Business owners weigh in on mask mandate returning in Erie County

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Some businesses in Monroe County aren’t in favor of mask mandates making a return.

The Erie County Department of Health says starting Tuesday, anyone over the age of 2 will have to wear masks in all public places.

For Erie County, that is step one of a four-phase initiative to curb COVID cases. The question is, will mandates be coming back to Monroe County?

This four-phase approach for Erie County starts with mask mandates, if that doesn’t work, a vaccine mandate is next, followed by capacity restrictions and then, shutdowns. Monroe County health officials told me tonight that something like this is not completely off the table, but right now they’re not looking to create any mandates. For some businesses in Monroe County the thought of having another mask mandate isn’t sitting well, especially now that the holiday season is here.

"We’ve taken hit after hit after hit and those of us that did survive, to put more hits on us is painful,” said Marc Taranto, the owner of The Old Stone Tavern.

"Trust me, folks. We only want to do phase 1. Nobody wants to go to phase 2. And phase 2 is unnecessary if we act appropriately,” said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz during a press conference Monday.

To put things in perspective, Western New York and the Finger Lakes Region still have the highest 7-day average positivity rate in the state. There were 371 new cases Monday in Erie County, and Monroe County had 435 new cases.

But businesses in Monroe County think the community is learning how to live in a pandemic world.

"They should let people live and learn how to adapt to COVID at this point,” Angela Crawford said, a local bartender.

Monroe County officials say if COVID cases keep rising, they’ll revisit the idea of mandates. For now, protocols in the county will stay as they are. As far as holiday gatherings this week, county health officials recommend getting vaccinated, staying home if you don’t feel good, and wearing a mask when with others, inside or out.

"If they go through with the mask mandate, yes people are tired. They’re over it, it is a choice. If you want to wear it, wear it, we have people that come in all the time that wear them,” Crawford added.

Again, Monroe County has not implemented any mandates yet, but as we learned Monday, it is not off the table, while some business owners have had enough of the mandates, others said they’re fine with bringing masks back as long as they get to keep their doors open.