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Cayuga County legislators ask health department not to enforce governor’s mask mandate

On Tuesday, January 25, the Cayuga County Legislature will vote on a resolution that asks the board of health and health department not to enforce the state’s vaccine-or-mask mandate for indoor public venues or businesses.

Legislator Andrew Dennison, an independent, introduced the resolution following his January 1 motion to oppose COVID-19 requirements, according to The Citizen. A majority voted to support that motion, but no formal resolution was made at the time.

Questions remain over whether legislators can direct the heath department not to enforce the order handed down by Governor Kathy Hochul on December 13. The mandate, which requires businesses and indoor public venues to request proof of vaccination or require employees and patrons to wear a mask, was originally set to expire on January 15. It has since been extended to February 1.

Chris Palermo, the Cayuga County attorney, told the board on at its January 7 meeting that legislators can’t overrule public health law. He said public health director Kathleen Cuddy must enforce the mandate.

Palermo’s advice did not deter Dennison and other legislators from moving ahead with the resolution. In the motion, Dennison stated it’s the Legislature’s opinion that the mask mandate is an “affront to person freedom.”

“[T]he Cayuga County Legislature is of the opinion that the county health department should refrain from enforcing the state’s mandate at county taxpayer expense and at the expense of necessary resources, rather leaving the choice to wear a mask to the individual,” said Dennison.

Finger Lakes Partners (Billboard)

The vote set for January 25 comes as the county is experiencing a COVID-19 surge. The health department reported 511 active cases on Monday, January 24, and one death of a woman in her eighties. The department says 20 residents were hospitalized, 12 of which are vaccinated.

The county might not have to worry about being fined for their decision as a state Supreme Court judge in Nassau County struck down the requirement on Monday. Hochul’s office say they are pursuing every avenue possible to reverse this ruling.