Albany County sets up portal to report mask mandate violations
Steve Hughes and Paul Nelson are reporting for the Times Union that Albany County is creating an online portal to let residents report violations of the state's new indoor mask mandate, as well as other issues they see involving mask and vaccine requirements. The portal is expected to go live in the next few days. It is part of the county’s plans to enforce the state’s new requirement, but at the same time, the county does not seem to be looking to immediately punish businesses that do not enforce the mandate. A county spokesperson said on December 15, that any potential issues reported will be reviewed to decide what next steps are necessary. The county intends to work with businesses to educate them on the new policy and/or enforcement. Schenectady County intends to focus on public education about the value of wearing a mask to slow the spread of coronavirus. Aggressive enforcement has not been a central part of the county's response to the virus. When an earlier state mask mandate was in effect, the county cited a few local businesses for violating the rule. Gov. Kathy Hochul last week announced the indoor mask mandate, but left enforcement up to local counties. Schenectady County Majority Leader Gary Hughes said the county does not have the money to be the so-called mask police and that the onus needs to be on people to be good citizens. Even before Hochul's announcement, Albany County Executive Dan McCoy and Schenectady Manager Rory Fluman issued a health advisory encouraging residents to resume mask-wearing and for private businesses to require it, but they stopped short of mandating the practice. He said this week that educating people about the importance of masks and vaccinations remain the top priority. McCoy expressed some frustration that other counties in the region were not offering a similar message. "We haven't been able to do all that, to get everyone in sync to come up with the same message," he said. Read the full story in the Times Union.