A New York State judge ruled Monday that the state's face mask mandate in public places is unconstitutional and now void, the New York Times reported, citing court documents. Gov. Kathy Hochul enacted the mandate for all indoor public places including schools in December and later extended it to Feb. 1. But State Supreme Court Justice Thomas Rademacher ruled that Hochul and state health officials lacked the authority to enact the mask mandate without the approval of state lawmakers, despite their "well aimed" intentions. Hochul said she would appeal. The ruling comes as the surge of cases driven by the highly contagious omicron variant has fallen sharply from its peak in New York, to an average of about 20,000 cases a day from the peak of 90,000 on Jan. 7. But it is still higher than during the early December surge and hospitals are strained. On a global basis, the total tally for COVID-19 cases hiked up above 355.2 million and the death toll rose above 5.60 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. leads the world with a total COVID-19 case count of 71.7 million and death toll of 868,512.
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