Erie County has no plans to enforce ‘mask honor system’ in businesses


BUFFALO, NY (WIVB) Beginning on Wednesday, anyone who is fully vaccinated can go mask-free in many locations. Some businesses like Dash’s Market, WalMart and Target have already announced that they will use an ‘honor system’ and not check for proof that someone is vaccinated, even if they don’t have a mask.

So, even if a store is filled with people with no masks, if the business isn’t enforcing, neither will the Erie County Health Department, according to Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz. “It would be impossible for us to do that, we just can’t enforce it for every grocery story, every movie theater, every bar, every restaurant.”

Dr. Gale Burstein, the commissioner of the Erie County Department of Health confirms that her department is hoping to return its focus to pre-Covid priorities, unless a business actually has an outbreak of Covid. “We’re really trying hard to get back to our normal routine as much as possible because there’s still a lot of restaurants we need to check for food safety, there’s a lot of homes that we need to check for lead,” said Dr. Burstein. “You know, life goes on. “

County officials did say that for now Erie County employees will still have to wear masks in the halls and elevators at county facilities even if they are fully vaccinated.

News Four also asked a local employment discrimination attorney, Frank Housh, who noted that employers can legally require proof of vaccination to come back into the workplace. “They have to do so in a way to create a safe environment that acknowledges certain people’s religious and health issues. As long as they do that and respect that if someone can’t for some reason get the vaccine, they’re under an affirmative obligation to find a reasonable accommodation, as we know perhaps work from home.”

But attorney Terry Connors does expect some challenges to mandating a vaccine that, to date, is only approved for emergency use. “If it were to be litigated, the number one objection, I’m sure would be, ‘You don’t have a license. You’re under an emergency use authorization, you don’t even have a licensed FDA vaccination and that would be an interesting one for the courts to tackle.”

As of Tuesday, 63% of all eligible residents in Erie County have received at least one dose of the Covid vaccine.

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