Democratic New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s effort to boost her image by emulating the pandemic-fighting policies of her predecessor is foundering on the opposition of multiple county leaders who refuse to go along with her mask mandate.
Hochul, who was disgraced former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s lieutenant governor, took over in August when Cuomo resigned amid allegations of sexual improprieties.
Last week, she took a page from the playbook of Cuomo — whose COVID-19 restrictions made him a darling of the left — and imposed a mask mandate, saying it was necessary because of a rise in coronavirus cases.
But numerous counties — most led by Republicans — are not going down that road again, the New York Post reported Tuesday.
Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus said he opposed “using Gestapo tactics and going business to business and asking them if they are enforcing masking.”
“My health department has critical things to do that are more important than enforcing this and I think small businesses have been through enough already,” he said. “God forbid the governor directs the state police to go out and enforce it.”
Governor Hochul’s mask mandate is another crushing blow to New York businesses, especially our #NY21 small business community.
— Rep. Elise Stefanik (@RepStefanik) December 13, 2021
Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro said his county wants residents to wear masks in public places but will not force them to do so.
“We don’t have the resources or even the desire to engage in a mandate that we don’t believe is going to produce a measurable outcome,” Molinaro said.
“It’s difficult enough in an emergency to tell people something they should do, but even more so now when her predecessor frankly squandered public trust,” he said, according to the Post.
Some said enforcing a mandate is beyond what a small county can do.
“What am I going to do, station somebody at a Walmart 24/7? It’s silly,” said Administrator Shaun Groden of Greene County, which has a total population of fewer than 50,000 people. “I don’t have staff to do enforcement, so we’re not even going to try to do enforcement.”
“My staff will have to mask up. But we’re not going to become the mask police,” he said.
Groden added: “We will still encourage people to get vaxxed. Otherwise, it’s just something we can’t accommodate.”
In Saratoga County, just north of Albany, Republican Theodore Kusnierz, chairman of the board of supervisors, called Hochul’s policy “misguided and unreliable.”
“Our top priority, and it has been this way since January of this year, has been the response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said, according to the Post.
“When we have to redirect our limited resources to a mandate, that takes away from the critically important efforts that we have underway in ensuring that everyone who would like to receive a vaccination has received it,” he said.
Paul Pettit, public health director for the western New York counties of Genesee and Orleans, said officials there “will continue to focus our efforts on offering free vaccination and testing clinics as well as conducting case investigations.”
“We do not have the capacity to enforce mask mandates, and enforcing mandates is not the best use of our limited resources at this point of the pandemic response,” Pettit said.
Up to 21 NY counties have declined to enforce @GovKathyHochul‘s mask mandate: Montgomery, Fulton, Nassau, Rockland, Orange, Greene, Putnam, Saratoga, Madison, Livingston, Wayne, Yates, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Ontario, Steuben, Niagara, Genesee, Orleans, Dutchess & Rensselaer https://t.co/XRq9P6scln
— Bob DiCostanzo (@BCD_76) December 14, 2021
Madison County Board Chairman John Becker said the mandate is the wrong answer for all the wrong reasons, according to WKTV-TV.
“While the County recognizes that masks can be helpful in stopping the spread of COVID-19, our data continues to suggest that the majority of new cases are coming from the household transmission and not from public places,” he said in a statement. “This new mandate is another example of the disconnect that exists between Albany and our Upstate counties.
“We will continue to recommend that residents get vaccinated and wear masks in public places to help protect himself or herself from the virus, but in no way believe it should be mandated. The choice to vaccinate and protect oneself belongs to the individual.”
I also walked into 5 stores and a gas station today and didn’t wear a mask at any of them and didn’t hear a peep from anyone about it.. most normal people are over it Hochul
— Brian (@thatguybrianjr) December 13, 2021
Hochul’s mandate includes fines of up to $1,000 for each violation, the Post reported.
The governor said the system relies on everyone doing what they are told.
“Counties have always had to enforce public health requirements. That’s what they do,” she said. “Individuals are asked to follow regulations and in general, follow laws. And that is what we’re continuing to do here.”
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