BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz issued a statement Wednesday afternoon clarifying his statements on the possibility of an indoor mask requirement in the county.
Poloncarz said in the wake of new CDC guidance issued Tuesday which recommends vaccinated people wear masks indoors where COVID-19 is surging, if the county enters the CDC’s category of "substantial risk of community transmission" of COVID-19 face coverings would be required for employees and visitors inside county buildings and facilities regardless of vaccination status. County employees would also be required to wear a mask while working inside at any off-site non-county owned building regardless of vaccination status. If an employee is working at his/her desk or workspace area and/or can safely socially distance from others a mask would not be required.
The county executive continued on to say that at this time county officials are not mandating a county-wide mask-wearing policy for non-county owned public buildings. Although, the county recommends all non-county public building owners follow the CDC’s guidance and require face coverings regardless of vaccination status.
"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," Poloncarz said.
Poloncarz said the county is currently at the "moderate" CDC risk level with 43.9 new cases per 100,000 new residents. According to the county executive, just last week 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," Poloncarz said.
The county executive issued the clarification following his comments during an Erie County Industrial Development Agency (ECIDA) Wednesday. During the meeting Poloncarz said the indoor mask requirement could return to indoor public places by the end of the week.
"I do believe, I said this to a few others at the start of the meeting, that based on the current rates in Erie County and our growth, that we will have an indoor mask requirement again possibly by the end of this week," Poloncarz said during the meeting."For most of May and June we were in the low CDC transmission category, we moved up to moderate, substantial risk of transmission is anything 50 cases or greater. The week ending July 17 we were at 18.8, the week ending July 24 we were at 32.4 we're at 43 as of yesterday, so I do expect the mask requirement for indoor public things go into effect."
Poloncarz issued the clarification that the requirement would only apply to employees and visitors inside county buildings and facilities after saying during the meeting it would apply to indoor public places such as bowling alleys, movie theaters, bars and restaurants.
In an announcement Wednesday New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the state is continuing to review the new CDC guidance and no change has been made at this point, but said local governments in areas with high spread should consider following the new CDC guidance.