Sheriffs decry enforcing ban on home gatherings as gov calls for spiritual unity

Thanksgiving Community Dinner

Enterprise file photo — Michael Koff
Large gatherings, like this Thanksgiving Community Dinner at the American Legion Post in Voorheesville, held in healthier times, are not possible in the midst of the pandemic.

ALBANY COUNTY — Governor Andrew Cuomo made a passionate personal plea during a New York City press conference on Monday for people to stay home for Thanksgiving, not gathering as usual.

At the same time, the New York State Sheriffs’ Association put out a message “to all New Yorkers” blasting the governor’s executive order limiting non-essential private residential gatherings to no more than 10 people and his call for enforcement by local officers.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises, “As cases continue to increase rapidly across the United States, the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to celebrate at home with the people you live with. Gatherings with family and friends who do not live with you can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu.”

The sheriffs wrote: “We do not know if the Governor’s limit on home gatherings to ten individuals is the right number or not. That is a decision for science, not us, to make.”

The association then posed a series of questions, including: “How are officers to know, without violating citizens’ right to privacy and other Constitutional rights, how many people are in the home? How are they to determine if the family gathering is to be deemed ‘essential’ or ‘non-essential’? If twelve people normally reside in the home, are the officers to order two of them to move out?”

In issuing the order, Cuomo had said those who live in a household can gather there.

The sheriffs concluded their lengthy statement: “We urge you to listen to our public health officials. We urge you to limit your exposure to those outside your household as much as you reasonably can …

“We in law enforcement do not have the resources nor the legal authority to force you to do those things. It is a matter of individual responsibility and we are confident that you will all voluntarily rise to the occasion.”

Albany County’s health commissioner, Elizabeth Whalen, and executive, Daniel McCoy, have frequently urged residents to stay home with their immediate families for Thanksgiving. Both McCoy and Whalen have said that they themselves are not gathering with extended family as usual but rather dining just with immediate family members at home.

Cuomo on Monday also announced new yellow zones, and Albany County itself is on the verge of possibly being declared a yellow precautionary zone if the infection rate does not improve within the next 10 days. McCoy, in a release, said the number of new cases from Sunday’s test results totaled 46 — a decline from recent days but still more than in the summer.

The statewide positivity rate is 3.08 percent, Cuomo said, again noting that keeps New York as the state with the fourth-lowest rate, behind Vermont, Maine, and Hawaii.

The Capital Region of which Albany County is a part, had a seven-day average of 2.8 percent, the third lowest of the state’s 10 regions.

On Monday, in a video ceremony, Cuomo accepted the Founders Award at the 48th International Emmy Awards. 

“In the darkest days of the pandemic, your daily briefings, live from New York, gave us hope, gave us clarity, gave us the truth, and gave us something we were not getting from Washington: Leadership,” said Billy Crystal in making the presentation.

“In the midst of this storm, Andrew Cuomo became the nation’s governor. People across the country tuned into his press conferences every day,” added Billy Joel.

At Cuomo’s Monday press conference, it sounded like some of the dark days may be returning as he announced that the South Beach Psychiatric Center on Staten Island will, at the request of local hospitals, be opening as a temporary emergency facility for COVID-19 patients.

As Cuomo warmed up to his pitch for New Yorkers to stay home on Thanksgiving, he recalled, when New York was the world epicenter of the disease, “storing bodies in refrigerator trucks,” running out of cemetery space, and walking into the Javits Center “which looked like an emergency hospital after an apocalypse.”

“This is not a normal Thanksgiving,” said Cuomo, describing the ads he’d seen on TV with “20 people around a table, everybody drinking, passing turkey, laughing, kissing, hugging. Yeah, all beautiful pictures of Thanksgiving in the storybook setting, the way we wish it could be.”

He described a phone call with his daughter Mariah, who lives in Chicago, deciding it wasn’t safe for her to travel home.

“She starts to cry and she said, ‘I feel so bad, I feel isolated, I feel trapped, I feel like I was looking forward to seeing you and I can’t get there.’ And those of you who have children know when your child cries it kills you. You feel pain worse than they feel pain,” said Cuomo.

His daughter Michaela then told him, “This is a special Thanksgiving. This is better than a normal Thanksgiving because it’s more powerful and it’s more meaningful and it’s not just about the commercialization and the toppings.”

Picking up on the Thanksgiving theme, the state’s Office of Mental Health launched its first-ever “Gratitude Campaign” to help New Yorkers give thanks for the sacrifices and efforts made to manage the pandemic throughout 2020. 

New Yorkers can share their thoughts either on the office’s website or through social media on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.


Newest numbers

As of Monday morning, Albany county has 5,091 confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to the release from McCoy’s office.

Of the 46 new cases, four had close contact with positive cases, 41 did not have a clear source of infection identified at this time, and one is a health-care worker or resident of a congregate setting.

Currently, 2,107 county residents are under quarantine, up from 2,081. The five-day average for new daily positives decreased to 87.2 from 97.2. There are now 824 active cases in the county, down from 839 yesterday.

So far, 20,901 county residents have completed quarantine. Of those, 4,267 had tested positive and recovered.

There were two new hospitalizations since Sunday, while the number of county residents currently hospitalized from the virus remained at 41; eleven patients are in intensive-care units. The county’s hospitalization rate is now 0.8 percent. 

Albany County’s COVID-19 death toll remains at 148.

Joined: 09/05/2014 - 18:44
Sheriff response treasonous

"Treasonous" sounds hyperbolic, unhinged, over the line. But what else to make from the message they send?
'It's us against the government' is all I hear.
The country is under an official National Health Emergency and all we get from the Sheriffs is how they won't cooperate. Nice. Ever hear of "optics"?
Law enforcement has the flexibility to use their own judgement, within the law, and Cuomo is just expecting that professional judgement to be exercised. Seems the Sheriffs would rather pick and choose the laws they enforce.

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