MAYVILLE, N.Y.:-- Chautauqua County has continually recommended that people wear masks indoors, especially when social distancing is not possible, as part of a multi-layered COVID-19 mitigation strategy. We have felt that a mandate was not the best approach to engage our residents nor is the enforcement of such a mandate the best use of our resources. In addition to vaccination, we strongly recommend masking, frequent hand washing, social distancing, and staying home when ill.
Today, Governor Hochul announced a statewide indoor mask mandate unless proof of vaccination is given at entry to public spaces. We are disappointed in the rollout of this announcement. How the state intends to enforce this mandate is not clear but our local health departments certainly do not have the capability to do so. Our intention is to take a proactive health education approach to improve cooperation with mitigation strategies and increase vaccination rates. No guidance or regulations have been issued by the New York State Department of Health yet so we need to wait and see what is issued.
In Chautauqua County, we need to focus our resources on education, vaccination, contact tracing, testing and working to keep kids in school and people at work. We have never had a state run testing or vaccination site in our county. The lion’s share of this entire pandemic response has been on the shoulders of our small health department. To even think of adding the enforcement of another state mandate to this dedicated but exhausted staff is reprehensible.
The Chautauqua’s County Health Department will be conducting free COVID-19 rapid PCR testing Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of next week at the South County Office Building in Jamestown in addition to the rapid testing already being done daily in partnership with BOCES for school staff and students. The Health Department is also holding a free COVID-19 vaccination clinic on Monday, December 13, at Jamestown Community College. We believe that encouraging vaccinations and identifying and isolating those who test positive is the greatest need right now to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and subsequently prevent serious illness, hospitalization and death from complications of the infection.