Local county executives discuss Gov. Hochul’s mask mandate

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(WIVB) — According to NYS data, the seven-day positivity rate for Erie County is 8.6 percent, which is down nearly two points in the last week and is the lowest in Western New York.

“Places like Erie County had been worse,” said Gov. Kathy Hochul. “It’s trending a little bit better. They’ve had a mask mandate for a number of weeks.”

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz says the mask mandate is helping drive COVID-19 cases down.

“We see the numbers across Erie County, we know what we’re dealing with. We’ve seen the declination in cases, hospitalizations, and making comparisons to our friends in the rest of Western New York, we believe the mask mandate made a difference in Erie County to help us reduce our numbers,” Poloncarz said.

Because of the decline in cases, Poloncarz said he will not implement a vaccine mandate, as part of ‘phase two’ in lowering the county’s numbers. Instead, he said, residents must continue to follow the Governor’s latest mask mandate which began Monday.

County health sanitarians have been going to businesses to make sure they’re following these rules.

“They’re making sure people are masking – both the employees and also the patrons,” said Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein. “Also, they’re responding to complaints about masking.”

But Chautauqua County Executive PJ Wendel said it’s not that easy because the State’s rules for enforcement are not very clear.

“Who are we going to call to enforce this? You know, if I get an email from a business saying ‘Mr. Wendel, somebody came in without a mask,’ am I supposed to go and fine that business $1,000 or the person $1,000?” Wendel asked.

Wendel said he’s not against masks. In fact, the county was going to announce a ‘mask advisory’ the same day Hochul announced the mandate.

“That word mandate just shuts people down. Some want it; some will be sitting here right now saying ‘that’s the biggest mistake the county executive could make.’ But others say that mandate is not what they want to hear. We would strongly encourage people to wear the mask,” Wendel said.

Gov. Hochul said her office will re-evaluate this mandate on January 15.

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