Officials in Saratoga Springs are developing a strategy to enforce a New York State regulation that requires the wearing of masks in public settings.
Public Saftey Commissioner Robin Dalton is alarmed at the number of people not wearing face masks or social distancing in downtown Saratoga Springs.
“The problem has grown and grown and we continue to hear from a lot of people who are either uncomfortable leaving their home here or are uncomfortable coming to visit here because they’re afraid that they’re not going to be safe and healthy if they visit downtown,” said Dalton.
Tuesday night, Dalton included on her agenda a discussion on what could be done. She points to an update to New York State’s Public Health Law that went into effect earlier this month that reads in part:
“Any person who is over age two and able to medically tolerate a face-covering shall be required to cover their nose and mouth with a mask or face-covering when in a public place and unable to maintain, or when not maintaining, social distance.”
Violators can be fined up to $1,000.
But even before Dalton introduced the agenda item, a man complained during the public comment period about potential action by the city to enforce the mask order. Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan pushed back.
"It’s un-American and fining them 500 dollars…”
“Actually, I think you need to put your mask on all the way up over your nose,” said Madigan.
“There you go, you’re welcome. Even though it’s a piece of net and it does nothing,” said the man.
“Well, then you shouldn’t be in here. Because I happen to take it very seriously,” said Madigan.
During the discussion, Dalton suggested city police, who are already out in force on weekend nights as bar patrons flock to Caroline Street, could remind people to don a mask.
But in an exchange that also included Mayor Meg Kelly, Public Works Commissioner Anthony "Skip" Scirocco said he is uncomfortable having city police enforce the state’s mask mandate.
“I mean, no one is social distancing. They’re packed in crowds on the sidewalk, they’re waiting to get into bars…”
“And I mean this is just to protect the city,” added Kelly.
Scirocco interjects: “I get it. I get that. I understand that. I understand that. My concern is that the businesses have some responsibility…”
“Yup,” answered Kelly. “Inside.”
“…And the people themselves have a responsibility,” said Scirocco.
“Inside. And they do,” said Kelly.
“But to get the police to get the police to do something like that, that makes absolutely no sense to me,” said Scirocco.
“So I trust that Chief Crooks would let me know if he thought this would detract from the day-to-day police work and if that’s the case then we will readdress it,” said Dalton.
A plan that did satisfy city councilors involves potentially placing sandwich-board signs downtown to encourage people to wear masks.
Mayor Kelly asked Dalton about using the city’s electronic signs along roads on either end of city.
“Well I think that we have a plan about the signs. I think that everybody’s in agreement about that. I don’t think it can hurt. Can we get the electric signs out, though, at the entrances of the city?”
“So they’re in use quite a bit. We kind of need them for speeding and other stuff. I mean, we could, yes, if you want. But I really think that the physical signs around town around going to be more effective…”
“But if I think if you get the entrances coming in, Route 9, Route 50, just say, ‘You’re in Saratoga Springs. It’s Public Law ‘bloom,’ you know, wear your mask,” said Kelly.
“Yeah, we also need them to enforce the quarantine,” said Dalton.
The city council did not vote on any plan Tuesday night.
As for the man who commented about the mask ordinance earlier in the meeting, he was eventually escorted out of the meeting after not wearing a face covering.
“This gentlemen is not wearing a mask. He’s also been very threatening, profane, we’d like to see him escorted out please,” said Dalton.
“See you in two weeks,” said the man.