Petersburg no longer has a local mandate for face coverings in indoor public spaces that’s been in place since early November.
An emergency ordinance requiring masking expired Monday, January 3rd and Petersburg’s borough assembly did not consider an additional extension during a meeting that day. Assembly member Chelsea Tremblay asked the community to use common sense, test after travel and stay home when sick to avoid another large COVID outbreak.
“The reason it was necessary to have the face coverings in indoor public settings was because an accident of serendipity combined with bad decision making led to a really bad outbreak that fortunately did not overlap with this current snowpocalypse that we’re experiencing,” Tremblay said. “If those two things had come together I don’t really know what could have happened given the rate of emergency room enterings and home care and the amount of actual borough impact staffing-wise that COVID had.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to recommend wearing a mask in public indoor settings in areas of high community transmission, regardless of vaccination status. Face coverings are still required on public transportation and airports.
As of Monday the community had just six active cases, according to the dashboard maintained by the Petersburg Medical Center. However, medical center chief executive officer Phil Hofstetter told the assembly they’re preparing for the next outbreak.
“You’re seeing this wave occur in the United States and certainly, we are certainly seeing a lag time with most other waves so I just anticipate that coming to fruition here at some point,” Hofstetter said. “So I know while we’re seeing sort of a lull right now, I believe that we’re most likely need to be prepared for this next omicron surge.”
Petersburg’s largest outbreaks in 2021 happened about one to two months after similar peaks in the nationwide case count. The omicron variant this month is fueling the highest levels of new cases in the U.S. since the start of the pandemic.
Hofstetter told the assembly that PMC has received notice from the state that it is ending contracts for travel testing at the end of this month. He said the medical center and the borough would have to decide whether or how to continue that service.
“You know obviously we’re very community focused we’re not just going to stop it overnight so we’ll do what we can and try to come up with some creative solutions as much as possible,” he said.
Hofstetter said he’d report back on options for testing. Take home kits are still available at multiple locations in the community.
(Assembly member Chelsea Tremblay is a former intern and current volunteer at KFSK-FM in Petersburg where this story was produced.)