Albany County to launch portal to report mask mandate violations, but sanctions are not a priority


ALBANY – Albany County is creating online portal for residents to report violations of the state’s new indoor mask mandate, along with other issues they see regarding mask requirements and vaccines.

The portal, which is expected to go live in the coming days, is part of the county’s plans to enforce the state’s new requirement, though the county does not appear to be looking to immediately punish companies that fail to enforce the warrant. .

“To the extent possible, given limited resources, any potential issues reported will be reviewed to determine the next steps needed in terms of working with businesses to inform them of the new policy or its application,” a door said on Wednesday. – county voice.

Schenectady County is taking a less aggressive approach, planning to focus on educating the public on the value of wearing a mask to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Aggressive application has not been a feature of the county’s response to the virus. When an earlier state mask warrant was in effect, the county cited a few local businesses for breaking the rule, including an ice cream shop owner Schenectady who was later charged with lying to police in about armed demonstrators for civil rights in front of his building.

When Gov. Kathy Hochul announced last week that companies that don’t require proof of vaccination should require customers and employees to wear masks indoors, the Democratic Gov. left the application to local counties.

Republicans in charge of a number of counties denounced the decision. Locally, Republican leaders in Saratoga and Rensselaer counties have said they will ignore the application of the mandate.

A supervisor in the Democratic County of Saratoga on Tuesday lambasted the chairman of the county supervisory board, a Republican, for what she called his inflammatory statement regarding the refusal to enforce the state mask mandate.

For local governments controlled by fellow Democrats in Hochul, the response has been tempered.

Schenectady County Majority Leader Gary Hughes said the county did not have the money to be the “masked police” and that it was incumbent on people to be good citizens.

“I think it wouldn’t be a wise use of our resources if we diverted employees of the health department from important public immunization work to send them out to find companies violating a mask warrant,” Hughes said. , a Democrat from Schenectady. “I don’t expect the legislature to condemn the governor with the strong words some of the other counties have chosen to use.”

Even before Hochul issues the warrant amid rising coronavirus cases and fear of the new omicron variant, Albany County Director Dan McCoy and Schenectady Director Rory Fluman have issued a health notice encouraging residents to resume wearing masks and private companies to require it. They stopped before imposing the masks.

At the time, the two men said they believed they could not enforce a warrant. McCoy expressed some frustration that other counties in the region do not deliver a similar message. He said he had had conversations with county leaders about a larger joint advisory message, but that did not happen.

“We weren’t able to do all of that, so that everyone would sync up to deliver the same message,” he said.

Warren County released a statement on Tuesday that county officials also requested – ahead of the state’s mandate – that residents and visitors wear masks indoors. But he said “there is tremendous pressure on our Warren County health department and other county agencies due to demands related to COVID-19 testing, vaccinations, contact tracing and isolation and mandatory quarantines, and as a result we lack the resources to effectively enforce the New York State’s New Mask or Vaccine Mandate. ”

Warren County has also recently been successful in lobbying the state to reopen its mass vaccination site in Queensbury, a location at Aviation Mall that also offers COVID-19 testing.

Schenectady County Director said on Wednesday educating people about the importance of masks and vaccinations remained the top priority.

“At the local level, we educate first, so I don’t want to neglect law enforcement, but we absolutely educate first,” said Fluman. “Even when everything was so escalated nine months ago, and we didn’t have the vaccine, and the masking was really all the more important, we only got a financial fine or two. [businesses] and we made hundreds of phone [calls] and on-site education.

He recalled that “before Thanksgiving,” he and other county directors and executives were warned that the state was considering mandating the wearing of an indoor mask.

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