Local businesses plan to stay the course as COVID cases continue to rise

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(WETM/AP) – Local leaders and businesses reacting on Monday to strong words from Gov. Cuomo. In a press briefing, he said mask mandates would not solve the problem, but a vaccine mandate could; however, his powers are limited and the legislature would need to pass this type of mandate.

“The Legislature would have to come back, they’d have to pass a law to do that. So I don’t have any legal authority to mandate,” Cuomo said of a mask mandate. “The best I can do is say I strongly recommend that they do that.”

He calls on local businesses to require vaccination for patrons and customers.

“Private businesses, I am asking them and suggesting to them to go to vaccine only admission,” Cuomo added when speaking about mandatory vaccinations.

Local leaders and state legislators are not on the same page. Many Republicans countering the Governor, saying the government should not have the authority to make such a requirement.

“Do I support and encourage COVID vaccination? Yes, I do. I just don’t think the legislature should be mandating vaccinations on the public,” Assemblymember Phil Palmesano, NY District 132 (R), added.

Infection rates have been rising nationwide. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued guidelines recommending that even vaccinated people wear masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where the delta variant is fueling infection surges.

Calls for a revived mask mandate in New York have grown louder as local numbers rise.

An average of more than 2,400 people per day have tested positive for COVID-19 daily across New York state over the past week, up from around 300 new cases per day in late June. Almost two dozen of the state’s 62 counties met the CDC’s recommendation threshold for masking up indoors. Local lawmakers are opposed to reinstating the mask requirements.

“I’m not for re-masking everybody and shutting everything down again. I think it’s a bad decision,” Chemung County Executive Christopher Moss said in a press conference Monday. “We should be higher in Chemung County. We’re between 50 and 55 percent [vaccinated]. We have to do a better job.”

Local businesses want to remain open while keeping their customers and staff safe. Many are not planning to change their policies anytime soon, including Barb McClure who owns McClure’s Deli, and Barb’s Soup’s On Cafe. She says 95 percent of her staff is fully vaccinated and they are doing everything they can to protect the community.

“Well, I would definitely want to make sure that the customer is comfortable. Whatever it took I would do,” McClure told 18 News.

Businesses are waiting for official word from the state, but until then they will stay the course.

“We believe it’s too soon to do anything because there is nothing to do because there’s no mandate out there it’s simply a change in the CDC mask guidance,” Bonnie Mann, manager at Jim’s Gym, said.

Counties are also preparing to mobilize if an outbreak occurs in the Twin Tiers. They say they have a plan and resources.

“We are, like every level of government, prepared to respond should we see cases increase,” Steuben County Manager Jack Wheeler continued.

Cuomo on Monday announced that the vaccinate-or-be-tested policies already covering thousands of municipal employees would be extended to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and for Port Authority employees working in New York facilities beginning Labor Day. The policy will cover more than 70,000 workers, most of whom are already vaccinated.

Though the governor said his executive power was limited, he urged private businesses like bars and restaurants to adopt a policy of only admitting vaccinated people and said that more hospitals should require workers to get vaccines. And he said if case numbers continue to climb, mandatory vaccines should be considered for nursing home workers and teachers.

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