BATAVIA — Genesee and Orleans counties officials said Tuesday they will not create any new mask or vaccine mandates, while calling on the state to do more to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, particularly among school-age children.
“We believe new mandates will only push residents into private settings where spread will still continue but local businesses will suffer,” said the statement from Genesee County Legislature Chairwoman Rochelle M. Stein, Orleans County Legislature Chairwoman Lynne M. Johnson, Genesee County Manager L. Matthew Landers, Orleans County Chief Administrative Officer John C. Welch Jr., and Genesee and Orleans Counties Public Health Director Paul A. Pettit.
“For almost two years, businesses across the region have taken various measures to protect their workplaces,” the statement said, “and we trust them to do the same at this time.”
The statement, issued after 5 p.m. Tuesday, came as the four-county GLOW region continues to be among counties with the highest positivity rates in New York State. Only six of the state’s 62 counties have a seven-day positivity rate higher than Orleans County’s rate of 10.9% as of Monday, according to data from the state Department of Health.
Livingston and Wyoming counties had seven-day positivity rates of 10.5%, while Genesee County was at 9.9%, according to the most recent available state data.
Erie County, with a seven-day positivity rate of 9.4% instituted a mask mandate that took effect Tuesday. The local emergency order requires staff, guests and patrons at all indoor public locations to wear a mask or face covering. Masks are strongly recommended for all other non-public work settings if social distancing cannot be maintained, according to the order.
Statewide, the seven-day positivity rate was 3.81%.
Western New York, which includes Erie County, and the Finger Lakes region, which includes Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming counties, have had the highest COVID-19 positivity rates in the state for three consecutive days. As of Monday, Western New York was the highest at 9.72%, while the Finger Lakes region was second at 8.57%.
“We recognize and are concerned about rising infection and hospitalization rates, which is why we continue to strongly encourage our businesses and residents to continue to follow CDC recommendations and mitigation strategies,” the statement said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend getting vaccinated, including booster shots, wearing masks and practice social distancing.
The statement also included a demand for the state “to provide greater testing resources for our schools and community as a while, both for symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals.”
“This is important as those we can identify as COVID-19 positive can be quickly isolated to help prevent spread,” the statement said. “Local governments alone cannot be expected to find and procure all of the test kits needed between the school and community needs.”
The GLOW region reported more than 100 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Monday. Those include 39 cases in Genesee, 31 in Livingston, 23 in Orleans and 21 in Wyoming. Neighboring Erie County recorded 599 new cases on Monday, while Monroe reported 322 and Niagara 184, according to the state health department.
Data reported by local health departments had 1,107 active COVID-19 cases in the GLOW as of Tuesday. Genesee County had the most active cases, at 396, while Livingston County was close behind with 393. Orleans County had 237 active cases, and Wyoming County 81.
Within the Finger Lakes region, 372 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, including 87 in intensive care units. In Western New York, 411 hospitalized, including 79 in ICU.
Genesee and Orleans county officials urged those who become infected and those who are symptomatic to “immediately isolate.”