County rescinds mask mandate

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Hartford supervisor Dana Haff speaks to the Washington County Board of Supervisors about his resolution to rescind the county's mask mandate put into effect in May 2020.

As if it were a cap on graduation day, Hartford supervisor Dana Haff flung his paper mask in the air with joy following the lifting of Washington County’s mask mandate in all county-owned and maintained buildings.

Following a motion and resolution raised by Haff at the county Board of Supervisors meeting on Feb. 18, the 17 supervisors that oversee and represent Washington County’s townships all felt it was time to take a step towards “normalcy.”

Hartford supervisor Dana Haff

“I have been criticizing masks consistently for the last two years, they are useless in stopping a virus 0.1 microns in size,” Haff said. “If you want to stop it, you have to wear an N-95 mask and strap it so tight that there’s no gaps. You can only do that for an hour, you can’t do that all day long.

“It’s time the employees here, the public that comes to the DMV, the clerk or the court that we get some of our personal freedoms back. If you want to wear a mask, wear a mask, but don’t tell me I must wear a mask.”

The resolution, co-sponsored at the request of Haff by board chair Samuel J. Hall, was drafted to rescind the May 15, 2020 resolution that required masks to be worn by all county employees and in county-owned and maintained buildings.

As a result, all county policies in regard to social-distancing and Covid-protocols will now be reviewed, according to Hall. The Government Operations Committee will address whether Zoom will be allowed for supervisors to participate in meetings.

Haff said he was proud to report to the board that he received feedback of unanimous support from the five state representatives serving Washington County (Dan Stec, Daphne Jordan, Carrie Woerner, Matthew Simpson and Jake Ashby) as well as Rep. Elise Stefanik.

“It is long past time to rescind mask mandates,” Stefanik said. “Our upstate communities and families have suffered enough from unprecedented challenges due to the pandemic, and there is no need to burden them with continued unscientific Covid mandates driven by Far Left politics. I support supervisor Haff’s leadership on this issue on behalf of the freedom of Washington County families.”

“Living in a constant state of emergency with unilateral decision making is behind us,” Simpson said. “We must normalize true legislative governing once more. Lifting the mask mandate on businesses and public spaces was the right thing to do.

“From day one, I have stood firm against top-down mandates for all. I have reiterated the notion that we must have a choice in the matter. We have a ways to go before we find normalcy again however. One step in that direction is to remove these mandates from each level of public and private sectors. I fully support the Washington County Board of Supervisors in their decision to remove this mandate.”

Salem supervisor Sue Clary pointed out a key statement in Woerner’s remarks read by Haff and emphasized that she feels individuals who may not feel comfortable without a mask should still be able to wear one without judgment or penalty.

“We have to be careful in how we go forward, it’s not gone,” Clary said. “We’re going in the right direction, let’s keep it going in the right direction.”

Argyle supervisor Bob Henke said he was in support of the resolution but wished it transpired by consulting with health professionals rather than going straight to a resolution to be approved.

“I would have greatly preferred to have seen a special meeting for the Health and Family Services and have heard from our health staff, department heads and personnel who are here everyday meeting with the public coming in. I would have liked to get their input on it,” Henke said. “I would have preferred to see it go through our normal process as opposed to having this happen but I’ll support this.”

Hall replied to Henke and said he had spoken with Washington County Public Health and that they understood the need for lifting the mandate due to a decline in Covid-positive cases (79 active cases as of Feb. 18).

Haff concluded his comments with a bit of humor and appreciation.

“That’s the first time everyone’s agreed with me!” Haff said with laughter from the group.