Oneida County Executive frustrated that health decisions become political fodder, will enforce mask rules

Coronavirus

UTICA, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente says he supports and will enforce the state requirement that masks be worn in public places unless the individual business or venue checks for vaccine proof upon entry.

The stance by Picente, a Republican, is contrary to that of his Republican counterparts in other counties. Leaders in Madison, Cortland, Ontario, Orange, Rensselaer, Niagara, Livingston, Saratoga, and Dutchess Counties have all publicly said they won’t enforce the state order.

The more-restrictive state rule outranks Picente’s own plan to require masks in public places, but he plans to enforce it as he would his own.

Picente expected complaints, but he and his team have been bombarded by vitriolic hostility.

In an interview with NewsChannel 9, Picente elaborated: “I can’t repeat them on the air.”

When pushed again, he said he’s been called a communist, been told masks or vaccines don’t work and “Nobody’s dying. It’s all made up.”

Picente corrects the claims: masks and vaccine do work and the deaths are real.

“I could tell you ten people that I know who died,” Picente said, “that were unvaccinated, that shouldn’t have died. That’s just ten I can think of off the top of my head, that I know personally. I know people in the hospital, not vaccinated, personally. Yet the message is not getting through.”

Picente has his own message that he put into words over the weekend and shared on Facebook. He wanted to share his frustration that health decisions have become political fodder.

When asked about other members of his own party defying health measures, Picente said, “I’ve been a Republican my entire professional life. The Republican Party is the vehicle in which I’ve gotten elected four times and I’m proud of it. But things have changed. It’s not my master. It doesn’t determine how I govern.”

He reminds his community that protecting health and safety are the responsibility of the county, regardless of party. It’s why he plans to enforce the state rule as he would his own.

“I’m not going to tell people we’re not going to enforce,” Picente said. “Then I’m telling people do whatever you want. You know what? I have a responsibility. (Masks) do make a difference. They’re not 100%, people will say that. Same as the vaccine isn’t. But it’s a lot better than nothing.”

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