The New Castle Town Board has scheduled a public hearing for next week to consider an indoor mask mandate in all public and commercial spaces.
At its Sept. 14 meeting, the board will hear feedback from the public on whether the town should press ahead with the legislation.
Councilwoman Lori Morton raised the possibility last month as COVID-19 cases in Westchester and throughout the region surged for much of the summer. With roughly 30 percent of the regional population still unvaccinated, including children under 12 years old who are not yet eligible for vaccines, it may be a good time to take the preventative steps, she said.
Morton mentioned that she was happy to see Chappaqua School District officials require masks indoors as the new academic year began last week.
“At the same time, (we should) try to adopt legislation that is responsive to the needs of our small businesses in town,” Morton said. “This is where we start to have some disconnect with the science around transmission and accommodations that support small business but at this stage, I think that is necessary and a balance that I’m happy to think that we have an opportunity to keep at the moment.”
One exemption to the law would be for restaurant patrons who are eating and drinking, she said. Another potential carve out are for gyms and fitness centers because there had been some pushback from the operators of those facilities.
However, Morton said the feedback she’s received for the indoor mask mandate has been overwhelming, roughly 10-1 in favor of the law.
“If it were up to me, I would enact it today,” she said. “We have seen a bit of a flattening of the number of cases in the county and in New Castle over the past week. I suspect that’s a consequence of people being on vacation.”
Acting Supervisor Jeremy Saland said he backs the legislation, particularly since schools have reopened and that there are children who are in hospitals’ intensive care unit because of the Delta variant.
“In light of the fact that we have children going back to school and being immersed with other kids, I find it’s a smart and practical thing to do and I’m in support,” he said.
Councilwoman Lisa Katz said while she favors a public hearing to gauge interest, the town should be following the guidelines from the state.
“I don’t know if I’m willing to do something that they have not yet promulgated because I don’t know if anybody on this dais has the skill necessary to determine that,” Katz said.