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Fredonia Mandates Masks For Village Hall Use

FREDONIA — The village hall in Fredonia is requiring masks for visitors again.

Prompted by Mayor Douglas Essek, the Board of Trustees agreed to require the masks in village-owned buildings Monday as a response to rising COVID-19 rates in the area. The move came just hours after neighboring Erie County resumed mask-wearing mandates for public buildings.

Essek opened a discussion about COVID-19 protocols at the Monday board workshop by asking trustees if they wanted to consider going back to remote meetings. After the pandemic hit in March 2020, the board did not meet in person for over a year, instead gathering online.

“I think (the spike in COVID-19 rates) is a really serious issue, but I can’t see why we can’t go to mandatory mask wearing for everybody if that’s the case,” Trustee James Lynden said. He cited Erie County’s move to mandate masks.

“That’s exactly why I’m bringing it up,” replied Essek, who attended Monday’s meeting remotely as the trustees gathered in Village Hall. “Right now, there’s no state of emergency, so it’s still up to the board of how the board would want to handle procedures, especially in village owned buildings and at meetings.”

Unlike many of his fellow Republicans, Essek has consistently backed mask-wearing and other anti-COVID mandates throughout the pandemic. He had a life-threatening bout with the disease in December 2020.

Lynden asked him Monday if Chautauqua County officials had issued any new mask guidance yet. Essek said that, as of Monday evening, they had not.

“They haven’t changed the guidelines, but the levels of infection are skyrocketing in our county and in all of Western New York as well,” the mayor added. “I think it’s just a matter of time before the guidelines change.”

Village Clerk Annemarie Johnston wondered how the village would enforce mask-wearing. “When someone comes up without a mask, who’s going to take care of it?” said Trustee Scott Johnston, who is AnneMarie Johnston’s husband.

Annemarie Johnston offered to bring a box of masks for those without them, “but then if they don’t want to wear it, we’d have to have a way to deal with that.”

“Then we would ask them to leave,” said Trustee EvaDawn Bashaw.

Essek pointed out that requiring masks in Village Hall would also cover the board meetings, as they are held in the building.

Village officials agreed to require masks in village buildings until further notice. Village Attorney Melanie Beardsley said the trustees should pass a resolution to formalize the move at their next meeting, set for Nov. 29.

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