The Editorial Board: Concrete Goals to End Covid Policies Could Synchronize More New Yorkers | Editorial

Signs are appearing at businesses requiring masks following new regulations instituted in Erie County as hospitals are again overcrowded with Covid-19 patients. It would be easier to get the cooperation of citizens if they knew the conditions under which the restrictions would end.

Sharon Cantillon

News Editorial Board

When Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz announced the return of an indoor mask mandate, part of the public accused him of tyranny, oppression and abuse of power. (And those are the nicest words they used.)

Mask warrants are one of the tools that have been shown to be effective in slowing the spread of the coronavirus. They could be more widely accepted, without losing their effectiveness, if they were equipped with an on / off switch. This is how the rules work in the state of Nevada and the Bay Area counties of Northern California.

There could be both tangible and psychological benefits for New York State and our counties by taking this approach. And setting concrete goals is one of the steps to start assessing the costs and benefits of Covid’s containment policies.

All of Nevada is under a mask mandate, but with an escape clause. If a county has an average seven-day test positive rate of less than 8% and a case rate of less than 50 per 100,000 people in consecutive weeks, it may leave the mandate. Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, has not reached that level.

In the Bay Area, a county must show “moderate” levels of coronavirus transmission to waive indoor mask requirements. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines this as being in the range of 10 to 49.99 new cases per 100,000 people in the past seven days.

It may seem premature to consider lifting restrictions as western New York battles a fourth wave of the virus, with hospitals at or near capacity. However, goals are needed to chart a course forward.

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