STERNBERG: Mandatory Masks Downtown Only? Why Not Everywhere?

LIFE IN THE TIME OF CORONAVIRUS

Mandatory Masks Downtown

Only? Why Not Everywhere?

By RICHARD STERNBERG • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

The below is a letter I received (along with the rest of the Cooperstown Village Board) from a constituent and my response.

To the Members of the Village Board:

Sternberg
Richard Sternberg, a retired Bassett Hospital orthopedic surgeon, has agreed to provide his professional perspective while the coronavirus threat continues. Dr. Sternberg, who is also a village trustee, resides in Cooperstown.

As you deliberate on proposed Local Law 7, we respectfully request you discuss the following points so your intent and purpose is clearly understood by all
concerned.

If the purpose of this proposal is “to protect the public health, safety and welfare of Village residents,” why is it limited to only a portion of two streets? Even a casual observer can see there is relatively little activity on Main Street these days.

Currently the most congested areas of the village are on Fish Road and the block of Fair Street near the boat launch.

There is also considerable foot traffic on the northernmost block of Pioneer Street, where only one side of the street has a sidewalk which is much narrower than Main Street.

Moreover, there is very little mask-wearing and social-distancing in Lakefront Park and the walkway connecting Pioneer Street and Fish Road does not allow for distancing.

In other areas of the village there is a great deal of activity near the hospital and clinic; the grocery store and pharmacy; the gas stations and other commercial areas. Why are they not included?

With respect to enforcement, the Board should seriously reconsider the maximum fine of $1,000 for a first offense. … Do you have the personnel and expertise to enforce this one?

During the current pandemic, the wearing of a mask or face covering is a sensible thing to do. Government regulations should be sensible as well.

Thank you for your consideration.

Here is my response:

Your point is well taken about the law being extended to all other areas in the village, just like it is everywhere in Key West and other municipalities.

I would have never thought that this could be passed, especially since there are areas in the village with very low concentrations of pedestrians with easy ability to social distance. But with your help and support, this could happen. Thank you for support of this idea. I will present it.

By the way, I don’t know when you are on Main Street, but there is a high percentage of people not wearing masks, AND NOT PUTTING THEM ON WHEN PASSING OR NEAR OTHER PEOPLE.

In fact, these people aren’t carrying masks and if they have masks, they are not visible. In a pocket or purse, they cannot quickly be whipped on. I wouldn’t dare walk Main Street.
By the way, there are already laws in place to punish lack of a mask if not socially-distancing or not wearing one indoors at a public place, under the governor’s state of emergency. These should be enforced.

As you point out, the Village is putting in place a maximum penalty of $1,000. As you know, the individual’s penalty is imposed set by the presiding judge and at $1,000 is half of the state maximum penalty of $2,000 for violating similar laws.

I would think that maybe the initial fine for someone would be on the order of $100, as it is in Key West, and would escalate with repeat or recalcitrant offenders.

I agree that more citations should be given for other offenses. Once the public was aware of this, their behavior would change.

It doesn’t take many for a village with as good a communication system as Cooperstown has for word to get out. There are also other laws that violating could cause death, like speeding, driving while intoxicated, and not stopping at STOP signs or red lights.

During a pandemic wearing a mask IS the sensible thing to do. If only everyone did when in the presence of other members of the public, we would have this thing beat in eight weeks, according to the head of the CDC.

Please read the article in the latest Weekend Wall Street Journal, page C1, “The True Face of Freedom Wears a Mask.” Unfortunately, there are, to use a word favored by my family, ice holes, who don’t give a darn about your life and mine, and both of us are high-risk individuals.

Even the Republican President of the United States requires everyone around him to wear masks and get tested daily, albeit to protect himself. Wearing a mask is not just sensible it is a life and death issue.


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