Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said Friday at a news conference in Hauppauge that a decision on whether she'd implement a mask mandate in New York schools would be announced after she becomes governor next week.  Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said on Long Island Friday that "people should be ready" for her to issue statewide mask mandates in schools after she is sworn in Tuesday.

Hochul said she has the authority to impose mask mandates through the state Department of Health without issuing an emergency order.

She said she has to wait until she is sworn in as governor at midnight Tuesday morning before making any orders.

"I want to telegraph my intentions but cannot make anything happen until Tuesday," Hochul said. "I have done the due diligence to determine the authority in the department of health and I expect to make an announcement very shortly on Tuesday."

"People should be ready," Hochul said.

Hochul said she formed her opinion on uniform mask use in schools after meeting with education officials including PTAs, school boards and superintendents, teacher unions and immigration groups.

After his COVID-19 state of emergency declaration was lifted, outgoing Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said he lacked the legal authority to impose mask mandates on his own.

Hochul made her remarks in Hauppauge after meeting with the Long Island Federation of Labor.

She said the state also has deployed resources to Long Island to prepare for Hurricane Henri, but all decisions about the hurricane would be managed by Cuomo’s office until Tuesday.

Hochul said she would continue to receive briefings and offer input on the storm response with state, federal and local officials.

"I’ll be monitoring and weighing in, but we have one governor at a time," she said.

Hochul said she was preparing to move into the governor’s mansion next week, but she would continue to move around the state, from Buffalo to her office in New York City, where she can also respond to Long Island and the Hudson Valley.

"I want people to know the job will not change me but I plan to change the job," Hochul said. "People should get used to seeing me."

Hochul met with labor officials regarding future projects on Long Island such as forming an offshore wind institute, job training for people in underserved communities, and creating a pipeline of jobs to keep young people on the Island.

"It’s important for me as one of my first priorities to keep continuing creating good jobs," Hochul said. "The labor movement built the middle class, something I’m familiar with coming from a family of steelworkers, teachers and plumbers and cabinetmakers."

Roger Clayman, the executive director of the Long Island Federation of Labor, said Hochul’s experience with union labor in Western New York shows she understands the issues of labor on Long Island.

"It says a lot about her. It says she cares about working people," Clayman said. "All of the issues we raise are things she has a grasp about. We’re very happy to have an ally in the governor’s office."

He said the unions are also eager to see Hochul sign the legislature’s bill on prevailing wages.

Clayman said he spoke with Hochul about establishing a national offshore wind training center on Long Island to certify workers in wind energy.

"We expect to have a good working relationship," Clayman said. "We look forward with the state of New York to make this region the center of that industry."

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