Erie County instituted a mask mandate for all patrons and public-facing staff inside all public locations which was effective at 6:00 a.m. on Tuesday November 23, 2021. The announcement was made by the County Executive who attributed it to the large numbers of recent positive COVID test results. The mandate applies to those age two and older unless they are medically unable to tolerate the masks. The County Executive also stated that further mitigation measures including vaccine mandates, capacity limits and/or shutdowns, may be instituted if the positive case numbers do not decrease. For now, masks are recommended for other non-public work setting where social distancing cannot be maintained. Erie County will tentatively reassess the situation on December 13th but will be monitoring compliance with the new mask mandate.
Some specific examples provided in the announcement include hotels, banks, places of worship (including during prayer), players and spectators in hockey rinks, bowling alleys and basketball gyms (including fans and players), fitness centers, barber and hairdresser shops, theaters (movie and live), grocery and other retail stores, public-facing staff and unseated patrons at bars and restaurants. However, venues that have strict vaccination requirements for entrance, including KeyBank Center (Sabres hockey) and Highmark Stadium (Bills football), do not have to require masks.
On November 21, 2021, Erie County had a COVID-positive test rate percentage of 9.3%, which was its highest rate since May of 2020, and 91% of its hospital beds were occupied. Monroe County currently has a COVID-positive test rate percentage of approximately 8% and reportedly also has over 90% of its hospital beds full. Accordingly, it is possible that Monroe County will consider a new mandatory mask mandate and/or other measures should those numbers remain the same or worsen. The emergence of the Omicron variant of the COVID virus late last week will only heighten the attention political leaders give to the spread of this disease.