Putnam County has recorded more than 20,000 cases of COVID-19, which means that with the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, 1 of every 5 residents has contracted the virus — yet our elected county officials disregard that we are in the midst of a Category 5 public-health hurricane.

In the Dec. 17 issue, The Current reported that County Executive MaryEllen Odell had decided not to enforce Gov. Kathy Hochul’s mask mandate, and on Dec. 31 it reported that the Legislature (except for the voice of Nancy Montgomery) had voted to oppose vaccination mandates.

A year ago, we didn’t have the tools needed to combat COVID. Today, our toolbox is full, with highly effective mRNA vaccines and N95 masks. It is frightening and embarrassing that our county executive and eight of our nine legislators are using their leadership to oppose these lifesaving measures.

We need a unified, bipartisan voice to win what should be a winnable battle against this virus. After all, the vaccines were developed in unprecedented speed under a Republican president and now we are attempting to close the deal under a Democratic president — what’s the problem?

By this blatant political grandstanding (malpractice), Odell and eight legislators have violated their duty to represent the health and well-being of their constituents. They should be replaced by Democrats or Republicans who are committed to working together to protect the health and lives of Putnam residents in the middle of a pandemic.

The recent letters to The Current on this topic overwhelmingly reflect a deep community concern about the irresponsible actions of the Putnam executive and legislators.

Alan Brownstein, Cold Spring

Behind The Story

Type: Opinion

Opinion: Advocates for ideas and draws conclusions based on the author/producer’s interpretation of facts and data.

This piece is by a contributor to The Current who is not on staff. Typically this is because it is a letter to the editor or a guest column.

7 replies on “Letter: Mandates”

  1. Deaths and hospitalizations are way down in our county and state. Does that count as winning?

    Australia sealed itself off from the world and China imposed martial law on some of its cities, and neither has eradicated COVID-19.

    Zero cases of COVID-19 is not going to happen. We are not going to vaccinate or mask our way out of this. It’s an upper respiratory infection with a 99.97 percent survival rate. Can we move on with our lives now? [via Facebook]

    1. You correctly point out that “deaths and hospitalizations are way down.” Clearly, we are making progress, but the numbers in Putnam County and New York state are much higher than in mid-December. It is premature to declare victory.

      I sympathize because so many of us are so tired of this COVID slog. But we must work together by using the tools we have to defeat (not eliminate) this scourge. These measures are not just matters of personal choice but community responsibility. As Lily Essely pointed out, personal decisions not to utilize preventive measures present a real threat of spreading disease to others.

      I agree that “zero cases of COVID is not going to happen.” But I am optimistic that we will be able to bring this pandemic to a milder, more manageable form, such as the seasonal flu.

      You ask: “Can we move on with our lives now?” The answer is: “Not now, but soon.” Now is not the time to be-come complacent as that will allow the virus to continue replicating with variants.

  2. Everyone does not have the right to infect others just because they feel like it. Your personal rights are not above the com-mon good. If you are only interested in what you believe are your personal preferences, you have no interest in being part of a community.

    We all live with the consequences of irresponsible “choices” in the form of death, disease, less health care and more restrictions on the society because of the selfish few who promote personal rights but show no sense of personal responsibility. [via Facebook]

  3. The people who complain about their “rights” being violated and oppose vaccine mandates contradict every parent with school-age kids. Did your children get vaccinated at birth? Did you provide a vaccination record to the school district when they first enrolled? Did you have chickenpox but your child had the mandated chickenpox vaccine?

    It’s a shame communities have to discuss this. It makes you look differently at your neighbor. [via Facebook]

  4. I don’t think the mask mandate goes far enough. Looking at the data, cloth masks are barely better than not wearing a mask at all. Many countries require KN95 type masks and they are widely available. I wear a KN95 mask all the time. [via Facebook]

  5. It’s a much better use of resources to have more testing and vaccination sites than to have people driving all over Putnam County checking stores to see if they can catch someone not wearing a mask. Let the state do it if it wants. [via Facebook]

  6. I would like to respond once again to Christopher Harrigan’s thoughtful Jan. 21 letter in which he questioned the continuation of COVID-19 restrictions because there was a steep steep decline in Putnam County rates and asked, “Can we move on with our lives now?”

    On Jan. 28, I responded “not now, but soon” because even though Covid-19 infection and hospitalization rates were way down from early January, they were still higher than early December. So we needed to hang tough so as not to give the virus the leeway to continue to replicate with variants.

    Less than a month from this exchange of letters, it looks like, to a large extent, “soon” has arrived, and we can begin to move on with our lives because, based on ongoing surveillance of the spread and severity of COVID-19, the steep decline has continued, and on Feb. 25, CDC published revised guidelines measuring the community risk by county. The good news is that Putnam, Dutchess and all of the southern Hudson Valley are designated at low risk, according to local county data plugged into the revised CDC framework.

    This means that Putnam and Dutchess Counties can choose to drop indoor mask guidelines, along with 70 percent of all Americans. This is a major shift, as just a month ago, it was recommended that 95 percent of Americans mask-up indoors.

    This is wonderful news as we may be witnessing in “real time” the transition from pandemic to endemic, enabling us to live with and manage COVID-19 for the first time since March 2020, after tragically losing 950,000 lives. Most of us can now think about returning to our normal (nearly) pre-pandemic lives.

    This does not mean that COVID-19 is eliminated just because masks are no longer recommended in most situations. Clearly vaccination is still important as is continued masking for those who are immune compromised and at high risk for severe disease. Also, public health monitoring must be vigilant to identify new surges or variants early on, so that measures can be quickly implemented to prevent (or minimize) a repeat of deaths and disruption of our lives.

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