No arrests in Albany County for COVID violations

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

“If everyone would just wear the damn mask for two weeks and not go into states that are quarantined, or come back and do the quarantine, we can get through this thing,” said Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple.

ALBANY COUNTY — The county sheriff’s office has received 575 complaints about violations of COVID-19 restrictions but has made no arrests, according to Sheriff Craig Apple.

Three times during the county’s Monday morning press briefing, Apple called for personal accountability.

“If everyone would just wear the damn mask for two weeks and not go into states that are quarantined, or come back and do the quarantine, we can get through this thing,” said Apple.

The sheriff’s report came against the backdrop of governor Andrew Cuomo’s repeated calls for local police to enforce coronavirus restrictions.

On Monday, Cuomo announced that 27 more establishments had on Sunday been issued State Liquor Authority violations for lack of compliance. This is in addition to the 52 violations issued on Friday and  the 53 Saturday. All of the violators were downstate.

“New Yorkers have to remember that where we are is a function of what we do — there’s a direct cause and effect,” said Cuomo during a conference call with the press on Friday.

The two situations that are being closely watched, he said, are the national increase in COVID-19 cases, which will eventually affect New York despite quarantine requirements, and the lack of compliance, particularly among young people at bars and restaurants.

“I’ve said every day for weeks local governments are not doing what they need to do and they have to step up,” said Cyuomo.

Apple on Monday presented a list of Albany County businesses about which complaints had been received. Walmart topped the list, with 22 from the Glenmont store, 17 from the Washington Avenue store, and 12 from the Latham store. There were 17 complaints against Grandma’s restaurant on Central Avenue, and 15 against Crossgates Mall in Guilderland.

In addition to restaurants and bars, most of the other complaints are with convenience stores and big-box stores, said Apple. Roughly 200 of the complaints are in the town of Colonie and about 150 are in the city of Albany, said Apple.

As of Monday, the sheriff’s office has issued six cease-and-desist orders, which are issued on a second visit, he said. Apple added, “We haven’t had to go to anything criminal yet.”

Some complaints are frivolous, he said, and chasing them down is “not a good allocation of resources.”

“People are calling if they see something on Facebook that happened yesterday. There’s not much we can do about that,” said Apple.

He also said, “We have a spike in crime right now so all of the officers are extremely busy.” Apple had said in late June that his office is now stationing 24 officers a day in the city of Albany, which has experienced a spike in shootings.

Apple also said Monday, “I’ve had multiple small businesses reach out to me that they’re just having trouble with the customers. It’s not so much the employees. Their policies are in place. Their signage is in place. They got all the proper PPE…,” he said of personal protective equipment like masks.

“Some people just don’t believe in it. Some people will come in and fight … There are expletives yelled at them over the masks, throwing the mask back at them,” said Apple of abuse suffered by business owners and managers.

Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy on Monday repeated his frequently-given advice that citizens should simply walk away rather than confront someone who isn’t wearing a mask or is part of a tightly clustered group.

He noted that citizens with complaints may call 1-833-789-0470 or go online to

“We’re not requiring you to be law enforcement …,” he said. “Walking away is the best way to resolve an issue.”

He also repeated his stance on penalizing small businesses, “The last thing we want to do is fine them, set them back. They’re already having financial hardship. They’re trying to deal with the new world.”

McCoy also said, “The vast majority of retailers are doing the responsible thing … You need help? Reach out to us … We want to work with the mom-and-pop businesses here in this county.”

About the uptick in cases in Albany County, Apple said, as people started going out and clustering with those they hadn’t seen for months, “We knew it was going to come back at some point.”

He also said a lot has to do with attitude, “Some people just say this is a hoax. Those are the people that are going to get others sick in a super-spreader like the Hudson Avenue party. Gosh, that’s devastating to a community.”

There are now 39 cases of COVID-19 linked to a Fourth of July weekend party, attended by about 200 college-aged people on Hudson Avenue in Albany. None of the party-givers or party-goers have been arrested and there are no plans to do so.

McCoy continues to urge those who attended the party to call the Albany County Department of Health at 518-447-4640 to get expedited testing.



Apple noted that, to try to prevent the spread of the disease, his office has given out over 350,000 masks and tens of thousands of gallons of sanitizer as well as countless gloves.

The supplies coming from the state have started to dry up. “So now we’re just buying it,” he said.

Masks and sanitizer can still be dropped off to businesses that request it, Apple said.

He also said, “We’re starting to field calls from schools that aren’t really sure what’s going to happen next week when they supposedly get their official guidance.”

If reopening schools are in a pinch, Apple said, his office might be able to help a bit but, he stressed, “We cannot give PPE to schools. That comes from the State Education Department.”

Cuomo said on Friday that the state wants to avoid the scramble it went through at the onset of the pandemic in New York, searching worldwide for personal protective equipment.

“We can’t be scouring the globe and paying exorbitant prices for medical equipment,” he said. 

Cuomo said that, before COVID, the state paid 70 cents per COVID mask but had to pay $7 per mask when the crisis was at its height.

“Empire State Development has identified 20 companies that we will be investing in that will increase their manufacturing capacity of PPE and part of that agreement will be that those companies will make that PPE available to the State of New York for our health-care facilities when and if we need it,” said Cuomo.

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