AMSTERDAM — Three months after mask requirements were lifted, face coverings will once again be required inside all city buildings for staff members and visitors beginning Monday.
Mayor Michael Cinquanti on Friday said the decision follows rising coronavirus infection rates locally and concerns related to the easily transmissible delta variant.
“We’re going to get back into taking precautions we hoped we wouldn’t have to take when the vaccine came, but we must protect everybody, so that’s what we’re going to do,” Cinquanti said.
The mandate that goes into effect on Monday will require all individuals to wear masks while in city buildings regardless of vaccination status in line with the recommendations of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC has recommended all individuals wear masks, regardless of their vaccination status, in public, indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission. Montgomery County is currently designated as an area of high transmission by the CDC with 75 new cases in the last seven days and a positivity rate of 11.03%.
Cinquanti said renewing masking requirements inside city buildings will protect community members and staff from possible exposure. He noted that at least one city staffer was recently infected, although he declined to provide further details.
“One is too many,” Cinquanti said. “We’ve had some exposure with city employees and we’re concerned.”
The decision to reimplement masking requirements was arrived at internally through discussions between the mayor and department heads before the announcement was made on Friday, according to Cinquanti.
“We came to a consensus that this is a necessary step. It’s the way we make decisions, we see that data, take a look at what’s going on, take a look at what’s happening in the community and react in a way that we think is fair and safe for everyone,” Cinquanti said.
There are currently no plans to implement a citywide mask mandate, Cinquanti said.
“But I am watching the data and considering doing more in terms of our city employees and workplaces,” he added.
As to whether the city will require employees to become vaccinated against the coronavirus, Cinquanti said internal policies are currently being reviewed and there could be a related announcement some time soon.
“We are not requiring vaccinations at this point,” he said.
Cinquanti has been open about his own decision to become vaccinated and is urging city workers and residents to talk to their doctors about the vaccine.
“I believe in science, I pay attention to actual data and there was no question in my mind that I was going to get the vaccine, not just for myself, but for my family,” Cinquanti said. “And my doctor told me to do it.”
“I understand why people do have questions or have doubts, that is why I am suggesting every citizen in Amsterdam talk to their doctor,” he continued. “And get the doctor’s recommendation. I think if our entire city did that we would be in much safer condition than we are right now.”
Approximately 26,787 Montgomery County residents are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, or 54.4% of the population, according to the CDC. Public health officials have pointed to low vaccination rates across the country as contributing to the current surge in coronavirus infections.
Cinquanti expressed disappointment over having to reimplement universal mask mandates in city buildings just three months after the requirement was lifted for fully vaccinated individuals on May 19. He suggested that continued vaccine hesitancy could lead to the return of other restrictions.
“I’m so upset, because we don’t want to go back to where we were last year and we may have to,” Cinquanti said.