Rochester Halts Update to Masking Requirements

            The August 18 meeting of the Rochester Board of Health found Glenn Lawrence and Chairman David Souza on one side of updating masking requirements in the community, and member Sarah Eby, Public Health Nurse Connie Dolan, and Health Director Karen Walega urging stronger language.

            The discussion became more of a debate on the merits of masking with Dolan, Walega, and Eby urging the use of words like “requirement” versus “suggested” when updating masking guidelines, a move prompted by rising numbers of new COVID-19 cases, including cases of the Delta variant. Dolan said that there had been 18 new cases that day with four cases being reported in fully-vaccinated persons.

            “We’ve had 55 new cases since July 1; it’s important to take a look at these numbers,” Dolan stated. “Our vaccination rates were good but stand at 50 percent.… The numbers speak for themselves.” She said that low vaccination rates equate to higher transmission rates.

            Eby said, “We need to protect our neighbors,” by wearing a mask in public indoor spaces.

Walega noted other communities that are instituting updated masking requirements.

            While Lawrence and Souza did not dispute the data, Lawrence felt strongly that mandating masking indoors would harm businesses, adding, “I don’t want anyone to tell me I have to wear a mask.”

Souza moved a bit closer to the fence, saying he wasn’t against updating the masking guidelines, he just didn’t want people to feel they were being told what to do.

            The team debated and discussed the matter for more than 45 minutes, eventually landing on compromise verbiage that in municipal buildings, where 6-foot distancing cannot be maintained, masking would be required. The majority to accept the updated masking notification was moved. A few hours later that would become tabled.

            The Wanderer received a follow-up message from Walega stating, “Due to issues with the masking requirement,” another meeting would be announced by August 23 and the vote taken would not be acted upon at this time.

            In other matters, Walega also shared that the state is advising the public that West Nile Virus and EEE have both been found in the area, and that people should take protective measures, especially during dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.

            The next meeting of the Rochester Board of Health is scheduled for Wednesday, September 1, at 4:00 pm.

Rochester Board of Health

By Marilou Newell

Leave A Comment...