A New York state senator from the Hudson Valley is calling on Governor Andrew Cuomo to marshal coordination with local law enforcement to ensure residents in Orange and Rockland counties are adhering to the state directives for the COVID-19 pandemic. The Rockland County executive has been pressing the state to allocate more resources to his county.
Governor Cuomo said Monday he is holding the PAUSE button down a bit longer.
“We have to continue the social distancing,” Cuomo says. “School and non-essential businesses will stay closed until April 29th.”
And he responded to reports of New Yorkers relaxing the social distancing practices.
“I want local governments to enforce the social distancing rules. The local governments are charged with enforcement. I want them to enforce them. And I want to be, frankly, more aggressive on the enforcement because all the anecdotal evidence is people are violating it at a higher rate than before,” Cuomo says. “So we’re going to increase the potential maximum fine from $500 to $1,000. But it’s not really about the fine. Nobody wants the money. We want the compliance. We are serious.”
Democratic state Senator James Skoufis:
“I applaud the governor for doubling the maximum fine today that he announced at his press conference, but this is stuff on paper,” says Skoufis. “Fines are on paper unless they’re being levied, unless there is enforcement and, right now, there is not enough of it.”
Skoufis wrote to Cuomo Monday, saying that coronavirus hotspots in Orange and Rockland Counties need significant enforcement measures.
“Really we need action now, whatever possible steps can be taken by the state to come into Orange and Rockland Counties to prevent the further spread of the virus,” Skoufis says.
Skoufis’ 39th District includes portions of Orange, Rockland and Ulster Counties.
“Right now it’s Westchester and New York City. Next it’s Orange, Rockland and Long Island to hit the apex of the wave. And we need to be prepared for that,” says Skoufis. “And so, so look, we, again, I sounded the alarm two weeks ago and reached out to the governor’s office, said, hey, this is coming. Well, it’s no longer coming, it’s here.”
Last week, Republican Rockland County Executive Ed Day asked for direction on enforceability, citing conflicting information. Day had called for a containment zone in the Town of Ramapo, similar to what was implemented in New Rochelle in Westchester County in March. A Cuomo spokesperson last week said a containment zone would be less restrictive than current orders. New Rochelle’s containment zone was implemented prior to more stringent state directives. Again Skoufis.
“We need the state to fully marshal its attention and its resources and its powers to assist the local enforcement efforts, whether that be with troopers or anybody else because it’s gotten bad here in Orange and Rockland Counties. There’s no sugar-coating it,” says Skoufis. “And, yes, there are hotspots in Monsey and Kiryas Joel, Palm Tree but, let’s be clear, the numbers are very high in the City of Newburgh. The numbers are very high in Middletown and many other communities. And people are just congregating too much.”
Responding to a reporter during his briefing, Cuomo reiterated his enforcement stance.
“Enforce the law. The localities have the legal right and responsibility to enforce the law,” says Cuomo. “My doing the penalty, raising the penalty is my way of saying, do it, just do your job.”
In his letter to Cuomo, Skoufis also raised overflow capacity in Orange and Rockland Counties.
“I am calling on the governor and the state to establish new bed capacity in our two counties," says Skoufis. "The Cornwall campus of Montefiore St. Luke’s Cornwall I think is an ideal location. It used to be a fully functioning hospital back in the day, so it has the infrastructure. And I believe those beds should be non-COVID-19, non-coronavirus beds to free up the beds in Newburgh for coronavirus patients.”
And he supports Day’s call for a field hospital in Rockland, possibly at Rockland Community College. Meantime, the Rockland County Division of Environmental Resources announced Monday it will close all county parks, effective 6 a.m. April 7, for the foreseeable future to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The closure will be re-evaluated every two weeks and extended as necessary.