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Erie County to require anyone entering a county building or facility to wear a mask starting Saturday

The Erie County Department of Health (ECDOH) says with 99 new COVID-19 cases confirmed Thursday, county has now reached CDC 'substantial' transmission designation.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — According to the Erie County Department of Health (EDOH), the county is now experiencing 'substantial' community transmission of COVID-19 based on guidance from the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC).

As a result, starting Saturday, July 31, anyone entering an Erie County building or facility must wear a face mask. The mandate applies to all employees, vendors, and visitors, regardless of vaccination status. 

The Health Department also "strongly recommends" that private establishments open to the public require masks indoors, but that is not a mandate.

ECDOH has confirmed 99 new COVID cases for July 29, making for a total of 496 new cases within the past seven days. 

“Even with significantly fewer diagnostic tests being done, we have seen a sharp increase in new daily case totals,” said Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein. “Regardless of vaccination status, wearing a mask is one way to reduce the risk of disease transmission. We continue to recommend that people stay home when sick and get a diagnostic test if you experience symptoms or are a close contact of case.”

Employees who enter other non-County owned buildings while working must wear a face mask as well. The Health Department and the CDC are both recommending all owners of private establishments open to the public require masks for all who enter their buildings.

“There are people in our county who are highly vulnerable to serious illness or death from a Delta Variant COVID-19 infection, especially unvaccinated people, children who are too young to be eligible for the vaccine, and immunocompromised individuals,” said County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz. “The preventive and protective measures – including vaccination – we take now will have a direct impact on the trends we see in new cases over the next few weeks. There is no better time to get vaccinated, as the available vaccines are safe and effective at preventing serious illness and death. Please do the right thing for your family, our community, and our country: get vaccinated.”

The possibility remains that broader COVID restrictions could get put in place said Poloncarz, "Hospitalizations is going to be a driving factor. If hospitalizations still stay low, okay. Hopefully, we will not have to have indoor mask mandates across the whole community. If they rise and they continue to grow then it’s a serious concern.”

Outspoken against renewed COVID restrictions is Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw. Earlier this week, Mychajliw posted a social media video pre-emptively calling on people to reject new mandates. 

"Boycott any indoor mask mandates. If you want to wear a mask, go right ahead. Knock your socks off. That is your choice,” said Mychajliw in the video.

Poloncarz dismissed Mychajliw's posturing as politics, "He has no role in this. Doesn’t matter. I listen to the health professionals. He can continue listening to the politicos across the country. I’m going to listen to the health professionals.”

Mychajliw is running for Hamburg Town Supervisor, but insist his objections to COVID restrictions are based on his concerns that businesses have been deeply hurt by COVID restrictions, "I’ve been consistent in over a year and a half and other than (East Aurora Assembly Member) Dave DiPietro, there’s no one else in Erie County that’s been this vocal about protecting businesses. No one.” 

Those still looking for a COVID-29 vaccine can find a list of sites here. ECDOH will also vaccinate Erie County residents at their homes; call 716-858-2929 to schedule an appointment or a free diagnostic COVID-19 test.