Yay or nay: Is your county enforcing NY’s mask mandate?
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — New York State’s new indoor masking mandate took effect Monday, but already, we’ve seen a mixed response on whether the mandate will be enforced by individual counties.
Hochul said the decision to impose the mask mandate was based on the state’s weekly seven-day case rate, as well as increasing hospitalizations. The mandate applies to both patrons and staff and will be in effect from Monday to Jan. 15, after which the state will reevaluate.
News10NBC has compiled this list of local county responses so far. *A note, it is subject to change.
County leaders Monday said they will not be enforcing the mandate. The county, instead, will continue efforts in the areas of mental health services, public health messaging, enhanced and expanded testing, and vaccine advocacy, among other moves.
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.
On Tuesday, Bello clarified that the county would be enforcing the mandate, but said for the first week, it will focus on education saying, he doesn’t even want to talk about enforcement or fines yet.
Ontario County Administrator Chris DeBolt told News10NBC the county has not come to a final decision yet. However, DeBolt added right now they don’t believe they have the manpower to enforce a mask mandate countywide.
He said administrators had discussions with their leadership team over the weekend. They feel the most effective and impactful use of their resources is to continue to focus on vaccine distribution and facilitating testing in schools to keep kids in the classrooms and conduct case investigations.
Click here to read the full statement.
Steuben County released a statement Monday saying its entire Public Health Department, as well as employees from other county departments and dozens of volunteers working on contact tracing and vaccination efforts and that it can not absorb additional duties of mask enforcement, so the county will be forwarding all mask enforcement complaints to the New York State Department of Health.
The county said it is strongly encouraging businesses to comply with the mandate.
Click here to read the full statement.
In a statement, Wayne County reps say they will only enforce a mask mandate for county employees and visitors in county facilities. "That is the only place we have the authority to mandate compliance," reps said.
Wyoming County is leaving enforcement up to local businesses. In a statement, the Wyoming County Board of Supervisors said, "While vaccinations and the use of masks are strongly encouraged, businesses and public venues should determine what is in the best interest of their operations in light of the mask mandate…" Wyoming County is still under a state of emergency due to rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
Yates County’s Public Health Department told News10NBC it is focusing its efforts on case investigations, contact tracing, vaccinations, education, and outreach. As far as the enforcement of the mask mandate, they are logging all concerns or complaints and keeping a record of them.
Out of area
Other counties, including Madison and Rockland, have said they will not enforce the mandate. Nearby, Erie County implemented a similar phased restriction approach, which included a mask mandate.
Hochul on enforcement
When asked Monday if individual counties can choose not to enforce the policy, Hochul said in part:
“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."
Hochul previously said violators could face civil and criminal penalties, including a maximum fine of $1,000.