This week, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced a new statewide mask mandate that will take effect on Monday, Dec. 13, citing a rise in case numbers. The mandate requires face masks to be worn in all indoor public places that don’t have a vaccine requirement.
“A violation of any provision of this measure is subject to a maximum fine of $1,000 for each violation,” Hochul said in a statement. She also added that “local health departments are being asked to enforce these requirements.”
But local governments were essentially blindsided by the announcement, and several counties with Republican executives are refusing to enforce the mandate, citing a variety of reasons, including a lack of guidance from the state on enforcement.
Republican Rockland County Executive Ed Day said that the mandate will not be enforced in his county. “My decision would be to move the people from the health department who are vaccinating children and others right now with a life-saving vaccine, move them to go walk around to different places to figure out whether people are masking up or not. That would be utterly reckless on my part and I will not do that,” Day said.
Madison, Niagara, and Rensselaer Counties are also not planning to enforce the mandate at this time, reports ABC 7 New York. Niagara County “will be taking an educate to cooperate approach” instead of enforcement, as county officials decided that “a mandate was not the best approach nor the enforcement of such a mandate the best use of our resources.”
Nassau County Executive-elect Bruce Blakeman also indicated that his county won’t enforce the mandate. “Over 97% of Nassau County adults have been vaccinated with at least their first dose and our outstanding health care facilities are not even close to capacity,” Blakeman said. “While we continue to monitor this health care concern it is clear that Nassau County is not in crisis and State government should not paint us with the same broad brush as the rest of the State. I’m hopeful that the State will allow local determination rather than a shotgun approach.”
Chautauqua County Executive P.J. Wendel, a Republican, also indicated that his county won’t enforce the mandate. “Chautauqua County has continually recommended that people wear masks indoors, especially when social distancing is not possible, as part of a multi-layered COVID-19 mitigation strategy,” Wendel said in a joint statement with the Chautauqua County health commissioner Christine Schuyler. “We have felt that a mandate was not the best approach to engage our residents nor is the enforcement of such a mandate the best use of our resources.”
Erie County, New York already had a mask mandate in place, and several other state and county officials have expressed support for Hochul’s mandate.
“We recognize Governor Kathy Hochul for her leadership in announcing a statewide mask mandate,” Westchester County Executive George Latimer, a Democrat said. “This pandemic has reached crisis proportions in parts of the state, and we can’t be sure that it won’t rise to equal status in the rest of the state.”
In Western New York, the seven-day average is 38 cases per 100,000 people.