BUFFALO, N.Y. — Following the CDC's announcement Tuesday that it's recommending fully vaccinated people wear masks while indoors in areas that are considered to be 'hot spots', Erie County's Executive is warning that the indoor mask mandate may go back into effect as soon as this week.
During an Erie County Industrial Development Agency meeting on Wednesday, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz brought up the new CDC recommendation saying he expects the county will soon reach the 'substantial' category of transmission and have residents return to wearing masks indoors based on the current rates and growth of COVID-19 cases.
2 On Your Side learned that shortly before 4 p.m. Poloncarz contradicted what he previously said in the meeting and released this statement on the possibility of an expected Local Emergency Order that impacts county-owned buildings and facilities regarding the usage of face coverings and masks during the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent heightened risk of the Delta variant:
“In the wake of new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) 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. Additionally, every county employee must wear a mask while working inside at any off-site non-county-owned building regardless of vaccination status. The only exception will be if an employee is working at his or her desk or workspace area and/or can safely socially distance from others.
At this time, we are not mandating a county-wide mask-wearing policy for non-county-owned public buildings, although we highly recommend that all non-county public building owners follow the CDC’s guidance and require face coverings or masks for all staff and patrons who enter those locations. The county will reconsider a mask requirement for all indoor non-county-owned public facilities if caseloads and hospitalizations should increase significantly as time progresses.
Based on July 27’s results, Erie County is currently at the ‘moderate’ risk level with 43.9 new cases per 100,000 new residents for the prior seven days. In comparison, just one week ago the county was at 20 new cases per 100,000 new residents for the prior seven days.
The county will enter the ‘substantial risk of community transmission category if we are at anywhere from 50 to 99 cases per 100,000 new residents for a seven-day period. The county will enter the ‘high’ risk of community transmission category if we exceed 100 or more cases per 100,000 new residents for a seven-day period.
We highly recommend public facilities encourage all of their employees, patrons and any others who enter indoors to wear masks, especially knowing the Delta variant is in our community. We know that face coverings that protect the nose and mouth help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus so that additional public health measures along with social distancing, frequent hand washing, and other preventive actions can help us all work together to stop the spread.
The CDC has recommended wearing face masks to slow the spread of the Delta variant of the novel coronavirus so I am putting this Order in place as an additional public health measure in Erie County-owned and operated buildings to better protect our employees and the public. The best way to protect the public is for the entire public to get vaccinated. If you are not vaccinated, the Erie County Department of Health provides free COVID-19 vaccination to any person 12 and older. Call (716) 858-2929 to schedule an appointment for vaccination at one of our future mobile pop-up clinics near you, or to schedule a Vax Visit in which you will be vaccinated in your home.
Please do the right thing for your family, our community, and our country. Get vaccinated.”