'I know we're all exhausted': York mayor explains city's COVID response

Matt Enright
York Dispatch

York City Mayor Michael Helfrich gave an update Monday on the COVID-19 pandemic, speaking about the measures the city is taking to try to reduce the number of people sick with the disease.

"I know we're all exhausted, but people are getting very sick, people are continuing to die," Helfrich said. "This has definitely been a huge health crisis, and I'm going to continue to do what I can from my seat." 

READ MORE: York City cancels holiday events due to COVID-19 surge

That includes canceling large city events like the New Year's White Rose Drop in Continental Square and the New Year’s Eve Children’s Balloon Drop at Voni Grimes Gym.

It also includes going to a work-from-home model at York City Hall with most services by appointment only. The treasurer's office will remain open.

Helfrich said that although COVID-19 rates haven't spiked as they did last year, the city is working to set an example by avoiding public gatherings that increase the transmission of the virus and increase wait times at local hospitals.

"This isn't a theoretical kind of thing," Helfrich said. "If you have other conditions like a broken arm or needing stitches, they're finding that your wait times are going to be longer, and if this keeps up it's just going to get a lot worse." 

York City Mayor Michael Helfrich reads 'Twas the Night Before Christmas during Light Up York in downtown York City, Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Helfrich said York Hospital was at 112% capacity last week and that he'd spoken to both of the health care systems in York.

He also encouraged residents to get a COVID-19 vaccination.

"I have maintained that it is your choice to be vaccinated or not; however, the logic and the math doesn't lie," Helfrich said. "The hospitals do not want to be over 100% capacity. These health care workers and doctors and administrators, they do not want to be in near-crisis mode, exhausting their people." 

In his message, the mayor also renewed his urging for the council to pass the 2022 budget, which has seen some controversy over the potential use of American Rescue Plan Act funding.

READ MORE: Mayor, council spar over how to use $35M in federal funds

"This is money we've been given to fix the problems in York City," Helfrich said. 

Helfrich encouraged interested citizens to go to the City Council meeting on Tuesday because it will discuss the budget. He acknowledged that he was encouraging a gathering but said that the meeting is an extremely important one and that no one will be allowed in without masks.

"Either contact your council members or please attend tomorrow night and voice your concerns that they would let this money sit in a bank somewhere instead of having it address the problems of York City," Helfrich said.

Matt Enright can be reached via email at menright@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @Matthew_Enright.