Police in parts of the Hudson Valley will be strongly enforcing the mask mandate. People caught not wearing a mask face fines or even jail.

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On Monday, the City of Newburgh Council approved an ordinance that requires face masks be worn in the City of Newburgh in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 and safeguard public health, safety and welfare, officials say. Residents face fines of up to $500.

"The action was taken following a persistent spike in COVID-19 cases, and is aligned with the Governor’s Executive Orders," the City of Newburgh Facebook page wrote.

Below are questions and answers from City of Newburgh officials regarding the new policy

When does the Ordinance go into effect?

The Ordinance is effective immediately, and is enforceable during a Declaration of Emergency as issued by the New York State Governor or the City Manager of the City of Newburgh due to an epidemic or disease outbreak that spreads through droplet contact or airborne transmission.

What is the penalty?

Any person who violates the Ordinance may be subject, upon conviction, to a fine in the amount of $250 for the first offense, and up to $500 for any additional violations within a one-year period.

When are face masks or face coverings required?

Face masks or face coverings are required to be worn at all times in the City of Newburgh when present in or on any public/private property, public space, and/or business, and unable to maintain a distance of six feet from another person who isn’t a member of the same household.

What are the exceptions?                       

Individuals shall not be required to wear a facemask or face covering if:

  • They reside in the same household;
  • Are actively eating and/or drinking, or seated at a restaurant;
  • Driving alone, riding bicycles, scooters, or are jogging in the roadway;
  • Engaged in a sport/recreational activity if unable to tolerate a face covering;
  • Children under the age of five;
  • Anyone who is unable to medically tolerate a face mask or face covering as determined by a New York State licensed physician or mid-level provider;
  • Police officers, fire fighters, ambulance personnel and other first responders when not practical because they are engaged in a public safety matter of an emergency nature.

These exemptions DO NOT excuse any person from maintaining a distance of at least six feet.

Last Thursday, City of Middletown Mayor Joseph M. DeStefano also issued a mask mandate, which requires people to wear face coverings and allows for police to enforce the mask mandate. A person caught not wearing a mask on several occasions could be sent to jail for up to 15 days, officials say.

The mask order created a lot of dialogue on social media. After reviewing the comments, Mayor DeStefano responded to what he described as the following key questions:

1. Q:Why did we do this and why now?
A: The greater Middletown area, (including small part of the Town of Wallkill), was designated a yellow micro cluster zone by NYS because of increased infection rates. NYS pays special attention to areas that are been identified as clusters but along with that attention comes more restrictions. You can refer to NY.GOV for more information regarding clusters.
2. Q: What happens if Middletown goes from yellow cluster to orange or red?
A: The obvious is that many more people are infected with Covid-19 at a higher rate than what NYS determined to be safe to conduct business and open schools. Under orange, houses of worship will go to 25 person capacity, gatherings of any kind will be limited to 10 people, all high-risk non-essential businesses, gyms, personal care etc. will be closed, indoor dining at restaurants will be closed with only outdoor / take-out available under. If we go to red, only essential businesses will open, take-out only at restaurants, mass gatherings of any number prohibited and houses of worship are 10 person maximum. Critical that we stop this spread now.
3. Q: Everywhere I go people are wearing masks so why do we need to do this?
A: Maybe true for you but the numbers indicate that something is wrong right now with the spread of the virus in the Middletown area. Our goal is to protect our residents and visitors. Over the past 6 plus months, city police have responded to over 100 compliance checks that are recorded in the police blotter. My office has received well over 100 additional complaints. It is apparent that not all are in compliance. The major source of complaints appears to be convenience stores, gas stations and children’s areas of parks at this time.
4. Q: Does NYS law require mask wearing now?
A: The Governor issued an Executive Order 202.17 on April 15, 2020 addressing this issue. The burden of enforcement has fallen heavily on local government. The NYS Task Force that is working with local government to enforce the mandates is overwhelmed with calls. The District Attorney’s office is part of that task force and is equally overwhelmed with calls. We believe by passing this local mandate, under a local ordinance rather that NYS law, we can give much clearer direction to local law enforcement and be much more responsive to the health needs of our community. Violation notices will be issued by Middletown Police and prosecuted by the city attorney in city court along with reporting to NYS licensing agencies.
5. Q: The Times Herald Record pictures show you, Council President Rodrigues and Alderman Masi, all with no masks. Why not?
6. A: That picture is a file photo from 2/3 years ago. We do not choose what pictures the newspaper puts in with their stories. Poor choice by them? Who knows!
7. Q: Jail time for not wearing a mask! Why such severe penalties?
A: We have drafted the ordinance to give the police as much discretion as possible. That is why Chief Ewanciw’s directives to patrol are important. He has advised all police to use good judgement. The police will have the opportunity to give a warning and offer a mask. If the person is not receptive to this, they will issue a citation. If police are dealing with the same person or business daily or If the city court Judge observes the same person in front of them for multiple violations of the same infraction, they have the opportunity to send them to county jail for up to 15 days. This matches most quality of life penalties in the city code.
8. Q: Masks do not work and you cannot force us to do it. Why do you believe you have the knowledge to implement such a program that takes away our rights as Americans?
A: Obviously I do not have the expertise, knowledge or ability to make the call whether masks are preventative or not. My guess is many of you who have become Covid Scientists do not either. My reliance is on Dr. Fauci, CDC, Governor Cuomo, Doctors, Medical professionals and Scientists.
9. Q: Is it true that I cannot walk down a street with my family unless we all have masks on?
A: False. You can walk, jog, bike, drive, do anything you please in public as long as you are either by yourself or with members of your household. You can walk down Main St. with no mask. If another person approaches you, the choice is yours. Put on a mask or stay a safe distance away, minimum 6 ft. It is that simple.
10. Q: How long will this be in effect?
A: At a minimum until we get out of the cluster designation.
11. Q: Is this a revenue generator for Middletown?
A: Absolutely not. Our hope is that no violations are issued and that people will become more compliant. We need this to avoid more illness and economic shutdown. Our goal is to protect our residents and businesses.
12. Q: How are you getting the word out about this?
A: We are doing extensive outreach on social media, Channel 20, Aldermen outreach, Nixle and the most important will be the Police Department communicating to businesses and individuals what is necessary for us to knock this virus down in Middletown.


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