Rockland’s County Executive has taken issue with a new directive from the state government. In response to Governor Kathy Hochul’s decision to reinstate a mask mandate for all indoor public places statewide, Day has vowed to ignore the order, promising his constituents that Rockland’s government will not enforce mandatory mask use. Day announced his stance on Tuesday during an interview with Fox Business, during which the County Executive characterized Hochul’s order as vague and ineffective.
“While other County Executives from the Mid-Hudson region and I were invited onto a call with the Governor’s staff (Tuesday) afternoon, the Governor’s staff was unable to provide detailed information about this newly announced requirement other than that the first week it is in effect should be used for education and not enforcement. I told the Governor’s staff that we cannot and will not enforce this requirement as it currently stands. How do you enforce something that’s based on a press release that does not contain adequate information and explanation?” wrote Day in a statement shared with the Rockland County Times.
Executive Day has argued that the Governor did not provide adequate notice or explanation of her decision, accusing Hochul of “governing via press conference.”
“The Governor has said that this program will be reevaluated on January 15, 2022, but what metrics will be used as part of this reevaluation? All of these details and more should have been provided to counties ahead of a public announcement so that we could prepare for any actions our staff is expected to take and so that we could in turn provide this information to our local businesses and residents. Once again, we are left fielding questions from our citizens that have no answers,” wrote Day.
Governor Hochul originally announced that her administration would reinstate the mask mandate on the morning of Friday, Dec 10, leaving three days for business and government offices to prepare for a return to universal indoor mask use. The initial mask mandate was put in place during March 2020 and repealed in June 2021. Businesses and venues that require proof of vaccination to enter will be exempt from the new order.
The Governor stated her decision was in response to a winter surge of Covid cases that has led to a statewide increase in hospitalizations. The move was in line with CDC recommendations and deemed necessary by the State Health Commissioner, Dr. Mary T. Bassett. During the announcement, the governor herself laminated the return to stricter public health guidelines while arguing their necessity.
“As Governor, my two top priorities are to protect the health of New Yorkers and to protect the health of our economy. The temporary measures I am taking today will help accomplish this through the holiday season. We shouldn’t have reached the point where we are confronted with a winter surge, especially with the vaccine at our disposal, and I share many New Yorkers’ frustration that we are not past this pandemic yet,” Governor Hochul said. “I want to thank the more than 80 percent of New Yorkers who have done the right thing to get fully vaccinated. If others follow suit, these measures will no longer be necessary. I have warned for weeks that additional steps could be necessary, and now we are at that point based upon three metrics: Increasing cases, reduced hospital capacity, and insufficient vaccination rates in certain areas.”
In addition to his frustrations with how the new mandate was implemented, Executive Day has argued that Rockland’s finite resources are better spent getting citizens vaccinated, and that enforcing the new ban will hinder the county’s efforts to get citizens properly immunized.
“I cannot and will not in good conscience redirect our Health Department to change their focus from the vaccination effort which entailed six clinics over the last two weeks that administered 141 vaccine doses and 1,244 booster doses,” wrote Day, “especially with the 5–11-year-old cohort needing vaccinations and the 16–17-year-old cohort having just been approved to receive boosters. That would be utterly reckless.”
Day is not the only critic of the Governor’s decision. Hochul’s announcement was met with skepticism by minority members of the state legislature, including Rockland Assemblyman Mike Lawler, who claimed that the county has taken the steps to make public mask mandates redundant.
“This newest mask mandate is government overreach at its worst,” said Lawler. “Across New York State, we are getting shots in arms and our vaccination rate is one of the highest in the nation. We currently have over 90% of our residents vaccinated, which is far above the ‘herd immunity’ threshold we’ve been hearing about for years. Here in Rockland County, 82.3% of our 18+ population is vaccinated, 99% of our senior population is vaccinated, and those numbers continue to climb each and every day,” continued Lawler. “Instituting a mask mandate and issuing yet another ‘state of emergency’ is abusive of our citizens and taxpayers.”
While Rockland’s leadership is prepared to disregard the mandate, private businesses will of course reserve the right to comply with the governor and require their visitors to remain masked.