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By Town Supervisor John C. Whitney, P.E.
As town supervisor of the Town of Grand Island, I cannot place my support behind the mandatory mask mandate issued by Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz. Personally, I wear a mask where required and support vaccinations. However, I feel that the mandate will damage our businesses by forcing our residents to cross the bridge to Niagara County, where the mandate doesn't exist.
I have received several pleas from local businesses and residents asking me not to support the mandate. While I recognize that the COVID-19 pandemic virus has become a widespread global disease that will likely never be eradicated, I believe that managing it by declaring a state of emergency and declaring mandates every time a new variant and/or spike in cases arises is counterproductive. I also believe that doing so has negative impacts on mental and general well-being. It will place negative impacts on businesses and schools, including their ability to cope with and manage what will likely be regular occurrences in the coming months and years.
I also recognize that this virus will continue to be part of our everyday life and must no longer be used to infringe on individual rights and freedom by declaring a state of emergency, issuing mandates, and ultimately closing public access to local businesses.
Actions associated with mandates decrease capacity, eliminate jobs, and severely limit the ability to hire.
I believe that a long-term management plan is required to manage the COVID-19 virus, and suggest that Erie County and New York state prepare plans that proactively address hospital capacity issues that do not impact the health and well-being of our residents by suspending certain procedures. I ask the county and state to allocate ARPA funds to increase hospital capacity to meet the increases.
Due to Grand Island's proximity to neighboring Niagara County, I feel that this mandate will cause economic damage to our residents and businesses. Therefore, I support proposed legislation in the New York State Senate that would require approval by the Town Board of the county executive's or county health board's extension of a state of emergency beyond 30 days within our town.