Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz on Tuesday issued the following statement regarding the potential for relaxing or rescinding the mask mandate currently in effect for Erie County businesses. As coronavirus infection rates and hospitalizations continue to decrease, Gov. Kathy Hochul is expected to make an announcement concerning such mandates on Wednesday.
Poloncarz said, “The nearly two-year fight against COVID-19 and its variants has been difficult and protracted, but it appears better days are ahead as the omicron variant wave is coming to an end. When I issued my emergency order on Nov. 23, 2021, requiring masking in facilities open to the public, new delta variant COVID case rates were skyrocketing and our hospitals had less than 10% total bed capacity available.
“Today, thankfully, new infections have dropped tremendously and hospital bed capacity rates have stabilized, there being nearly 20% of all hospital beds in the county available today. While these are positive and encouraging signs, a cautious, fact-based approach has always been most prudent, and we will remain vigilant while monitoring this data in days and weeks to come.
“With this in mind, Erie County is prepared to follow the lead of Gov. Hochul as she updates the public on New York state’s stance on masking in tomorrow’s announcement. If the governor rescinds the statewide mandate on masks, Erie County will follow suit, and my emergency order issued on Nov. 23, 2021, requiring masking in public facilities will be allowed to lapse, and Dr. Burstein’s commissioner’s order on the same will be rescinded in alignment with the state’s position. If the governor should continue her statewide mask requirement, we shall follow suit and continue our requirement for consistency with the state’s rules.
“Finally, if the governor should rescind her statewide mandate on masks, in order to ensure a safe working environment for county employees and our guests, the emergency order issued by me on July 29, 2021, requiring masks to be worn by all employees and guests in county-owned facilities shall be continued through the end of the month of February, at which time we will reconsider the need for such requirement based on the then designation of whether the county is at a low, moderate, substantial or high risk of COVID transmission, as those terms are defined by the CDC.”