By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – At the Village Board’s first in-person meeting since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Monday revealed that an unnamed Main Street business has already been issued a citation for failing to comply with the state’s mask requirements.
“Our police have been walking Main Street, and so far, only one business has not been compliant with the state guidelines,” said Tillapaugh.
According to the mayor, they were issued by the county Department of Health for violation of state health regulations and Executive Order 202.16 requiring face coverings for employees interacting with the public.
Using language from the state’s guidelines, the Village Board voted to advance a local law requiring face coverings on Main and Pioneer streets – the business district – to a public hearing at 5 p.m. Monday, Aug. 10. The Main Street section was extended from River Street to Pine Boulevard; it initially was proposed for Fair to Chestnut.
Among the changes made Monday to the proposed law were that those riding bicycles, scooters, skates and skateboards are exempt from wearing masks, so long as they are in the street. Language was also strengthened to clarify that individuals must be sitting while eating if they want to remove their mask.
“You can sit anywhere you want,” said Village Attorney Martin Tillapaugh. “A bench, a table, the grass, but if you aren’t sitting and actively eating, you need to have your mask on.”
Additionally, individuals who claim it is “impractical” to wear a mask must apply for an exemption through the Village Police, and must provide proof from a state-licensed doctor.
“Right now, there are doctors on the internet who, for $10, you answer 11 questions and they writer you an exemption,” said Trustee Richard Sternberg, himself a physician. “We need to know where your medical exemption comes from.”
If passed, failure to adhere to the law can result in up to a $1,000 fine for individuals, and up to a $2,000 fine for businesses, if they are found to not be enforcing the law among visitors and employees.
“Our police have told business owners that if someone refuses to wear a mask, to call the police and they will escort them off the property,” said Tillapaugh.
When passed, the mayor said, the law will be prominently posted on the Village website, Chamber of Commerce and other promotional websites.