Local leaders react to Gov. Hochul’s statewide indoor mask mandate

Local News

(WIVB) – On Friday, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced that masks will be required to be worn in all indoor public places unless businesses or venues implement a vaccine requirement effective Dec. 13.

The measure is due to rising COVID-19 rates statewide, Gov. Hochul said.

Reactions to the mandate are pouring in from local leaders across the state.

“I’m not a public health expert but I will say that what we’re seeing now, I don’t think a mask mandate is going to make any significant change,” said state senator George Borrello, whose district includes the southern tier.

“There’s going to be frustration from the residents as well as the businesses across New York state, because I don’t believe their voices have been heard sufficiently nor listened to throughout this pandemic,” said state senator Edward Rath. “Once again we’re 18 months into this pandemic and the governor has chosen to move the goal post once again.”

Niagara County Legislature Chairman Becky Wydysh said that it’s not clear how the state plans to enforce the mandate.

“Niagara County has said right along that we believe it is advisable for people to wear masks indoors, especially when social distancing is not possible, as part of a multi-layered COVID-19 mitigation strategy, but that a mandate was not the best approach nor the enforcement of such a mandate the best use of our resources. 

“Today, Governor Hochul has instituted a statewide indoor mask mandate through January 5 but how the state intends to enforce this mandate is not clear.  To the extent that we are asked to take part in any sort of enforcement of Governor Hochul’s mask mandate, we will be taking an educate to cooperate approach.” 

“In Niagara County, we will continue to focus our county resources on vaccinations, contact tracing, testing and working to keep kids in school.  As a matter of fact, we held five vaccination clinics this week.  We continue to seek more testing resources from the state, including reopening the free testing site at NCCC, because we believe identifying and isolating those who test positive is the greatest need right now to reduce the spread. 

– Chairman Wydysh 

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz commended Hochul for her actions, saying:

“With new COVID-19 cases rapidly increasing across New York State, I commend Governor Hochul for following Erie County’s lead and implementing a statewide mask requirement for all indoor public locations, or, alternatively, permitting the business to choose to implement a vaccine mandate for all persons entering the premises. The COVID-19 virus does not respect county or other municipal boundaries. In order to respond to the growing regional and statewide threat, unified action is needed. I thank the governor for taking that action by implementing an indoor mask requirement because, the facts are clear, wearing a mask can help stop the transmission and further spread of COVID-19.”

– Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz

State Sen. George Borrello expressed concerns on how the mandate will affect businesses.

“While I understand the Governor’s concern about the rising number of COVID cases, a new mask mandate isn’t the solution. As we have seen countless times over the past two years, government overreach provokes many people to instinctively resist and creates more polarization around an issue that should simply be about public health. As before, this mandate will end up being a burden to businesses who will have to police mask-wearing in their establishments, creating the potentially volatile conflicts between patrons and workers that became fodder for news reports and internet videos over the past two years.
“As a restaurant owner, I am concerned for all the front line staff who will be faced with the challenge of
enforcing this mandate. Just as it is in our businesses, it is typically the newest and least experienced workers who are the first point of contact with customers. Expecting them to enforce this mandate is unrealistic and unfair. I believe that free and widely available testing in upstate communities would be a more effective tool for controlling the virus. I just returned from New York City where I was struck by the abundance of free, pop-up COVID testing sites, which may help explain their lower infection rates.
“While we all want to reverse the surge in cases, implementing mandates with questionable benefits simply to give the appearance of taking action isn’t the answer to this problem. I urge the Governor to rethink this strategy and work with us on actions that will make a meaningful difference against this virus.”

– State Sen. George Borrello

Here are other responses to the mandate:

“The governor’s latest mandate that businesses require proof of vaccination or masks for customers and employees goes too far.  Businesses have been struggling to stay open and this action will push many of them closer to the brink.

We must ensure citizens are fully informed and allow them to make their own health decisions in consultation with their physician…as we do with other health related matters. 

I urge my colleagues to support my proposed legislation, which would require such mandates issued by an executive branch of government be approved by the respective legislative branch.  We must restore our system of checks and balances.”       

– State Sen. Patrick Gallivan

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