With the COVID-19 pandemic again on the rise locally and across the country, the Town of Ulster last week reaffirmed its mask policy to unvaccinated employees and visitors to town buildings.
“The policy very simply is that any persons or employees…coming into (all Town buildings), if they’re not vaccinated they must wear a mask at all times,” said Deputy Supervisor John Morrow during the Town Board workshop meeting held on Thursday, August 5. “And it’s the honesty policy where we don’t ask.”
Town offices and buildings resumed normal pre-COVID working conditions on Friday, May 21, over a year after the pandemic hit the Hudson Valley. Those rules stated that masks are not required for vaccinated individuals, but social distancing was still encouraged. At the time there were 114 active COVID cases in the county, a number that dropped to just 14 by Thursday, July 1. The number of cases has begun rising again as the highly infectious delta variant has become the dominant strain of the virus in the United States. Ulster County cited 193 active cases as of Wednesday, August 4.
The Town of Ulster, which has recorded 1235 cases since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, has six active cases as of August 4.
Like the Town of Ulster, the City of Kingston will on Monday, August 9 begin requiring unvaccinated employees and visitors to City buildings to wear a mask. But Kingston is taking it a step further by requiring unvaccinated City employees to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing.
“We are following closely the recommendations of local and national health officials, and are doing our part to protect City staff and the public from Coronavirus, especially the rapidly-spreading Delta variant,” said Mayor Steve Noble in an August 4 press release. “These new protocols are for the protection of our employees and all visitors to City buildings, and we ask the public’s cooperation in following these new guidelines.”
Councilman Eric Kitchen touted the Town of Ulster’s less rigid approach when compared to other local municipalities like Kingston.
“I want to thank the Town of Ulster Town Board for recognizing and looking out for the individual rights of our town employees,” Kitchen said. “What’s going on in other municipalities and in the county…is there are edicts going out to the different departments throughout…all employees unvaccinated will be required to undergo a COVID test once a week.”
Kitchen added that he supported Ulster’s stance on trusting unvaccinated employees and visitors to adhere to the municipal mask rule.
“I also want to thank this Town Board for recognizing individual rights that this is basically done on the honor system,” Kitchen said. “I don’t feel like it’s our responsibility as the Town government to start asking personal medical questions of employees.”