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SRMT EOC Rescinds Indoor Mask Mandate Effective March 4th

Mar 3, 2022

Local Businesses to Determine Store Policies; Mask Use Still Encouraged

AKWESASNE -- The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe’s Emergency Operations Center announced changes to its mask requirement in response to the high vaccination rate in Akwesasne’s southern portion and low COVID-19 case counts. The change follows a decision by New York State Governor Kathy Hochul last month to remove the mask mandate in public places, as well as its removal in public schools beginning this week. The EOC also took into consideration recent CDC guidance on mask wearing.

Wearing of masks is still encouraged, but it is now an individual decision based on various factors -- including personal vaccination status, personal health conditions, health conditions of household members, and attendance at large gatherings.

According to SRMT Medical Director Dr. Benson Kelly, “We are not out of the woods yet, and continue to see positive cases in the community, but it now comes down to personal choice. We all need to respect and support people who continue to wear masks due to their own health condition or health conditions within their family. Vaccination continues to be the best protection we all have against severe COVID-19 complications and death.”

Local hospitalizations for COVID-19 have reduced and since February 8th, the total number of active cases that have been reported has remained single digits. The Tribe’s vaccination rate has steadily improved – now at 71.4% of local residents. The improving community vaccination rate is encouraging; however, the virus is still here and remains a public health risk.

The EOC Team notes that, as of February 28th, the North Country continues to have a high community transmission level and leads all of New York State with a 7-day positivity rate of 5.5% -- compared to 1.9% statewide (according to NYS Department of Health COVID-19 Data Tracker). The neighboring counties of Franklin County and St. Lawrence County have a 7-day positivity rate of 6.2% and 5.4% respectively, with 9.2% of Franklin County residents testing positive for COVID-19 on February 27th.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Tribe has developed and maintained protective measures above and beyond NYS requirements, which includes the mask requirement. We kindly remind individuals that it continues to be an essential measure that has helped prevent and further control the spread of COVID-19 in Akwesasne’s southern portion. Mask wearing has also contributed to fewer cases of the seasonal flu and the common cold.

Mask requirements will remain in effect for health care facilities, congregate settings, group homes, and other operations due to tribal and federal regulations.

For those who choose to wear a mask, particularly when you are sick, we support your decision to continue wearing a mask and appreciate your continued efforts to protect those community members who remain vulnerable to COVID-19.