Columbia County Sheriff David Bartlett and Greene County Sheriff Pete Kusminsky joined a group of sheriffs across the state to speak against Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 10-person limit on private gatherings.
The restrictions on private gatherings went into effect Nov. 13, along with regulations for gyms and establishments licensed by the state Liquor Authority to close by 10 p.m.
Cuomo addressed the pushback from county sheriffs in a briefing last Wednesday.
“There’s a law and you have to enforce the law or don’t call yourself a law enforcement officer,” Cuomo said.
The mandate has earned criticism among the law enforcement community for being unenforceable and unconstitutional.
“The Greene County Sheriff’s Office is not going to be actively enforcing executive orders regarding gatherings in people’s homes,” Kusminsky said in a statement. “We do not have the resources or inclination to peep into everyone’s home to see how many people are at the dinner table.”
Entering a private residence would require a search warrant, Kusminsky said.
“Enforcement of the executive order raises several constitutional questions,” he said. “Serious issues about the right of people to privacy in their homes, the right to be free from warrantless searches, the right to assembly, the right to equal treatment under the law, and the right to have criminal conduct clearly defined by law are all implicated by the governor’s executive order.”
The sheriff’s office is not encouraging residents to have large gatherings, Kusminsky added.
“We want citizens to use their own best judgment and remain safe,” he said. “We do not know the correct number for safety. We doubt anyone does. Would a gathering of 11 people be substantially more dangerous than a gathering of 10?”
Other factors need to be considered, Kusminsky said, such as if any of the occupants or guests are high-risk, where guests are traveling from, the size of the home and if anyone has been recently exposed.
New York State Sheriffs’ Association is taking a similar stance on the new restrictions.
“We do not know if the Governor’s limit on home gatherings to ten individuals is the right number or not,” said Charles J. Gallo, deputy executive director of the New York State Sheriffs’ Association in a statement. “That is a decision for science, not us, to make. We do know, however, that the Governor has attempted to foist upon local law enforcement an impossible task. How are officers to know, without violating citizens’ right to privacy and other Constitutional rights, how many people are in the home?”
The Columbia County Sheriff’s office also will not be enforcing the mandate, Sheriff David Bartlett said Monday.
“Columbia County Sheriff’s Office will not be participating in the enforcement of New York State’s Thanksgiving gathering restrictions,” Bartlett said in a statement. “We hope that everyone will be mindful of the current health pandemic as we enter the holiday season. Enjoy this time with your families.”
Cuomo encouraged residents to take the guidelines seriously.
“My advice on Thanksgiving — don’t be a turkey,” he said. “You don’t want to be the turkey on Thanksgiving.
As the Thanksgiving holiday rapidly approaches, new COVID-19 cases are popping up in local schools.
Greenville Central School reported three new cases over the weekend, bringing its total since the beginning of the school year to eight.
An employee at the elementary school tested positive Friday and two high-school students from the same household tested positive Sunday.
The employee had not been on campus since Nov. 12, according to a letter from Superintendent Tammy Sutherland.
“Both Albany and Greene county health departments have determined there was no exposure at the school,” Sutherland said. “Local departments of health will conduct contact tracing for anyone this individual was in contact with outside of school. The individual will not return to school until cleared by the health department.”
The high-school students were last on campus Nov. 18.
The middle and high school buildings closed Monday while Greene County Public Health conducts contact tracing. Students in grades 6-12 will learn remotely.
It is unclear when the middle and high school campus will reopen.
“Once contact-tracing efforts have been completed, families will be notified when the building will be reopened for students,” Sutherland said.
Coxsackie-Athens Central School reported its first two cases Friday, two middle-school students from the same household who have not attended school in person since Nov. 10.
“This situation has not created an exposure in the building,” Superintendent Randall Squier wrote in a letter to parents. “There is no new risk associated with this situation to other students or staff.”
Catskill Central School has reported two cases to date, with Cairo-Durham and Hunter-Tannersville each reporting one case.
Germantown Central School District announced Monday it would be switching to remote learning until Dec. 7 after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19.
“We understand this is a significant change for our students, staff members and families. This decision was not made lightly,” Superintendent Benjamin Bragg wrote in a letter to district families. “Over the past week, we have seen a significant increase in positive cases both in our school district and throughout our region and feel this is a necessary action to keep our students as safe as possible. Our top priority is the health and safety of our entire school community.”
Last Friday the district announced students would be learning remotely until Nov. 30 after a staff member exhibited COVID symptoms. Bragg said the district plans to return to in-person learning Dec. 7.
Ichabod Crane Central School District Superintendent Suzanne Guntlow announced Saturday that a high-school student had tested positive for COVID-19.
The district’s high-school students have switched to remote learning for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week and will return to in-person learning after the holiday break.
The positive student had last been in school on Nov. 13, according to a letter sent to district families from Guntlow.
“In the event that there are any further developments or if additional information regarding this matter becomes available, the school community will be informed as soon as possible,” Guntlow said. “Thank you for your understanding and continued partnership in keeping our community as safe as possible.”
Any students or staff who had been in close proximity with the positive student have all been notified about the mandatory quarantine period according to the letter.
New Lebanon Central School District announced it would be switching to remote learning until Nov. 30 after a positive case surfaced in the district’s transportation department.
Taconic Hills announced last Friday it had two students and two staff members who tested positive. According to a letter sent to district families Friday, 13 students and six staff members had to quarantine in connection to the positive cases.
Columbia County has had a total of 922 positive COVID cases since the beginning of the pandemic. There are 87 active cases in the county. There are 17 county residents hospitalized because of COVID-19, with two in the intensive care unit.
There were 424 people in Columbia County under mandatory quarantine as of Sunday afternoon, according to the Department of Health. This represents an increase by 139 from the 285 under mandatory quarantine as of Friday afternoon.