BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Erie County says its indoor mask mandate remains in effect regardless of what happens to New York’s statewide requirement. But if things keep trending in the right direction, the mandate could end next month.

The state’s mask mandate was struck down by a judge late Monday, but was put back in effect Tuesday when a higher court issued a stay that temporarily blocks Monday’s ruling.

Nassau County judge Thomas Rademaker said in his ruling Monday that Gov. Kathy Hochul does not have the authority to impose the mandate since the emergency powers given to the governor are no longer in place.

But Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz says local emergency orders, issued under a different section of law than Judge Rademaker ruled on, remain in effect. That includes the requirement that face masks be worn in all indoor settings.

“The judge did not rule on the merits of a mask mandate, nor on the constitutionality of emergency orders issued by local governments,” Poloncarz said in a statement. “All local orders, including Erie County’s, are still valid because they were issued under a different section of New York’s Executive Law.

“As such, all prior Erie County emergency orders are still in full effect, including the emergency order issued on November 23, 2021 requiring all patrons and public facing staff in indoor Erie County public locations to wear masks. ‘Indoor public locations’ includes, but is not limited to, bars, restaurants, hotels, barber shops, beauty parlors, bowling alleys, schools, office complexes, shopping centers, malls, stores, and any other location that is open to the public.”

Poloncarz said in a Covid-19 briefing Tuesday that the mask mandate could be rescinded in February if recent downward trends continue. He added that a number of factors will influence that decision, with hospitalization data being the primary indicator.

Erie County continues to see a massive volume of Covid-19 cases due to the rise of the Omicron variant. Sunday’s reported total of 1,374 new cases is down from the rapid post-holiday spike, but that was still higher than any single daily caseload recorded prior to December. Erie County reported a rolling average of 919 cases per 100,000 residents over the past seven days.

Although the Omicron variant is considered milder than pervious variants, the massive of volume of cases has driven Erie County hospitalizations to record highs over the past month. The county said it had 475 patients hospitalized with Covid-19 on Monday.

* * *

Nick Veronica is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a Digital Executive Producer in 2021. He previously worked at NBC Sports and The Buffalo News. You can follow Nick on Facebook and Twitter and find more of his work here