Westchester & Latimer, trusting the science of COVID and enforcing Hochul’s mandate

Westchester & Latimer, trusting the science of COVID and enforcing Hochul's mandate

The news on Jan. 6 that Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, upon taking office, decided not to enforce Governor Kathy Hochul’s mask mandate, including for students and staff in schools, means that Nassau joins Rockland, Putnam, Orange and Dutchess counties, who are not enforcing the mask mandate. “We should protect the freedom and statutory rights of students and parents by resting with the parents the decision whether their children should wear masks in school,” Blakeman, a republican, wrote in one of his executive orders.

Story Highlights:

  • Why is Westchester County the only suburban NYC county that is trusting the science of COVID prevention and respecting Governor Kathy Hochul’s order that requires the wearing of a mask in public and in school?

  • County Executive’s in Orange, Dutchess and Rockland Counties are not as vociferous as in Nassau County. Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, a republican, said they were told by Governor Hochul to avoid diverting resources to crack down on violations of her mask mandate order.

But the county executives in neighboring counties are speaking out and standing up against mask mandates because they do not believe the science of wearing a mask in public.

Latimer, during his weekly COVID press conference held on Jan. 10, was asked about his thoughts about Nassau County and neighboring counties not enforcing the mask mandate.

But in Westchester, County Executive George Latimer is supporting the science of preventing the spread of COVID through vaccinations and wearing masks. And while Latimer is supporting Hochul’s mandate, he is not ordering the Westchester County police to start “writing tickets and lecturing people.”

“What we see is an unfortunate division based on ideology, on the other side of the aisle, not to implement this (mask mandate). This is a legitimate order, and this is part of our responsibility and the authority that I have

 “I don’t look at party and it is not my job to judge what happens elsewhere. But we are in a perilous time, and we are reaching a point where people will also respect judgements that only benefit their party and their candidates.

“If the President or Governor issues an order, and if it is a legitimate order, it must be honored. We have gone through this before. I can remember a Governor in the south standing in front of a schoolhouse door. We seem to be going backwards, and Nassau County is reflecting the change in direction. But we are going to do the things that we were ordered to do legally and properly. “I am a Catholic and was in church on Sunday. Everyone in church had a mask on, adult and child. The Archdiocese made the requirement. But I didn’t see any protest about the masks in church. But I watch people follow a directive in church but argue about the same directive when they go to a luncheonette.

“The order for mask mandates was made at the Gubernatorial level. I won’t thumb my nose at it, nor would I do so if it came from someone from another political party. “How we implement it is up to us. We are not writing tickets or lecturing people. We want to get mask usage up to 100% because it reduces the likelihood of spreading the disease. This politicization of how we handle the pandemic is a deep philosophical problem. If people start refusing to do what is against their philosophy, then we cannot function as a country.

“We implement that which was legally authorized, through Feb. 1. We think it makes sense to wear masks and to reduce the spread. And the spread has been terrific with the masks, imagine what it would be without the masks. “Some people want to say this (the pandemic) is not a big deal, and that the people who are already sick are the people who are in the hospital and dying of covid, and they don’t want to wear a mask or get vaccinated, and they want to go back to normal. That can’t happen right now. Let’s not make our own policy,” said Latimer, who has the support of 90% of the residents of his county on this issue. More than 90% of eligible Westchester residents are vaccinated.

Almost every one of those Westchester residents who are vaccinated want to shop and dine where everyone is wearing a mask, in the hopes that Westchester County continues to be one of the safest place to be during COVID.  The outcry to Nassau County Executive Blakeman’s attempt to remove the mask mandate from schools on Long Island has been loud. Westchester State Senator Shelley Mayer, the Chair of the Senate Education Committee, joined 10 State Senators from Long Island supporting Gov. Hochul’s mask mandate, and tweeted, “Thank you to my (State Senate) colleagues for their leadership for our kids! We need to protect them and comply with state law!”

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