emergencies – and this time is no different. Time and time again, human rights and civil liberties are violated and ignored  “for the common good” and “for the safety of the people”. It is abhorrent that politicians are yet again getting away with expanding their power at the expense of the very people they swore an oath to defend.

We should have been allowed to make our own choice. If we wanted to mask up, that should have been our prerogative. If we decided we didn’t want to wear a mask, that should have been our decision to make. Unfortunately, what’s done is done. The consequences of two years of needless political chaos and civil disarray have taken a toll on us all. Regardless of where you stand on the political aisle, we can all agree that the senseless violence and excessive outrage targeted towards each other over a piece of cloth was most certainly not worth it. All of our troubles could have been avoided if we had simply been allowed to make our choice. There is no shortage of chaos in the world, so we should all do our part to contain it. Hopefully, we can all learn from these past two years and remain calm for the many hectic times sure to come.