At least 13 counties in New York state are telling newly-tapped Democrat Gov. Kathy Hochul that they will not be enforcing her mask mandate on private businesses — and some of the county leaders are letting their displeasure over the “dictate” be known.
According to the New York Post, Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus ripped Hochul, telling the governor he opposes “using Gestapo tactics and going business to business and asking them if they are enforcing masking.”
The order from Hochul puts the onus on businesses: either checking customers’ vaccine statuses or enforcing mask-wearing.
“My health department has critical things to do that are more important than enforcing this and I think small businesses have been through enough already,” Neuhaus ripped, adding, “God forbid the governor directs the state police to go out and enforce it.”
According to the Post, the pushback from officials “accounts for nearly one-quarter of all the state’s territories, not including the five boroughs of New York City.”
Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, a Republican, said masks are encouraged but “it wasn’t a dictate” for the county.
“We don’t have the resources or even the desire to engage in a mandate that we don’t believe is going to produce a measurable outcome,” he explained. “It’s difficult enough in an emergency to tell people something they should do, but even more so now when [Hochul’s] predecessor frankly squandered public trust.”
“What am I going to do, station somebody at a Walmart 24/7? It’s silly,” Greene County administrator Shaun Groden mocked the order from Hochul.
“My staff will have to mask up. But we’re not going to become the mask police,” he asserted, adding, “We will still encourage people to get vaxxed. Otherwise, it’s just something we can’t accommodate.”
Moving further away from New York City; Livingston, Genesee, Orleans, Steuben, and Ontario County leaders all told Hochul her order will not be enforced.
Livingston County Board of Supervisors posted a statement rejecting the order, WHAM 13 News reported:
Any state mandate of this type should come with corresponding state-led oversight and resources from the state government, not pushed down to counties to handle the work of enforcement for an “unenforceable” mandate that is due to be re-assessed in approximately 30 days. Instead, our efforts at the County level will continue to be in the areas of mental health services, public health messaging, enhanced and expanded testing, supports to K-12 schools to keep children in the classroom, vaccine advocacy and other related pandemic response services. Complaints and calls related to issues of masks and business mandates should, and will, be forwarded to the NYS Department of Health as the rightful responding agency for any enforcement consideration.
“If the state felt this was such an imperative to do and to employ and to deploy, that they should supply the resources to respond to that,” said Ian Coyle, Livingston County administrator. “Whether that be the state police, whether that be the state department of health, etc.”
“I think that state should have recognized that. I think the state should supply resources to that.”
“As we did during the last surge, Genesee County will take the approach with our community to ‘Educate to Cooperate’ in regards to the benefits of masking and social distancing,” said Genesee County Legislature chair Rochelle Stein, WHAM reported.
Ontario County posted the following statement:
Ontario County continues to urge all eligible residents to get vaccinated, get boosted and mask up when in public settings. The County also lacks the staff necessary to enforce a mandate of this kind across the county. Given our limited resources, and the toll the pandemic has already taken on our Public Health staff, we need to focus our limited resources on the most efficient and impactful public health intervention strategies. For Ontario County, that includes continuing vaccine and booster distribution, facilitating testing in schools to keep children in the classroom, and conducting case investigations and cluster and outbreak management protocols.
Steuben County emphasized how overwhelmed they already are in a statement saying they will not be enforcing the order:
We have our entire Public Health department, employees from other county departments, and dozens of volunteers focused upon contact tracing and vaccination. Throughout this Delta variant surge, they have been and remain overwhelmed by these tasks and cannot absorb additional duties of mask enforcement. As such, any complaint received by Steuben County will be forwarded to NYSDOH. That said, the NYSDOH Commissioner’s Determination is a state requirement, and as such we strongly encourage all of our valued businesses in Steuben County to comply.
Hochul announced the order on December 10, and it went into effect Monday. The order will be “reassessed” on January 15.
“Governor Kathy Hochul today announced masks will be required to be worn in all indoor public places unless businesses or venues implement a vaccine requirement,” said a press release.
“As Governor, my two top priorities are to protect the health of New Yorkers and to protect the health of our economy,” a statement from Hochul said. “The temporary measures I am taking today will help accomplish this through the holiday season. We shouldn’t have reached the point where we are confronted with a winter surge, especially with the vaccine at our disposal, and I share many New Yorkers’ frustration that we are not past this pandemic yet.”
She included blame for the unvaccinated, stating: “I want to thank the more than 80 percent of adult New Yorkers who have done the right thing to get fully vaccinated. If others will follow suit, these measures will no longer be necessary.”
“I have warned for weeks that additional steps could be necessary, and now we are at that point based upon three metrics: Increasing cases, reduced hospital capacity, and insufficient vaccination rates in certain areas,” the Democrat concluded.
According to the Post, “Hochul’s mandate carries fines of up to $1,000 for each violation.”