Erie County executive details conditions necessary to lift mandate in county-owned buildings; state of emergency would remain in effect, to be revisited next month
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz on Tuesday issued the following statement regarding the potential for lifting the mask mandate currently in effect for Erie County-owned buildings and facilities. Employees and visitors to county-owned buildings are currently still expected to wear masks when in public areas in these facilities, but as the coronavirus infection rates and hospitalizations continue to decrease, the Poloncarz administration is revisiting this policy and putting a plan in place to lift the mandate.
Poloncarz said, “Erie County residents have endured the struggle against COVID-19 and its variants for nearly two years at this point, but there currently are encouraging signs that the pandemic may be reaching its end stages. While a shift to an endemic phase is very welcome, this does not mean the threat is over; rather, Erie County will continue to be vigilant in our review of this still-developing situation and will take future actions as the situation dictates.
“While this may be the beginning of the end for the pandemic, there are still individuals in our community who are at risk of severe illness from COVID-19, and we again encourage everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated, get boosted, and continue to practice smart, responsible behaviors for preventing the further spread of the virus.
“Following continued close review of COVID-19 case data in Erie County, and after consultation with our policy team during the past week, the mask mandate for county buildings will be lifted when the county’s weekly positivity rate is less than 3%, and the county’s seven-day case rate has fallen from the CDC’s ‘high’ risk of community transmission category (greater than 100 new cases per 100,000 persons in the past seven days) to the ‘substantial’ risk of community transmission category (50-99.99 new cases per 100,000 persons in the past seven days); or, if the county’s weekly positivity rate does not fall below 3%, but the county’s seven-day case rate falls into the ‘moderate’ risk of community transmission category (10-49.99 new cases per 100,000 persons in the past seven days).
“Currently, the weekly seven-day positivity rate is 4%, and the weekly new case rate per 100,000 persons is 105.8. If the current rates of decline continue, the county will likely fall into the ‘substantial’ risk category in the next few days, and less than 3% in the next week.”
Erie County Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein said, “Newly confirmed COVID-19 cases and COVID-19-related hospitalizations continue to trend downward, which indicates that the incredible levels of COVID-19 transmission omicron variant surge in December and January are finally behind us. While we can relax requiring certain preventive measures against COVID-19, such as universal masking, there are still people in our community who are susceptible to COVID-19 illness because they are not fully vaccinated, or they have medical conditions that make them more vulnerable to poor outcomes. Our department will continue to provide opportunities for COVID-19 vaccination, educational outreach for vaccine and boosters, and free testing options. Vaccination is the ultimate measure to protect against moderate and severe COVID-19 illness. Erie County residents should still feel comfortable wearing masks in public places to protect themselves from COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses.’
Poloncarz added, “While lifting this mask mandate would certainly affect KeyBank Arena, New York state currently has a test or vaccine mandate that is still in place for facilities with a seating capacity greater than 5,000, and visitors to KeyBank Arena should expect to follow the state’s vaccination requirements in order to attend events there.
“Finally, even should conditions warrant the lifting of the mask mandate in county buildings, the state of emergency that continues to exist in Erie County would remain in effect; its continuation or potential termination will be revisited in early March.”