Poloncarz: "Extremely close” to “substantial risk of community spread”

Business community to hear from Poloncarz Friday
Posted at 4:35 PM, Jul 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-29 17:25:37-04

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz says the county is “extremely close” to the CDC’s “substantial risk of community spread” category.

Erie County Department of Health graphic on cases.

Poloncarz issued a Tweet Thursday saying as of July 28 there are 98 new cases of COVID, the county’s 7-day average per 100,000 residents is now at 48. It takes 50 to 99 cases to rise to ‘substantial’ level.

Businesses are waiting and wondering what it will mean.

“We’re wrapping our arms around what businesses need to get through this,” remarked Dottie Gallagher, president & CEO, Buffalo Niagara Partnership (BNP).

The BNP wants to make sure businesses get the answers they need. That's why it's hosting a free webinar Friday morning with County Executive Poloncarz.

Gallagher tells me they will hear directly from the county executive about rising hospitalization rates caused by the highly contagious delta variant and the impact on businesses.

Dottie Gallagher, president & CEO, Buffalo Niagara Partnership (BNP), in Zoom interview.

“There has been confusion in the marketplace that has made it challenging for some businesses, so I’m interested to hear if they think this is going to make things easier or harder,” replied Gallagher.

“What else do you expect to hear from him and you — yourself will ask him about?” Buckley asked.

“I really want to hear what the plan is in terms of — this guidance is evolving by the minute and I commend him and the county for being extremely responsive and I really want to understand from our members and other businesses that participate, how challenging will this be,” responded Gallagher.

Businesses want to know if it will means a return to indoor mask mandates and requiring vaccines.

“It’s kind of deja vu here. I think a lot people thought we were walking out of the woods,” said James Grasso, labor & employment attorney, Phillips Lytle.

James Grasso, labor & employment attorney, Phillips Lytle, in Zoom interview.

Grasso says from a legal stand-point — employers have a great deal of lead way.

He says they do have the right to require employees to be vaccinated and the right to ask employees to prove it.

“There's nothing in the law that says employers can't require employees to be vaccinated or wear masks,” Grasso noted. “But I think it is getting harder and harder for employers not to mandate vaccines."

“Are you hearing from different businesses, reaching out to you for advice on this right now?" Buckley questioned.

“I am and I think all lawyers in my field are as well because you know — things are changing — continuing to change rapidly employers have questions about what can they do — what should they do in the workplace to comply with the new updated guidance,” answered Grasso.

The county executive declined my request for an interview due to scheduling conflicts.

BNP will get an update Friday from the county executive.

The BNP said Poloncarz will also “review the updated masking guidelines” which could impact workplaces once again.

The BNP event is free and open to the public, but you must register for Friday’s update.

It begins at 8:30 a.m. with remarks from the county executive followed by Q&A with Poloncarz.