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Businesses may require masks again

By DANIEL J. HEITZENRATER

President and CEO of the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce

We may all be feeling a bit of deja vu right now as some local businesses have re-instituted mask restrictions for both employees and customers. This is unfortunate, but apparently necessary as we see yet another rise in COVID cases nationwide, including Chautauqua County.

The recent increases have put our county in the “substantial” level of community transmission according to the Centers for Disease Control. In its latest guidance the CDC recommends that everyone in an area of substantial or high transmission – including individuals who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 – wear masks in indoor public settings.

This past week the rise in local cases necessitated the first COVID briefing in a while, in which the County Executive and County Health Commissioner urged all Chautauqua County residents to follow CDC Guidance, including wearing masks in public indoor settings or in crowded outdoor settings.

While this step backward is frustrating, it is important to note that businesses have a lot of leeway to set their own ground rules around this – both for employees and for customers. Just as any business can post rules for “no shirt, no shoes, no service” they can also add “masks required” to that list.

Following the guidance from medical experts is the only way we can keep our community and our businesses safe and healthy. No one wants to return to business shut-downs, and no one wants to have to close their business because their employees are sick.

Many local businesses have returned to requiring masks for employees and customers, regardless of vaccination status. We urge all Chautauqua County businesses to do the right thing to protect our community and our businesses and urge residents to respect whatever rules a business chooses to implement.

It’s important to note that mask restrictions were finally lifted just two months ago because enough people were getting vaccinated which significantly slowed the spread of COVID-19. Getting more people vaccinated will help to stop the spread of the virus, and lessen the threat to local business. Until then, it looks like we need to dust off our masks again. For more information about where to find a vaccine visit www.vaccinehound.org/chautauqua.

SUMMER IS NOT OVER YET

It’s mid-August and for many in our communities their attention has turned to autumn and back-to-school time. But let’s not rush the season! There are still plenty of things to do and places to visit here in Chautauqua County while the summer weather remains.

If you’re a baseball fan you will want to head to Russell E. Diethrick Jr. Park in Jamestown over the next week for the 13-year-old Babe Ruth World Series as ten teams battle for the championship for the 40th Anniversary of the 13-Year-Old World Series. Play continues through August 21. Teams have come from all over the United States to participate and thanks to numerous sponsors all games are free to spectators!

Whether you’re into boating, hiking, golf, bicycling, or other outdoor recreational activities, there are many opportunities. We are fortunate to have a plethora of parks, lakes, beaches, golf courses, and other spaces to enjoy during the warm weather months.

MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD ON CONGRESSIONAL REDISTRICTING

You still have a chance to make your voice heard for the future of Congressional representation for Chautauqua County. The New York State Independent Redistricting Commission will hold a statewide virtual meeting at 3 p.m. Sunday. This follows a series of regional meetings.

The census figures have been released and our county has lost some of its population in the past decade. New York State will lose one Congressional seat in this redistricting process.

It remains in our best interest to be aligned with a district that represents rural and small city interest, rather than the metropolitan interests of the Buffalo region. We encourage you to visit the Commission’s website and send that message as the deliberations get underway. Visit website at https://nyirc.gov/meetings and click “submit testimony without attending a meeting.”

SHOP LOCAL TO SUPPORT OUR ECONOMY

It’s not a new concept, but it has renewed significance since many businesses had to close at the onset of the pandemic last year. The Shop Local movement is more relevant than ever. If you sincerely want to help boost your community and our local businesses, spend your money with local merchants and local restaurants.

The Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce has been stressing the importance of shopping locally for many years. We offer a local gift card that can be used at more than 140 merchants countywide. We have promoted Small Business Saturday, working to drive sales to local businesses at the start of each busy holiday shopping season. And in 2020 we worked with a number of partners to launch ShopLocalCHQ, an online sales and marketing platform that provides a convenient way to support local businesses through online shopping.

ShopLocalCHQ now offers over 400 products through 74 local merchants. It’s a fast and simple way to make a difference for local business while you’re shopping for things you need and want anyway. Just visit shoplocalchq.com and click on Shop Now to find a variety of products and service offered by local businesses. Shopping through this site is as easy as shopping on the big box online stores. You can aggregate all of your purchases in a single shopping cart and checkout is convenient. Whether you’re shopping for back to school or just looking for some great local merchandise, visit ShopLocalCHQ.com to support local business.

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