HealthThe Examiner

New Castle Revises Mask Law Providing Greater Flexibility

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Councilwoman Lori Morton

The New Castle Town Board approved a mask law last week that gives the supervisor the authority to call for citizens to wear a face covering in certain locations should health conditions warrant their usage.

As a result of the 4-0 vote, the legislation is designed to provide flexibility to the town if cases of COVID-19 or some other health matter rise where masks could help limit transmission.

It replaces a law that was passed last summer that required masks to be worn universally or not at all. Town Attorney Ed Phillips said the supervisor could decide to require people to wear masks at one or more of the following locations – municipal property, places of public accommodation, such as stores, public transportation or in outdoor spaces.

“The idea of the legislation is to take what’s on the books now, which is a mask law that the supervisor can activate, but it has a mask mandate with respect to public and private property, both, and to update that and try to give the supervisor more options then to have a mask mandate everywhere or nowhere,” Phillips said.

Legislation was introduced last month by Councilwoman Lori Morton to consider enacting a mask mandate for indoor public spaces, including most businesses, when the number of active COVID-19 cases in Westchester were reaching their summer peak of nearly 2,800.

“The CDC recommends that people wear masks in areas of substantial or high transmission,” Morton said. “That is Westchester County now.”

Although the county-wide figures have been slowly declining the past three or four weeks, the number of active cases in New Castle last week stood at about 30, nearly identical to last April.

On Saturday, the state reported that Westchester had a 2.2 percent positivity rate, slightly lower than the 2.4 percent on the seven-day rolling average.

During the public hearing last Tuesday evening, one speaker, resident Mike Schoonmaker, said while some people will applaud the law, many others might find them too restrictive and look to shop and spend time in other towns.

“I suspect that you will find many more people who are unaffected by the increase restrictions in town, especially if we enact it under the current situation, where we’re still at a pretty low level of cases in town and you have all the freedoms that we would want in a normal situation in the surrounding towns,” he said.

Acting Supervisor Jeremy Saland, who will remain in the supervisor’s post until the November election is certified sometime after Election Day, said he is hopeful the COVID-19 transmission will continue to decline and would like to avoid enacting the legislation.

“No one is looking to throw this down for the sake of it,” said Saland. “If the numbers start to increase locally, it will certainly be considered.”

Before the law was passed, the board was considering various carve-outs to the legislation depending. Morton said that reaction among gym and fitness center operators in town was mixed.

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