Indoor Masking Returning To Government Buildings In The Northeast
Indoor mask mandates are being re-instituted for municipal buildings amid a COVID spike fueled by the Delta variant.
Starting Monday, anyone who enters an Albany County building or facility must wear a face mask. Officials say this applies to all employees, vendors and visitors, regardless of vaccination status. Masks must be worn when in common office areas, at workstations and throughout any county building. They must also be worn in meetings when another person is present.
The announcement came on the heels of similar communiques issued Friday by the city of Albany and Schenectady County Manager Rory Fluman: "Wearing masks, getting vaccinating, being cognizant of our social distancing when we're indoors, all our successful strategies and beating COVID-19 now we're in this new kind of moment of time with the Delta variant which is more highly transmissible similar to measles. So bringing back masking is really the smart thing to do and all the public health experts are generally in agreement.”
Masks will be required inside Schenectady City Hall and other city buildings, regardless of vaccination status, effective Monday.
Like Schenectady, Albany falls under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s "substantial" risk category, where mask wearing is recommended indoors regardless of whether or not you "got the jab."
Mayor Kathy Sheehan says masking goes a step beyond vaccination. "The vaccine is your umbrella when it's raining, it protects you for most of the rain. But when you're in the midst of a tempest in a big storm, you need a raincoat to to keep yourself dry. And so the mask is our raincoat. And it's an extra precaution that I believe helps to protect our workforce, our family, their families, and our residents.”
Sheehan added consideration is being given to going back to livestreaming public meetings, like Common Council meetings, but for now, 10th ward councilor Owusu Anane says the hope is to keep meetings in-person and open to the public. "There are some people who have some concerns about going to in person meetings. But whatever keeps the public safe and other council members safe, that's a step we're going to take. Personally I would love to do in-person meetings. I feel like sometimes we'll be able to see each other in person. advocate for issues become a little bit much easier. Instead of looking at a screen."
Sheehan chimed in "...at this point, we don't plan on closing any buildings or going remote, we believe that people can be safe, and we're encouraging people to get vaccinated."
State Attorney General Letitia James issued an alert about fake COVID-19 vaccination cards, saying the sale or distribution of such cards poses a serious threat to the health of New York communities. She says falsifying vaccine cards and records is subject to civil and criminal enforcement.
Meantime, Fluman urges anyone concerned they might have caught COVID to get tested. “Testing is now, is much more available to the public. You know, early on, the shortage of test kits, that really no longer applies. Every pharmacy every street corner CVS Price Chopper offers testing your doctor's office has testing. Here in Schenectady County are many of our public health folks still can complete testing.”