POUGHKEEPSIE – In a letter sent last week, the Democratic caucus of the Dutchess County legislature called on County Executive Marcus Molinaro and County Health Commissioner Dr. Livia Santiago-Rosado to enforce the county’s COVID-safety guidance by requiring mask-wearing in the legislative chamber.
“This is basic health guidance,” said Assistant Minority Leader Barrington R. Atkins (D-10). “We are hopeful the County Executive and Health Commissioner will help ensure that our legislative work can proceed in a safe environment by enforcing mask-wearing when we next convene on January 14.”
Atkins noted that the legislative chamber is located in the Dutchess County Office Building. Posted at the entrance of the building, a sign reads, “Per CDC guidance, masks are recommended in substantial or high-transmission area—even if you are vaccinated.”
All eight Democratic legislators sent the letter after Republican legislators Will Truitt (R-Majority Leader/Legislator District 7) and Mike Polasek (R-District 3) and the legislative clerk refused to wear masks during their January 4th re-organization meeting. Legislator Brennan Kearney (D-District 11) asked Chairman Gregg Pulver (R-District 19) to enforce mask-wearing, but he refused, comparing the meeting to dining in a restaurant.
In their letter, the legislators wrote, “the highly contagious omicron variant quickly set back much of the progress we thought had been made against COVID. This week, The Poughkeepsie Journal reported that COVID hospitalizations are up 20% on the same day it also announced that the Dutchess County Jail was effectively shut down because of rampant COVID infections amongst both staff and inmates.”
The letter continued, “the guidance provided by your offices—and affirmed by the Center for Disease Control and numerous other government health agencies—clearly states: All persons able to medically tolerate a face covering/mask, regardless of vaccination status, should wear an appropriate face covering/mask while in any indoor public place.”
Minority Leader Yvette Valdés Smith (D- District 16) said, “we’re in a surge and need to take all available measures to protect Dutchess County residents. The more people wear masks, the fewer people get infected. Health officials nationwide and here in our own County encourage mask wearing to keep all of us safe, particularly the elderly, the very young, and the medically vulnerable people in our communities.”
“Omicron has generated a new crisis and this is just one example of the County responding too slowly,” said Legislator Brennan Kearney (D-District 11).
“At a time when hospitals are stretched thin, and after 60,000 of our fellow New Yorkers have lost their lives to this virus, it’s amazing that some of our Republican colleagues are dismissing this as a “sore throat,” and refusing to wear a simple mask to help save lives and put an end to this pandemic,” said Legislator Craig Brendli (D-District 8).
“I’d like to see all employees and visitors protected in public buildings,” said Legislator Nick Page (D- District 18). “To require masks when the legislature is meeting is an absolute bare minimum for safety.”
On Saturday, January 8th, the Dutchess County Covid dashboard registered more than 2,000 new positive infections in a single day. As of January 10th, total reported active cases are 8,329.