Livingston County ‘not’ enforcing NY mask mandate

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LIVINGSTON COUNTY, N.Y. (WHEC)— Livingston County representatives said Monday they will not be enforcing New York State’s new indoor masking mandate, which took effect Monday.

The county’s Board of Supervisors released a statement saying the directive, which was announced Friday, is "a change of position" from Gov. Kathy Hochul.

As announced, masks will be required in all indoor public places unless the businesses or venues implement a vaccine requirement. Hochul said the decision to impose a mask mandate was based on the state’s weekly seven-day case rate, as well as increasing hospitalizations.

However, the board’s statement calls out Hochul for what they say goes back on her comments stating the state did not need a "one-size-fits-all approach" as far as COVID protocols go. Hochul’s office made similar comments when it announced guidelines requiring certain hospitals to pause some elective surgeries.

Livingston County statement by News10NBC on Scribd

"Governor Hochul derided the use of these types of measures just days ago, now, we are back to
Cuomo-era approaches," the county said. "That is an unfortunate, and swift, switch of position by the Governor."

The statement went on to say any mandate of this level should come from the counties and local governments themselves. As part of the mandate, Hochul said it would be up to the local governments to enforce the rules.

The mask mandate applies to both patrons and staff and will be in effect from Monday to Jan. 15, after which the state will reevaluate. Hochul said violators could face civil and criminal penalties, including a maximum fine of $1,000.

While taking Q&A during a news conference Monday morning, the governor was asked how enforcement was going to be handled.

Hochul: “We have left this to the counties to enforce."

Question from reporter: “So counties can choose not to enforce?”

Hochul: “We hope that counties will enforce it. We expect that they will, we hope that they will, it’s in the best interest of public health. But it also comes down to individual businesses doing the right thing as well so this is also. We’re asking businesses to protect their customers and protect their employees. This is a very short-term, minor effort in comparison to what the people of the state had to go through for many months when there were complete lockdowns and people could not go out anywhere, and I will never let that happen to this state. I will continue to encourage people to get vaccinated and get that booster shot, that is truly the best path forward.”

Another reporter followed by asking why she wasn’t considering using Department of Health investigators to see if counties were complying, to which Hochul said she was not attempting to be "heavy-handed." She added she is staying in contact with county executives to discuss what possible needs, if any, a county has.

On Friday, Monroe County Executive Adam Bello issued a statement along with County Commissioner of Public Health Dr. Michael Mendoza, saying the Governor’s plan is in line with the State of Emergency already in effect in Monroe County. The county has already implemented a mask mandate for county workers, and visitors at county buildings as part of its recent State of Emergency declaration. As part of the declaration, Bello had urged private sector businesses to implement a mandate.

Other counties, including Madison and Rockland, have said they will not enforce the mandate.

Back with Livingston County, instead of enforcing the mandate, county leaders said they will continue efforts in the areas of mental health services, public health messaging, enhanced and expanded testing, and vaccine advocacy, among other moves.

Per the county’s COVID dashboard, there are 344 active cases. 61% of eligible county residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine. Overall, the Finger Lakes Region has 502 hospitalizations and more than 120 people in an ICU bed.

The statement went on to say complaints and calls related to masks and mandate issues will be forwarded to the New York State Department of Health.

News10NBC is reaching out to other area county leaders for comment. This is a developing story.