In just 48 hours Dutchess County has turned into a land of confusion thanks to conflicting messages from county leaders.

On Tuesday, signs were posted on all county buildings stating that masks are required. The signs, which bear the seal of Dutchess County, explain the rules of New York State's mask mandate, requiring masks to be worn by everyone whether vaccinated or not..

Dutchess County
Dutchess County
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This appears to be in direct contrast to Molinaro's official statement on Sunday, announcing that the county would not be enforcing the mask mandate. When asked about the mask requirement in county buildings, the County executive provided this statement.

As it has a responsibility to, County Government is informing what the State order is. County Government is not using resources to enforce the order.

When asked to clarify if county employees are required to wear masks indoors until January 15. Molinaro says that "they are informed of the order. Nothing more." His explanation got even more confusing after admitting that the state "still possesses some authority" to enforce the mandate.

So it looks like county workers are being told to wear a mask, but it's not enforced by the county, but is somewhat still enforced. County employees we spoke to were obviously still confused as of Tuesday evening, with some characterizing the policy as hypocritical.

It's clear that the messaging isn't great. We asked Molinaro if he takes some responsibility for the confusion, releasing what appears to be conflicting guidance for his own employees and local businesses. While he didn't specifically respond to that, he did urge residents to "respect the businesses and those who work in them."

Telling county workers to mask up, while announcing that local businesses won't be penalized for ignoring the mask rule has made for some pretty bad optics. Employees of local businesses have called us and taken to social media to vent their frustration over being left to enforce a mandate without the support of local govenrnment. Now that county employees are being protected by an apparent mask mandate, while private employees are being left to "the mercy of (their) customers' compliance," it looks even worse.

Those who oppose masks also seem to be perturbed by the confusion. Some customers have reached out to us complaining of businesses that are "breaking the law" by forcing them to wear a mask, going "against Marc Molinaro's order." While that's factually incorrect, the spirit of Molinaro's statements have clearly emboldened many to defy the rules.

While his message may be a bit confusing, Molinaro has been consistent in urging patrons to follow whatever rules local businesses have in place.

There is no place for violence, abusive language or threats against those working for an establishment choosing to enforce the State order.

Molinaro, who's announced that he's running for congress, has been criticized by many for "playing to his base" by deciding to take a stand against the mask mandate when cases continue to be on the rise.  Right now it looks like that decision may be backfiring, angering both sides of a debate that didn't need to be taking place at all.

In the past, Molinaro begrudgingly went along with some of the more unpopular COVID mandates and policies, allowing him to satisfy those who wish to follow guidance from health officials, while being able to commiserate with those who disagreed with the mandates, blaming it on Albany.

Time will tell if this new, bolder tactic will help to solidify his base, or isolate those voters from across the aisle that he will most certainly need support from during the election. In the meantime, the people of Dutchess County are left without the unifying voice of Molinaro from a year ago when the County Executive so effectively brought the county together during the worst of the pandemic.

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