Erie and Monroe County take different approaches to combat rising COVID-19 rates

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Posted at 6:19 PM, Dec 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-02 18:19:12-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — With COVID-19 rates rising across Western New York, both Erieand Monroe Counties are in a state of emergency.

“This is not the same pandemic as last year,” Monroe County Executive Adam Bello said. “And each county has unique circumstances that call for targeted response.”

So, the two counties are taking different approaches.

“You don’t manage a public health crisis by just dropping the hammer,” Bello said.

“The mask is not a political statement,” Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said. “It’s an issue associated with protecting the public’s health.”

According to treasury records, Erie County has received more than $160 million dollars in COVID-19 relief and Monroe County has received just under $130 million dollars. Both counties have phased plans, but Monroe County is focusing on expanding testing to help reduce transmission.

“Our residents will have more tools at their disposal to ensure that they are gathering safely,” Bello said.

Monroe County ordered 750,000 at home rapid COVID-19 tests. Those tests can cost nearly forty dollars each but will be at no cost to county residents.

“We ordered enough so everyone in Monroe County who wants a rapid test can have a rapid test,” Bello said.

Monroe County has a mask mandate for any county operated building and some county employees have returned to work from home.

But Erie County Legislature Minority Leader Joe Lorigo said mask mandates are not the solution for Erie County. He said any additional money coming into the county should be spent differently.

“We should be putting it towards testing, we haven’t done that,” Lorigo said. “We should be putting it towards making sure that our hospitals are better staffed.”

Poloncarz said he is concerned about rising rates, but he said that masks can be effective.

“It is the way to protect and prevent the further transmission of COVID-19,” Poloncarz said.

“I question whether the mask mandate is working,” Lorigo said. “He implanted it nearly ten days ago and the numbers continue to increase.”

Masks are not required in Erie County if a business has a full vaccine mandate.

And most leaders agree that we have an advantage against COVID-19 this winter.

“We know more about the virus,” Bello said. “We know more about how it spreads, and we have a vaccine that works.”

Poloncarz said on December 13, numbers will be reevaluated to decide whether the county moves to phase two. Bello said in Monroe County, they should have an idea of whether their approach is working by the end of the year.