A New York judge ruled Monday that the state's mask mandate can't be enforced, after it was reinstituted by Gov. Kathy Hochul over concerns about a winter surge of coronavirus cases.

State Supreme Court Judge Thomas Rademaker, based in Nassau County, said in his decision that the state Department of Health didn't have the legal authority to implement the mandate, and that it was up to the state Legislature to do so if needed.

Rademaker’s ruling strikes down the Department of Health masking rule, which also applies to schools, according to an attorney representing the plaintiffs in the case.

The mandate “is a law that was promulgated and enacted unlawfully by an executive branch state agency, and therefore void and unenforceable," the judge said.

However, New York City’s Department of Education responded to the ruling Monday night, saying in a statement that the decision has “no immediate affect” on city schools, as mandatory masking has been DOE policy since before the state adopted it.

“Students should plan to attend school tomorrow with their masks,” Nathaniel Styer, a DOE spokesperson, said in a statement.

Rademaker said the ruling was not intended as an opinion on the effectiveness of masks to slow the spread of COVID-19, but only spoke to whether the mandate was properly enacted and enforceable.

The state had initially instituted a general public mask mandate in April 2020 through executive order by then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo. That mandate ended in June 2021 for vaccinated individuals.

Despite the Legislature taking away the governor’s emergency order power, Hochul announced the new mask mandate as a Department of Health rule in mid-December. Earlier this month, the state health department said the mandate would be in place until Feb 1.

Gov. Kathy Hochul released a statement Monday evening, saying:

"My responsibility as Governor is to protect New Yorkers throughout this public health crisis, and these measures help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and save lives. We strongly disagree with this ruling, and we are pursuing every option to reverse this immediately."

The ruling comes as the omicron wave that gripped New York state appears to be fading. The state averaged around 23,400 new cases of the virus per day in the 7 day period that ended Sunday, down from 74,600 per day during the wave’s peak in early January. Hospitalizations are dropping, too, declining 17% statewide in the past 7 days.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.