ALBANY — Bars and restaurants must enforce state COVID-19 social-distancing and mask-wearing mandates after New Yorkers filed 25,000 complaints, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday, or else they could lose their liquor licenses.
The state has received 25,000 complaints, including phone calls and letters, about businesses that are not enforcing social-distancing guidelines, minimizing crowds or enforcing patrons wear face masks since New York started reopening nonessential businesses last month.
People filed complaints about businesses across the state, but most were in Manhattan and the Hamptons.
“These are violations the law,” Cuomo said Sunday during a pandemic briefing at the state Capitol. “There is no excuse. What's alarming about the 25,000 is the volume, but it also shows how smart people are and how offended people are that they're calling and complaining. ... They’re afraid for themselves - especially at bars and restaurants.”
Local governments must monitor the compliance in their municipalities and regions, Cuomo said.
“That is the local government’s responsibility,” he added. “You are responsible for compliance. Mayors, executives, you have to do your job. Failure to govern will result in closures.”
The governor's press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Sunday about potential local closures if officials fail to enforce the state's social-distancing, mask-wearing and reduced gathering guidelines, especially at bars and restaurants.
State Liquor Authority inspectors are out investigating local bars and restaurants to ensure they are enforcing, otherwise the establishment could lose its liquor license.
The state will allow low-risk youth sports, including baseball, softball, gymnastics, field hockey, cross country and crew, to resume under phase III of New York’s four-phase reopening plan. Two spectators are permitted per child.
Restaurants, food services, hotels and other accommodations will resume with social-distancing guidelines and half capacity under the third phase.
Central New York, the Finger Lakes, the North Country, Southern Tier and Mohawk Valley regions started phase III on Friday. The Capital Region is on track to enter the third phase Wednesday.
New York has the lowest COVID-19 transmission rate in the U.S. at 0.78%, or one person with the virus is infecting about 0.78% of another person, or less than one, indicating a decline.
Arizona has the highest rate of transmission at 1.21%. The next three states have similar infection rates at 1.11% in Alaska and 1.10% in Vermont and Arkansas.
Coronavirus cases have spiked in 22 states and Puerto Rico over the past several days after three weeks of protests, Black Lives Matter demonstrations and incidents of urban civil unrest in cities across the nation, Cuomo said.
Utah and Oregon rolled back reopening nonessential businesses because of the transmission surge.
“Imagine how devastating and dramatic an action that is,” the governor said. “What makes the determination? It’s what we do. It’s our behaviors.”
Cuomo warned New Yorkers to remain diligent wearing face masks in public and maintaining a 6-foot distance from other people to reduce the virus spread.
“The numbers can change in a week,” he said. “If you ignore the facts, it’s going to be to our peril. The reason we made the progress is because we followed the facts even though it was hard.”
State Department of Health officials are studying COVID-19 metrics in nursing and group homes statewide to develop a protocol to ease visitor restrictions.
Visitors are prohibited in New York nursing homes and group homes, as the facilities primarily house the most vulnerable populations to catching COVID-19, including senior citizens and people with underlying conditions and compromised immune systems.
“They’re talking to nursing-home operators, a number of infectious disease doctors and we’re going to have an answer this week,” Cuomo said Sunday.
Officials continue to monitor the new daily positive COVID-19 cases. The state’s 10 regions had between 0.6 to 1.4% positive coronavirus tests Saturday of New York’s 50,000-plus diagnostic tests conducted each day.
Staten Island had the largest increase of positive cases in New York City’s five bouroughs Saturday at 2.9% — up from 1.1% positive tests Friday. Officials will watch the figures for several days to determine if the downstate county uptick was a one-day anomaly, or indicator of a cluster or potential outbreak.
“You’re looking for basic consistency,” Cuomo said. “If it goes down, that’s great. You’ll see an up and down but if you see an uptick, uptick, uptick, uptick, then start to worry.”
The enrollment period for NY State of Health, the state’s health plan marketplace exchange, is extended 30 days through July 15.
The state saw 23 virus-related deaths Saturday, it’s lowest number of coronavirus fatalities in a 24-hour period since March 20, including 17 in hospitals and six in nursing homes. The state’s daily death toll has continued a flattening decline, but officials do not anticipate the figure will drop lower.
Statewide coronavirus hospitalizations declined to 1,657 patients Sunday, down 77, according to the governor’s office.
Sunday marked 106 days since New York recorded its first positive COVID-19 case and 20 days of nationwide protests sparked by the May 25 death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man while in Minneapolis police custody.