Bruce Blakeman, the new Republican county executive of Nassau County, New York, has begun his tenure by defying the in-school mask mandate issued by Democrat Governor Kathy Hochul. He gave an order Thursday that allows school districts in the county to make independent decisions about masking requirements.
Blakeman said at a press conference that local school boards are best positioned to make health decisions for their students, not an “autocracy in Albany.” He added that the unique circumstances of each district require individualized decision-making.
Blakeman said that the “home rule authority” of Nassau Country provides the legal authority for each district to make independent rules and disregard Hochul’s statewide mandate. He also issued executive orders that permit county employees to work without masks indoors and stop fines regarding masking for small businesses.
The new county executive said that the governor’s focus on masks is unreasonable. He said that the data is “not there” and provides substantial protection from infection, especially regarding paper masks. He added that masks function to give a false sense of security.
He said in his statement that he would see that the county takes a “very aggressive” approach to COVID-19 and will increase the distribution of free testing kits and vaccination sites. He added that the county would provide KN95 masks to all school teachers and staff.
Blakeman said that he has instructed county police, firefighters, and first responders not to enforce state masking mandates from the governor’s office, adding that those workers have “far more important things to do.”
The new county executive took office at the beginning of the week as part of the “red wave” on Long Island in the elections in November. Republicans did very well in Nassau and Suffolk Counties amid concerns over increased crime and radical bail reforms.
Before the election, Democrats controlled all of the essential county offices in Nassau County and had a massive advantage in registered voters. However, Blakeman defeated the incumbent Democratic county executive, and for the first time in 15 years, Republicans defeated Democrat incumbents for the comptroller and district attorney.