Two North Castle Town board members quarrel over masks at meeting


City Councilor Barbara DiGiacinto and City Councilor Jose Berra clashed at last week’s City Council meeting because DiGiacinto was not wearing a mask. Photo by Martin Wilbur

Two North Castle council members found themselves embroiled in a quarrel over masks at last Wednesday’s town council meeting, when a council member called his colleague for initially failing to wear a face covering.

During the city council and administrator portion of the meeting, City Councilor Jose Berra urged City Councilor Barbara DiGiacinto to put on a face mask.

Berra and DiGiacinto are seated next to each other at one end of the platform in the Town Hall meeting room.

He also asked City Clerk Alison Simon, who sits to Berra’s left and also did not wear a mask during the business session and for about the first 40 minutes of the regular meeting, to put one on as well. .

Berra said the emergence of the Delta variant this summer and the fact that he is often surrounded by children under the age of 12 who cannot yet receive the vaccine has made him very vigilant.

“My goal is not to embarrass anyone or make them feel bad,” said Berra, who is vaccinated and wore two masks while spending the work session sitting in the seats reserved for the public. “The last time people who watched saw, I expressed my gratitude to the entire city council for wearing the masks. For me, it’s a public safety issue, a public health issue, and an etiquette issue.

He said the city requires visitors to city council meetings to wear masks and the government should be held to higher standards. Additionally, city guidelines, based on advice from county and state health departments and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recommend social distancing, avoiding in-person meetings, and when they do. produce, they should be short.

Berra said he now had to consider self-isolation because people refused to wear masks.

“Barbara, I asked you. The last time you wore it. Last year at budget meetings you refused, belligerently refusing for no reason that I can understand, ”he said.

At this point, DiGiacinto said she felt personally attacked.

She explained that about 20 years ago, she was diagnosed with a rare form of breast cancer that required multiple surgeries. As a result, there were side effects which persisted.

“One of the side effects that I still live with today is that my body thermostat can really get out of control, and I go from very comfortable to 150 degrees,” said DiGiacinto.

When this happens, she said she takes off her mask to avoid extreme discomfort.

DiGiacinto has said she lives alone and is exercising great caution as she is “petrified” to contract COVID-19. However, the city’s policy for employees is that if they provide proof of vaccination, they do not have to wear masks, she said. Members of the municipal council are considered employees.

“So I’m very offended by what Mr. Berra said and to distinguish myself, and I’m going to put on a mask now because I don’t want to waste any more time, and like you said, we have a lot of work to do. to do. do, ”said DiGiacinto. “But every now and then I’ll take it off. It’s not disrespectful, it’s because I have to.

When Berra tried to answer, DiGiacinto cut him off saying, “Oh, please stop having the last laugh. “

DiGiacinto and Simon both wore masks for the remaining three hours of the meeting.

But Berra was upset to have to raise the issue publicly.

“I’m the one who’s quite angry and I really regret it, and I really hate trying to call people to task and be responsible instead of being selfish and irresponsible in my opinion,” he said. he declares. “So I would really appreciate it if people would do what I think they should be doing. “

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