Rethink non-enforcement stances

Signs requiring customers to wear masks is displayed Aug. 17 on the front door of Natures Storehouse on Main Street in Canton. Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

GLENS FALLS — Do police announce when they aren’t actively enforcing state vehicle and traffic laws on a given day, weekend or afternoon?

They don’t, for obvious reasons. They may not have a patrol car idling in the shadow of a building on Route 9 every day.

But they do respond, as best they can, to reports of dangerous driving when they get a call. They are upholding state laws with the resources they have, and that response sends a message to other motorists.

That is an analogy. In the state’s new mask mandate, there is no mention of local police agencies being required to enforce the rule, only local public health departments, which no doubt are overextended with work already. But police are keepers of the peace and often work with other agencies in enforcement, so why run the other way now?

Do county officials believe that announcing they will not enforce the state mask mandate through use of public health departments or through local police involvement is in any way helpful to Gov. Kathleen C. Hochul’s main goal to stem the spread of COVID, prevent illness and help save one or many lives? Is enforcement going to be left up to a 16-year-old working a counter or a front desk of a gym? When waitstaff don’t wear masks, which was seen in one local establishment last week, [whom] do you call?

Our leaders are making a political point but are passing the buck to nowhere and creating confusion for the public in doing so. Public health continues to be in crisis nationally due to these types of turf wars.

Warren and Washington counties sent out news releases [Dec. 14], a day following Saratoga County’s similar announcement, to say they won’t be following up on mask complaints. A number of other Republican-led counties have taken similar positions.

Why, at least, wasn’t a middle step announced involving counties turning over complaint calls to the state police and the state Department of Health? These terse announcements read like political pushback, nothing more.

At a minimum, police departments and public health departments can check out reports of non-compliance with a phone call to a store, restaurant or office manager. These calls can be effective “reminders” about a state law or mandate. There is a big divide between those steps and the more involved effort to level a fine against a business for noncompliance, and our elected leaders know this.

County officials — sheriff’s offices and prosecutors on the criminal side, county attorneys on the civil side and other departments — do not have to impose every available penalty. They can and should use some degree of discretion in most cases.

But to immediately step on the soapbox and shout that staffing issues will prevent all local mask enforcement is counterproductive to the public health intent of the mandate. You don’t have to like the mandate to recognize the science and timing behind it.

These public announcements of non-enforcement instill confusion in residents and run counter to the many extraordinary efforts of front-line workers to get this pandemic under control. Our local counties should put politics aside, set an example and rethink these all-or-nothing stances.

Local editorials are written by The Post-Star editorial board, which includes Ben Rogers, president and director of local sales and marketing; Brian Corcoran, regional finance director and former publisher; and Bob Condon, local news editor.

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(2) comments

rdsouth

It's common knowledge that if the speed limit says 30 that means 40. Just look at the sign and add ten. So we're all criminals. That's the way we've decided to be as a nation. We've decided to have laws that are much stricter than we enforce, so we get legislation by the inconsistent judgment of enforcers. And calls for voluntary compliance are always just a spit in the eye of those stupid enough to heed them and a pat on the back for those who don't. Rules should be universal and consistent.

KRobbins

Little wonder. In Washington, Republicans threatened to shut down the federal government to block a vaccine mandate, and they are still trying to force President Biden to veto their attempt to overturn the requirement. Republican-led states are fighting mandates and even incentivizing people not to take the vaccine. And Fox News and similar outlets have filled the airwaves with vaccine paranoia.
Turning Point USA’s Americafest, where Palin spoke this past weekend, was a revival meeting of the death sect. The group fights coronavirus vaccine mandates, and its leader, Charlie Kirk, told the gathering that the federal government’s top infectious disease expert, Anthony Fauci, “should be in prison.” Dana Milbank Washington Post

He’s writing how the Republican Party has become a death cult which I’ve been saying for months. A slow motion one, I suppose.

Good point by the Post Star. I hadn’t made the link. The LE folks are always quick to announce they’re going to have DWI checkpoints around the holidays for those too dense to realize by now that they do. The idea of loudly announcing you don’t really care if people wear masks or not is distinctly unhelpful considering the rise in cases lately. I realize they may be overworked, understaffed or whatever. Did they consider saying nothing? Suppose I could be cynical and assume that because they lean conservative maybe they just don’t care all that much if people wear masks or not.

I’m triple vaccinated and believe that the Omicron’s relative weakness may be an indication we’re getting toward the end of this nightmare. Still, people are going to die from it and it is more transmissible.

My sympathies to doctors and nurses who will have to continue to treat those with, I guess, a death wish. I don’t understand any other reason to not get vaxxed at this point. Right, they’re taking health advice from Sarah Palin and Tucker Carlson. Also, sympathies to wait staff and retail folks who have to put up with people whose freedoms are being trampled because they’re being asked to wear a mask for the good of our society.

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