Many counties across New York have been seeing, once again, a rise in COVID-19 cases, this time due to the highly contagious delta variant.
The CDC released guidance this week saying people living in areas with high transmission rates should wear their masks indoors regardless of their vaccination status.
In New York, this would apply to approximately 12 counties.
However, since these numbers continue to fluctuate day by day, many counties are left confused on if, or how, they should implement new mandates.
Stephen Acquario with the New York State Association of Counties says this sort of hodgepodge mix of mandates is challenging for each county to tackle on its own.
“It's causing a bit of confusion at the local level over who is really in charge here with mask mandates or vaccine directives,” Acquario said. “Let's be clear, the counties are going to follow the New York State Department of Health’s orders and the CDC’s recommendations.”
Albany County, which is seeing the highest seven-day percentage of positive results in the entire state, will not be implementing a mask mandate at this time.
A spokesperson for Albany County Executive Dan McCoy released a statement saying, "From the onset of the pandemic, Albany County has followed science and data when handling its COVID-19 response. We continue to follow the CDC recommendations and guidelines and discuss with our leaders in surrounding counties to evaluate what is best for our residents.”
Erie County on Friday officially reached 'substantial' COVID-19 transmission with a rate of 54 new cases per 100,000 people in the past seven days, the Erie County Department of Health reported. Starting Saturday, July 31, anyone who enters an Erie County-owned building or facility must wear a face mask, regardless of vaccination status.
Instead of implementing a mask mandate, there are certain cities and workplaces that are now taking steps to require people either be vaccinated or submit to weekly testing.
Governor Andrew Cuomo said starting Labor Day, all state public employees must either be vaccinated or take a weekly test, but health care employees in state hospitals have no choice but to be vaccinated.
In New York City, Mayor Bill DeBlasio says teachers, police officers and city employees must take the COVID-19 vaccine by mid-September or face weekly testing. A short time later, New Rochelle, which was one of the first COVID-19 cluster hot spots in the country, followed suit.
But many other localities say they are holding off for now.
Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro said, “Dutchess County will continue to follow the science, which currently doesn’t point to mandated vaccinations among our own workforce of roughly 1,600 employees, many of whom have chosen to voluntarily get vaccinated to protect themselves and their loved ones. We continue to closely monitor and respond to any concerns regarding broader transmission and encourage residents to choose to be vaccinated.”
Acquario says right now, many counties would rather find new ways to incentivize vaccines before any new mandate, pointing to President Joe Biden encouraging localities to use coronavirus relief money to offer those unvaccinated $100 to get the jab.
“How can we provide incentives, that's the new focus here,” Acquario said. “You’re going to see localities shifting to giving new incentives. The president of the United States offering a $100 incentive to get the vaccine, the mayor of New York City offering $100 to get the vaccine.”
Next week on Tuesday, county executives from across the state will be meeting to discuss what’s next in this effort, including new incentives.