The New Castle Town Board will consider reprising a mask mandate for the town as COVID-19 cases fueled by the Delta variant continue to multiply throughout Westchester County.
Councilwoman Lori Morton raised the possibility last week of crafting legislation that requires mask-wearing in all indoor public and commercial spaces for everyone regardless of vaccination status.
Morton said she wants to solicit feedback from residents and business owners over the next two weeks, particularly the proprietors of gym and fitness centers and restaurant owners, whose businesses were the most severely impacted by last year’s shutdown during the onset of the pandemic.
“I am hoping that in our next Town Board meeting we can get input from the community on this,” Morton said. “I’m also hoping that between now and then we get some input from the county or some guidance from the county, and we also, at that point, have a feeling for the direction that our schools are taking on this issue as well that could help inform our community’s direction on this.”
The board’s next meeting is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 30.
Outdoor public spaces would not be included in any mandate, but it would be recommended that at public gatherings, such as the weekly Saturday farmers market or other functions, that people put on masks, Morton said.
THE LATEST FIGURES
While Westchester reached an 80 percent vaccination rate for people at least 18 years old about two weeks ago, that leaves about 20 percent of the adult population vulnerable to the highly transmissible Delta variant. There is also still no vaccine for children under 12 years old, Morton said, and youngsters are being stricken more frequently because the variant is more infectious, leading to more hospitalizations. Also, mask mandates and social distancing have been relaxed, she said.
Schools are preparing to open throughout the area at the start of September.
As of last Thursday, Westchester County had 2,398 active cases, more than 10 times the caseload from the early summer, according to the county’s COVID-19 tracker. New Castle had 22 active cases, up from a low of two.
Following last Wednesday evening’s Chappaqua Board of Education meeting, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Christine Ackerman informed parents there will be separate webinars for staff and parents this Wednesday to receive feedback about this year’s guidance. Masks will be needed while indoors and there will be three feet of social distancing required and individual workspaces provided where possible.
Acting Supervisor Jeremy Saland said looking at the infections throughout the county, he would support the proposal, although the town does not need to go as far as having the mandate for masks outdoors as it did last year.
“We’re not in a bubble but we don’t want to bring something to vulnerable people, especially children,” Saland said.
Councilwoman Lisa Katz said the county recently instituted a mask mandate for people inside its public facilities, but last week seemed to be somewhat less enthusiastic about mandating it in other scenarios.
“While I love that we’re on the forefront of many environmental and other initiatives, I’m not 100 percent sure that I want to be on the forefront of this initiative, but I recognize that it is very important to stop COVID as much as we can, so I am definitely open to discussions,” Katz said.
Community members may contact the New Castle Town Board at email@example.com to weigh in on the topic.