Will mask mandates return in Chemung County?


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ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – After adding more than 200 COVID-19 cases in the past two days, Chemung County has now reached a grim milestone, 10,000 Coronavirus cases throughout the pandemic. The spike in cases is the direct opposite of national case trends, which were cut in half since peaking in August.

“We’re not considering it at this moment, obviously we’ve had those discussions with the public health director and the health department. At this point we’re not looking at a mask mandate for Chemung County residents,” County Executive Chris Moss told 18 News.

With theses numbers increasing daily, some local buildings and businesses have reimplemented masking protocols, leading some to hope for and others to fear a countywide mask mandate. In Chemung County buildings, employees and visitors are required to mask up. For private sector businesses, it is their choice to impose a mask rule or not.

“I’m the County Executive. I’m responsible for county operation. I’m not responsible for who buys what at Walmart or Target,” Moss continued. “Certainly I am responsible for the residents, but we are not to the point where I am going to mandate private sector businesses ask or require people to wear masks.”

Moss says he and other county officials have discussed a potential mask mandate, but do not feel the county has met the threshold for implementing one. The decision to impose a mandate hinges on several factors, including hospital capacity, rolling positivity rate and what other counties are doing across the state.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cite several reports that say masks are effective at stopping the spread of the virus. In a joint study, Stanford and Yale Universities said in part, “… surgical face mask over the mouth and nose is an effective way to reduce the occurrence of COVID-19 in community settings.”

Active cases in Chemung County are skyrocketing between 500 and 600 cases consistently with a vaccination rate hovering below 50 percent.

“We’d like to see our vaccination rate up to 75 or 80 percent that will probably be our number to get out. If we masks were being worn on a more regular basis, we probably see our numbers go down,” Moss concluded.

Moss added he will advise the community if the county reaches the threshold for such a mask rule, but right now, Moss says it is limited to county buildings because of the critical staff inside.

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