Doctors are questioning the Dutchess County executive's decision to ignore New York's mask mandate, while some local businesses say they feel abandoned.

On Sunday evening, Marc Molinaro made a surprising announcement that he would be ignoring the state's decision to require masks at businesses that don't check customers' and employees' vaccination status. In an exclusive interview, he explained to us that he's not convinced that a mask mandate is actually a good idea, even if cases continue to climb during the winter months.

The decision seems to be a departure for the county executive, who spent most of the pandemic working with Governor Cuomo's administration, even going so far as congratulating the state for its handling the early stages of the pandemic. The about-face has caught some of the local medical community by surprise.

Dr. Evan Goldfisher of Premiere Medical Group said on Monday morning that he was "deeply disappointed" in Molinaro's decision to ignore the mask mandate. Goldfisher explained that masks are proven to slow the spread of COVID-19 and asking people to wear them in crowded public spaces shouldn't be politicized.

"We know the science," Goldfisher said. "I think it is a very reasonable ask to say when you're indoors and you're not eating or drinking (to) wear a mask." The doctor went on to explain that if we can keep the numbers where they are, or bring them down just a little bit we won't have to resort to more drastic measures to keep COVID under control this winter.

Many stores in Dutchess County have still decided to follow the mask mandate but found themselves helpless to enforce it on Monday morning. A sign outside Target in Poughkeepsie announced that face coverings are required, however many were seen walking around without them. Some employees and local business owners have shared their frustration on social media, complaining that Molinaro has essentially "emboldened" the unvaccinated to walk around maskless in Dutchess while other counties are "trying their best to keep workers and customers safe."

The one complaint many people have is that people who wear masks and are vaccinated still get COVID, so why bother? Dr. Goldfisher explained that masks and vaccinations aren't 100% effective, but almost all of the people he sees in the hospitals and the ER are unvaccinated. Much like how vaccinations virtually eliminate hospitalizations and death, simply wearing a mask is an easy and highly effective way to slow the spread whether you're vaccinated or not.

It's almost impossible to find any doctor who says mask-wearing doesn't work. In New York City, where mask-wearing has been in place for months, the current 7-day average of positive test results is 2.7%. Dutchess County, which is much less densely populated than Manhattan, is over double that number at 5.72%

Reactions from local residents were mixed on Monday morning, with many people heading to social media, accusing the county executive of "dividing the county" and politicizing the request to wear masks as a way to campaign for Congress. Others who say mask mandates and vaccine requirements are oppressive have applauded Molinaro for "standing up to Hochul" and making what they call a "common sense" decision.

Rockland County's republican leader, Ed Day, has joined Molniaro's refusal to follow the mask mandate. Westchester, Ulster, Sullivan  County announced that they will be enforcing the governor's order. Orange County Health Commissioner Dr. Irina Gelman says that cases have doubled in recent weeks and is encouraging all residents to get vaccinated and wear masks indoors.

Below is each region's updated 7-day average percentage of positive test results:

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