Some upstate NY counties say no to enforcing mask mandate

Coronavirus

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — After some push-back from municipalities regarding the new indoor mask or vax mandate, Gov. Kathy Hochul on Tuesday stood by her decision.

Hochul reiterated that the mandate’s objective is to protect the health of New Yorkers and the health of the economy by avoiding mass shutdowns. However, some county officials in upstate New York have said they won’t utilize resources to enforce the mandate. 

“We believe that the people should enforce good standards along this time,” Samuel Hall, Chairman of Washington County Board of Supervisors, said. “Our public health department does not have the capability of enforcing it.”

Hall said none of Washington County’s 14 health department employees nor their Washington County deputies will be going to a business that reports non-compliance. When asked what entity Washington County business owners or residents should call regarding a breach of the mandate, Hall suggested the state Health Department.

“They can call the NY State Department of Health. Sure, they can report to them,” Hall said. “They are the ones that put it out there. So, they should be the ones that resolve the issue if there is any.”

Hall added that if an incident escalates past simply not wearing a mask — either to violence or a trespassing issue — deputies could be dispatched to the scene.

Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin echoed Hall’s sentiment.

“Rensselaer County will not utilize resources to enforce this new state mandate,” McLaughlin said. “If the state wants to enforce the mandate, the state will need to utilize state resources for those actions.”

Theodore Kusnuerz, chairman of the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors, had some harsh words regarding the governor’s mandate.

“Saratoga County’s Public Health Department and law enforcement will not enforce New York State’s misguided and unrealistic mask mandate, which passes the buck to counties to enforce what the governor herself said just over a week ago is ‘almost impossible’ to enforce,” he said.

Hochul said this enforcement system is standard practice, and the proof of vaccine option was a compromise for those county business owners who didn’t require a mask.

“Counties have always had to enforce public health requirements. That’s what they do,” Hochul said. “Seventy-three percent or so of the state population is governed by county leaders who say they support what we are doing here.”

One such leader is Albany County Executive Dan McCoy, who commended the governor’s decision. The county will have an online portal for enforcing the mandate through resident complaints. 

“While shopping, at a restaurant, or wherever they are at, they can lodge a complaint, and we’ll take that and go from there,” McCoy said.

However, McCoy said law enforcement would by no means be going door-to-door to check for business compliance.

“Look, I don’t want any worker to get into an argument with a patron that’s coming in. We want everyone to be safe, especially around the holidays,” McCoy said.

Schenectady County officials urged businesses and venues to follow the new regulations in a statement.

“Throughout the pandemic, when new regulations were issued, the county has taken the approach to educate first, should issues arise,” Erin M. Roberts, Director of Public Communications, said.

Hochul said New York is currently experiencing a holiday surge. She will reassess the mandate on Jan.15.

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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