Petersburg’s borough assembly Tuesday voted to repeal a local face covering mandate. That takes effect immediately. The assembly also unanimously voted to end the local COVID-19 emergency declaration at the end of June.
The borough’s incident commander Karl Hagerman recommended an end to the emergency and removing the mask requirement.
“The whole purpose of the emergency declaration and the standing up of the (emergency operations center) was to respond to COVID-19 and protect Petersburg residents,” Hagerman told the assembly at a special meeting. “And at this point in time I think we’ve done what we needed to do and the last, final large test of our vaccination rate and the resilience of Petersburg in the face of the pandemic, the Little Norway Festival, has come and gone, was celebrated heartily by Petersburg residents and visitors and we did not see an outbreak occur after that.”
Hagerman said the borough’s emergency operations center could restart if the assembly or manager declared an emergency for a future outbreak.
“It may not look exactly the same as this last one, we’ve learned a lot over the last 15 months of dealing with this but the option is there for the assembly and the manager to reestablish and emergency declaration and deal with the problem at hand,” he said.
The EOC is still recommending people follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on face coverings. The CDC recommendations say fully vaccinated people don’t need masks in most settings while people who are not vaccinated should continue with face coverings and other measures. The local mandate has been controversial with many questioning it and others calling for health precautions to prevent community spread.
Assembly members thanked Hagerman and the rest of the emergency operations center.
“All of you had a very thankless job over the course of the last year plus and judging from comments I’ve received in town and emails we’ve received, know that people appreciate the work you’ve done, so thank you very much,” said assembly member Jeigh Stanton Gregor.
The vote was unanimous to repeal the local health mandate for face coverings in indoor and public spaces. That’s been in place since last November. It was also mandated during the early days of the pandemic. It’s relied on voluntary compliance and has not been enforced. Again that repeal is effective immediately. For the moment, masks are still required on public transit, like airline travel and in airports.
The assembly also voted 6-0 for a resolution terminating the COVID emergency declaration at the end of June. That declaration was first approved March 16, 2020. The resolution OK’d Tuesday recognizes the high vaccination rate in the community and the low case numbers.
Because the emergency declaration is still in effect this month, other local health mandates on public meetings, travel testing and cruise ship dockings remain. The assembly may consider repealing those, possibly at their June 7 meeting. On Tuesday they also did approve a plan for ending the local EOC and removing other mandates. Chelsea Tremblay was not at the meeting but submitted a letter of support for the EOC’s recommendations.
COVID screening and testing will continue at Petersburg airport through the end of June. Travel testing may continue to be available with state funding through the end of the year but it may move to the Petersburg Medical Center.
The emergency operations center did report one new COVID case on Sunday, May 30, another travel related case. As of June 1st, Petersburg has three active COVID cases, with just one of those from the past week.
(Editor’s note: this story has been updated to show impacts on other local health mandates from Tuesday’s decisions)