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Poloncarz set to brief business leaders Friday on COVID-19 data, possible mask mandate

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz will address business leaders in a virtual meeting with the Buffalo Niagara Partnership

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Erie County is creeping closer to the CDC threshold that would bring back masks for people who are fully vaccinated.

While New York state hasn't adopted those recommendations, Erie County is looking into the possibility of mandating masks in county-run buildings and possibly non-county facilities.  

In terms of enforcement of the possible mandate, a spokesperson for Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz issued this statement: 

"Standard enforcement procedures already being used now would remain in place and that there are no plans to increase any security protocols at any county owned buildings and facilities. Security personnel already in charge of enforcing normal rules and regulations in all government structures would continue with those duties and employees of the Erie County Sheriff’s Department are expected to also continue their normal practices related to building security and law enforcement job duties. Enforcement at any non-county buildings and any government agencies that are non-county should be practiced by the respective owners, managers and supervisors of those entities.”

But as of now, nothing has changed and those options only remain a possibility.

With Erie County eyeing a mask order first in county-run facilities, regardless of vaccination status then possibly a mask mandate in non-county public facilities, if there's a spike in COVID data, businesses are reacting.  

REPORTER: What has been the immediate reaction? 

"Well, I think there are just a lot of questions and a lot of uncertainty about what's going to trigger what? And, I think the timing is interesting because I think a lot of businesses have sort of announced their reopening back to work plans," said Dottie Gallagher, the president and CEO of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership. 

Many businesses continue to operate under CDC and state guidelines that if you've fully vaccinated, you don't have to wear a mask. 

The owner of Avenue Pizza and Pasta on Hertel Ave in Buffalo says all his employees are fully vaccinated, but they're taking an extra precaution. 

"Anyone who deals with a customer must be wearing a mask at the front counter everything like that yes drivers, delivery people we require them when they're delivering to their homes please wear a mask," said Dave Morgante, owner of Avenue Pizza and Pasta, "Everyone struggling with employees, I want to keep my people healthy and you know who wants to take the chance I'm not going to take a chance with the COVID, we've gone this far."

As for other businesses, Wegmans says they've noticed more customers are wearing masks in recent days. Tops says they haven't seen any change in customer behavior on masks. 

The Buffalo Niagara Partnership says they want the latest trends on COVID data.

"Which is one of the reasons why we're doing a business meeting with the county executive tomorrow morning to really put some of those questions on the table so businesses can have more certainty on their return to the office plans," Gallagher said.

That virtual briefing is scheduled for 8:30 in the morning. We'll be sure to monitor it when it happens.

Meantime, new COVID cases per 100,000 continue to rise in Niagara County, but the county is not eyeing any mask mandate. 

"We are not looking to putting a mask mandate in place at the present time our hospitalization rate is very low," said Niagara County Legislator Rich Andres, chairman of the Legislature's Economic Development Committee.'