Wyoming County won’t confirm
State's Mask Mandate Enforcement;
Urges Vaccinations, Masks Instead
It appears Wyoming County will not enforce the state’s latest COVID-19 mask mandate. Officials remained coy Wednesday after issuing a statement noting the county Health Department’s limited resources — language similar to that of Genesee, Orleans and Livingston counties when they announced last week they weren’t enforcing the masking order.
But the officials simultaneously said Wyoming County Community Hospital is under “significant stress” due to its COVID-19 caseload, which mostly involves unvaccinated residents. They strongly urge precautions including vaccinations and masks.
Chairwoman Rebecca Ryan of the county’s Board of supervisors declined to confirm if Wyoming County has chosen not to enforce the mandate, saying she’d stick to the information in the statement.
“Our priority, because it falls upon the Health Department, is that their primary focus needs to be with vaccinations, boosters and testing clinics, because that’s what we’re swamped with right now,” Ryan said. “And also working with school districts, and educating the public to take safety measures.
“That’s our primary focus right now,” she continued. “We really have limited resources.”
The county’s seven-day positivity was 10.2 percent as of Wednesday, according to the statement. Its vaccination rate was 52.4 percent of the total population, including 62.5 percent of residents at least 18 years old who had received at least one shot.
A total of 87.5 percent of hospitalized COVID-19 patients at WCCH last week were unvaccinated.
But although the county urges people to collectively take precautions and stay safe, officials believe businesses and public venues should determine what’s in their best interest in light of the mask mandate, current infection rates and the state HERO Act.
The latter aims to protect private sector employees during airborne infectious disease outbreaks. Ryan noted that 71 county residents have died so far from COVID-19. Five such deaths were reported in last week’s county update.
“I’m hoping that people will take note of the numbers we posted,” she said. “(The people who died) all have families. They all have husbands or wives, or daughters or sons, or aunts and uncles, or nieces and nephews. They’re not going to be there to celebrate Christmas this year. They’re our friends and neighbors. They’re people we saw, and I just want people to remember that.”
The latest statewide mask mandate took effect Monday. About 25 percent of counties — including Genesee, Orleans and Livingston — have said they won’t enforce the measure.
Patients have been intermittently diverted from WCCH in recent weeks as patient numbers exceeded the resources available to care for them. The facility was at 110 percent capacity during one such period Dec. 1 to 5 and was among 32 hospital statewide forced to pause elective surgeries last week.
As of Wednesday, WCCH was at slightly more that 90 percent capacity, with about half of the patients COVID positive, said CEO Joseph McTernan of the Wyoming County Community Health System.
“We’re thoughtful, sensible people here in Wyoming County, and I’m going to count on people to do the right thing, as far as all the way around, just to get us through this,” Ryan said. “We’re just too small a county. I know probably everybody knows somebody they lost or they knew.”