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Erie County Clerk critical of county building mask policy

In a letter to Poloncarz, Kearns said that he is not opposed to masks, but wants to see data to support why people in county buildings are required to wear them.

ERIE COUNTY, N.Y. — Erie County Clerk Mickey Kerns was vocal Monday about his opposition to the mask mandate for employees and visitors who enter county buildings that Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz put in place over the weekend.

In a letter to Poloncarz, Kearns said that he is not opposed to masks, but wants to see data to support why masks are required in county buildings but not others.

Kearns said he is calling for consistent county-wide policies to combat the spread of COVID-19 — he said he wants to see the scientific evidence that supports the mandate.

"I am not aware of any scientific evidence, which demonstrates that COVID-19 may only be spread within the walls of public buildings owned or operated by the county of Erie," Kearns said. "I have asked the Poloncarz administration in the past for this data, and they have acknowledged the request but they still have not provided it."

2 On Your Side reached out to Poloncarz's office in response to Kearns' comments, a spokesperson referenced his comments from a press release sent Friday.

“In the wake of new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance recommending that even fully vaccinated people use face masks indoors in areas where COVID-19 transmission is considered ‘substantial’ or ‘high,’ we are taking the threat of the highly contagious Delta variant extremely seriously, especially based on research that has shown the Delta variant’s viral load can be a thousand times greater than the original virus, and our community has had breakthrough infections and illnesses among fully vaccinated residents.

As a result, I am announcing after consulting with key members of my administration that if the county should enter the CDC’s category of ‘substantial risk of community transmission of COVID-19, effective the following day, face coverings and masks which cover the nose and mouth must be worn by all employees and visitors inside county buildings and facilities regardless of vaccination status," said Poloncarz.

2 On Your Side spoke with UB's Chief of Infectious Disease Dr. Thomas Russo about mask mandates generally —  he said right now it's a bridge to vaccination because vaccination is a five to six-week process.

"Consideration of using masks, particularly in high-risk settings such as the indoors for the unvaccinated, is a bridge to vaccination so we can really minimize preventable bad outcomes," Russo said.

Poloncarz said Friday that hospitalizations would be a key factor if a county-wide mask mandate was discussed in the future.