Many Area Officials Favor Wearing Masks, Others Remain Skeptical

| July 13, 2020

VENANGO CO., Pa. (EYT) – With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing, and some recent increases in our region and across the state, many area officials are speaking up in favor of wearing masks, while others remain skeptical.

Local Officials

“It (wearing masks) protects everyone and shows respect and support for each other,” Clarion County Commissioner Ed Heasley told exploreVenango.com.

He noted that he feels wearing a mask should be a personal choice, but went on to say he feels it’s “a gamble.”

“Some people could be carrying it (the virus) and not know it, and maybe you don’t get infected, but maybe the next person does. This virus is dangerous and can be life-threatening, so I try to wear a mask.”

“I am 100% for wearing masks,” Clarion Borough council member Rachel Roberts said. “I feel that if we are to continue to keep our businesses open, we need to protect everyone from the possibility of contracting COVID-19.”

“I am going to refrain from commenting on individuals wearing or not wearing masks. The government should not dictate the actions of an individual,” Clarion Borough council member Zachary Garbarino said.

“However I am disappointed by people boycotting and publicly bashing businesses that choose to mandate masks. Businesses are following state regulations so that they don’t lose what they’ve worked hard to create.

“It’s important to support small businesses especially during times like these. They are the fiber of our wonderful town. Lastly, I hope people dispose of their PPE items properly. If the rubber gloves and plastic wear are improperly disposed of they will continue to float in the clarion river long after this virus has passed.”

The sentiment regarding the need to protect local businesses was reiterated by many other officials in our region.

“I keep telling people the one thing to remember is we need to stay safe to stay open,” Venango County Commissioner Mike Dulaney said.

“I tell people to do whatever you can to stop the spread of this and stay safe. We don’t want our businesses shut down again.”

Venango County Commissioner Sam Breene echoed the same sentiment.

“We saw how people in the area came together, figuratively, and did what was right to take care of our community. We all said we wanted to come together for our businesses when they were shut down, and this (wearing masks) is just another way of doing that right now.”

Breene noted that while he does not agree with much of how Governor Wolf has handled the pandemic, from the business shutdowns to the ongoing restrictions, he sees wearing masks to protect others as an important way of protecting the local community.

“We need to remember to treat each other with kindness and respect above all. That’s what will get us through this, and what has been getting us through this,” Breen said.

“It is a nuisance? Yeah. But the reality is, if we want to keep our businesses open, it’s what we have to do.”

Oil City Council member Michael Poff spoke strongly in favor of pandemic-related health directives, particularly the wearing of masks.

“I want to thank a lot of people. I know for some reason wearing a mask has become something of an angst for some people, and every time I see someone wearing a mask, I know that’s a gift for me, not for them. Wearing a mask really only minimally helps ourselves, and we trust that it does help our neighbors,” Poff said.

“Hopefully next year we can have that big party, Oil City 150: it’ll be one hell of a party, and we can look back at this as a time we were together and one community, and not 10,000 individuals looking out for ourselves.”

“It’s tough to want to take care of your neighbors when you don’t trust them, and we don’t always trust each other, and we want to be angry about other things. Trust is really the basis of relationships.

“When I look around here and see everyone wearing masks, I thank you. I hate wearing a mask. It fogs my glasses really easy. It’s miserable. I thank my neighbors because I know that’s a sign of love when they wear the masks because no one wants to wear a mask everywhere they go.”

Jefferson County Commissioner Jeffrey Pisarcik also spoke in favor of wearing masks.

“We need to wear our masks and protect other people, and hope others wear their masks to protect us. This virus is for real, and we’re seeing the daily numbers going up,” Pisarcik said.

“I don’t like wearing them, but if it will keep me from possibly passing the virus to someone, I’m more than willing to be uncomfortable for a time.”

State, Federal Officials

“Do I think it (wearing masks) is best for 100 percent of the population? Probably no,” State Representative R. Lee James said.

“If someone is showing signs or symptoms of a health issue, then yes, they would be being a good citizen by wearing a mask. You’re darned right we don’t want to spread germs unnecessarily.”

James also noted he doesn’t agree with the current state mandate regarding masks.

“I think it is an infringement on our civil liberties, and they’re being chipped away a little at a time.”

Despite his misgivings, James said he does always carry a mask with him, and wears it when he is asked to do so.

“It’s a neighborly thing to do.”

State Representative Cris Dush noted he has concerns with the wearing of masks.

“I have concerns because we have not received one single solitary study that shows these things are effective and that they do not cause problems,” Dush said.

He went on to say he’s had reports of people suffering facial rashes as well as people having difficulty with the humid air while wearing masks.

“We need to use common sense,” he said, noting that he believes those with compromised immune systems should be protecting themselves with masks

“But not all day,” he added. “People can make their own assessment of what the risks are to themselves and others.”

While local state officials are less certain about the efficacy of masks, Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senators both stand in favor of wearing them.

“Public health experts continue to recommend mask-wearing in public, and ongoing research continues to support that recommendation,” said U.S. Sen. Bob Casey. “When you wear a mask, you are sending a clear message to others in your community that you care about them and their well-being as much as your own. I know that if we each do our part, we will beat this virus and be able to start safely rebuilding together.”

U.S. Senator Pat Toomey considers wearing a mask an important step that we can take to protect one another.

“Since late March, I have been making the case for Pennsylvanians to wear masks when they venture out,” said U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey.

“As the commonwealth continues to re-open, mask wearing has taken on increased significance, as studies continue to affirm that masks helps slow the spread of the coronavirus. Put simply, wearing a mask is an important step that we, as Pennsylvanians, can take to protect one another – as my mask protects you, and your mask protects me.”


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