A lack of a face mask mandate in Niagara County drew strong words from Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz on Friday.
Poloncarz on Tuesday enacted a mask mandate for Erie County — anyone 2 and older must wear masks at all indoor public locations in the county, including bars and restaurants, grocery stores, gyms and fitness centers, hotels and banks, and hair salons.
Niagara County officials announced Monday they would not follow suit.
During a press conference on Wednesday, Poloncarz said of neighboring counties not enacting mask mandates, "If they want to talk about their freedom, they can have their freedom to die and let their constituents die, but I think it is reckless, whether it is Allegany, Genesee, Niagara or Wyoming. They should be acting to protect their public."
It wasn’t long before Niagara County Chairman Becky Wydysh responded.
“It’s truly disappointing that Mark Poloncarz would choose to call Niagara County reckless over a policy difference on how best to handle the increase in COVID-19 cases across the region. We have no interest in turning this into a political hot potato between neighboring counties,” she said in a statement. “As I stated, we believe the key to getting the increase in cases under control is not more mandates, but wide availability of free testing so those who test positive can be isolated and the spread of the virus can be slowed. That is why we have called on New York State to re-establish its state testing clinic at NCCC.
Wydysh also called on Erie County officials to open free COVID-19 testing to Niagara County residents.
“To that end, what is disappointing is the fact that Erie County has the resources to offer free testing to its residents and Canadian citizens, but is excluding Niagara County residents from such testing,” she said. “We are one region, with people traveling back and forth, so it is in our collective best interest to expand testing to more people.”
On Tuesday, Poloncarz said Erie County had reached a new milestone in the number of COVID-19 cases recorded in the county.
According to Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, Erie County recorded 878 COVID-19 cases on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the daily positivity rate was 11%. This is the highest number of cases the county has recorded in a single day since the pandemic started.
On Wednesday, Niagara County health officials reported two more Covid-related deaths in he county.
In addition, 1,234 new COVID-19 cases were reported in the county between Nov. 18 and Wednesday. There are currently 1,436 active cases in Niagara with 52 being treated in local hospitals.
The positivity rate in Niagara County was 10.3% on Wednesday.