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Legislator wants more unity in COVID fight

A newly elected Chautauqua County legislator wants to see the county stand firm behind state and federal measures to fight COVID-19.

Legislator Susan Parker, D-Fredonia, is proposing a motion entitled “Best practices to overcome COVID-19.” The motion, which holds no legal weight but instead is designed to give the legislature’s stance on an issue, will be brought before the Human Services Committee next week. If it has enough signatures, it will be voted on by the full legislature at its Jan. 26 meeting.

“We have to have a simple, understandable, unified message for our county community: ‘COVID is now our normal. COVID is here; it’s deadly if not vaccinated; and it’s staying,'” Parker said. “And, we have to adopt and encourage the best practices in our county community to deal with this normal. We can manage it; and it is straightforward what all of us must do as members of our shared county community – vaccinate, mask, and test when concerned.”

The motion notes that the county Health Department is a “community of public health professionals whose main purpose is to protect and promote the health of our residents and families and friends and accomplishes this mission by preventing disease, prolonging meaningful life, protecting the environment, and providing leadership in health crises” and that “the Health Department has sought to work cooperatively with all the organizations and businesses and individuals who have an interest and stake in effectively addressing the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

The county Health Department has gone on record encouraging residents be fully vaccinated, including boosters as recommended, to wear masks in common public indoor areas, and employ testing to help residents, organizations, and businesses to help control the spread and severity of COVID-19. Parker said she wants to ensure the legislature and the county executive supports the health department in these efforts.

In December, when the state re-implemented an indoor mask mandate, County Executive PJ Wendel called the measure “unenforceable” and said the county wouldn’t be enforcing it locally. He did say he encouraged residents to wear a mask if a business wants one.

On Wednesday, Parker said she is concerned that statement may have been “confusing” and wants residents and businesses to know the county supports the health department in all recommendations. “I believe the county executive, the legislature and the all the county departments need to be aligned. … We are being clear and straight forward, that we’re all together,” she said.

The motion is not calling for fines or for law enforcement to tickets for those who violate the mask mandate. Parker said that’s not the purpose of the motion. “It is a statement of alignment, of the executive, the legislature and the departments, particularly the Department of Health,” she said.

Motions require a two-third majority in order to be adopted by the county legislature. In October, the county legislature passed a motion saying that it opposed the vaccine mandate for healthcare workers and another motion which called on local, state and federal officials to follow the U.S. Constitution.

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