YORK – A hearing will be held this week, before the city’s board of health, to establish whether the city’s mask mandate should be extended for a longer period of time as is being recommended by local health officials.
The mandate became effective Dec. 1 and was scheduled to expire on Friday, Jan. 15.
It was approved by the city’s board of health, which includes the city’s mayor, president of the city council, chief of police, the city administrator and the city physician. Prior to the mask situation in December, the board rarely met or made policy – it was designed to handle business only during a health crisis. The pandemic qualifies as such, local officials have said, and the Four Corners Health Department Board along with local healthcare providers initially asked that the board of health meet to determine whether or not a mask mandate should be put in place.
York Mayor Barry Redfern said an extension is being proposed by local health officials, including those from Four Corners Health Department and York General Health Care Services.
“It is being recommended by them that the mandate be extended to the end of February,” Mayor Redfern explained during a conversation with the YNT. “The purpose of extending to that date would allow for these protections to remain in place while more vaccinations are taking place.
“We are now seeing that the case counts are down and health officials feel that the mask mandate has helped with keeping the number of new cases and public transmission in line,” Redfern said. “And as health officials have said, with all the communities where the mask mandates were put in, the results of lowering case numbers have been seen.”
Laura McDougall, director of the Four Corners Health Department, says, “Since the public hearing in November, we have seen a decrease in cases, locally and state-wide. We have seen a ‘plateau’ of cases for the past few weeks from the terrible peak in November. Although the decrease in cases was certainly a welcome and a good sign, we have now plateaued at a level of community transmission that is still too high. We cannot abandon the good public health practices like masking and social distancing that have helped us reach this point.
“A truly bright spot in our fight against the virus is the arrival of vaccine, which is starting to arrive in our area in limited quantities. It is crucial that we slow the transmission of the virus to be able to deliver the vaccine to those who are our most vulnerable and at-risk of COVID-19. It takes time, as the vaccine trickles in, to deliver the first and second doses needed to build immunity in these populations,” McDougall says.
"Our community has made remarkable progress since November 24 in slowing the spread of COVID, but our work is not yet done," McDougall said in a letter to the health board. "Please support an extension of the good public health practices to help buy us time to vaccinate our at-risk populations. The Four Corners Health Department recommends extending the universal masking policy for the City of York."