LYONS — While a number of the region’s rural counties have opted against enforcing Gov. Kathy Hochul’s mask mandate, Wayne County has reversed course. Sort of.

The county has posted a link on its website explaining the governor’s mandate.

It reads: “On December 10, 2021, Gov, Kathy Hochul announced masks will be required to be worn in all indoor public places unless businesses or venues implement a vaccine requirement. This major action to address the winter surge comes as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rise statewide and is in alignment with the CDC’s recommendations for communities with substantial and high transmission. The state Health Commissioner issued a determination solidifying the requirement.”

The post explains how to file a mask mandate violation, as well as related information.

County Administrator Rick House said all complaints will be forwarded to the Sheriff’s Office.

“The sheriff (Rob Milby) has people assigned to review the complaints,” he said.

House likes to think of mask enforcement in Wayne County as more of an “education effort. Enforcement in this case is education. They (the Sheriff’s Office) would contact individual businesses to say that they got complaints and remind them of the mandate.”

The office will also offer assistance to offending businesses, including providing masks, if desired, he said.

“In reality, a lot of businesses are already abiding by it (the mandate),” House said. “However, there are businesses that have put up signs that said you don’t have to wear a mask here.”

Enforcing the mask mandate is problematic for localities such as Wayne County, House said.

“It is a governor’s directive,” he explained. “But there is no criminal law to enforce.”

However, there could be civil fines that could come down for those who refuse to abide by the mandate, warned House — from local code enforcement to a state agency, such as the Liquor Authority.

There are some financial advantages to the county’s decision, House said, explaining Wayne is eligible for up to $1 million for expenses related to mask enforcement. Enforcing the mandate also allows the county to use the state funds to purchase KN95 masks.

As part of the fight against covid, House noted, the county is also purchasing 25,000 home test kits for distribution to residents. The $474,000 purchase from Ontario County was approved by the Board of Supervisors Tuesday.

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