Following similar moves across the Northeast, the Rockland County Executive has declared a state of emergency. It includes four orders, which, if violated, carry penalties and fines. The last time he issued orders with such teeth was about a year ago during the measles outbreak.
Rockland County Executive Ed Day says additional orders could be issued if warranted.
“The state of emergency will be in effect for 30 days through April 15, but may be extended at that time, depending on the circumstances,” Day says.
The first order dictates that all public and private schools grades K-12 will suspend classroom and extracurricular activities for two weeks, as of midnight tonight for the public schools and, for private schools, Wednesday. All universities, colleges, and other public and private post-secondary educational facilities must exclude students from those facilities before 12:00 a.m. Wednesday, March 18. They are not required to close dorms or dining halls as some students have not been able to travel home. Non-residents are prohibited from visiting student housing or dining facilities. Dr. Mary Jean Marsico is chief operating officer of Rockland BOCES.
“All of our school districts are committed to ensuring that all students will continue to have access to educational activities, enrichment and reinforcement activities and nutrition services during this time of crisis and disruption to our schools and our community,” says Marsico.
She says, amid rapidly changing information, it’s important to monitor official school district websites and text messages and listen to robocalls. Day says facilities solely dedicated to daycare, preschool and pre-kindergarten are exempt from the order so parents who work have a place to take their children. Day acknowledged Governor Andrew Cuomo’s announcement Monday that all schools in the state would close by the end of the day.
Then there’s a Hoarding Prevention Order that says businesses may sell only two of the same items, for example, two bottles of hand sanitizer, to a household or business per day. There’s a list of restricted items
“We are serious when it comes to those who do not comply with this law, the executive order. There are, our consumer protection people will be personally calling the stores in this county. They will out tomorrow in force,” Day says. “They will be visible and they will make sure that the people in this county get a fair shake when it comes to getting the basics they need to survive.”
He says there are reports that mothers have not been able to purchase baby formula in some stores. And he says there is no tolerance for price gouging. Another directive is the COVID-19 Test Protective Order, which requires residents awaiting test results to stay home and avoid interaction with the public until their test results are returned, at which time they will receive further instructions from their physicians or public health authorities. Rockland County Health Commissioner Dr. Patricia Ruppert says she has been advising residents to practice social distancing.
“Today, I’m going a step further and asking residents to consider staying home as much as you can,” Ruppert says.
Then there’s the Buffet and Salad Bar Protection Order, which limits buffets and salad bars to pre-packaging their food for sale.
“Violation of these orders is considered a Class “B” Misdemeanor. And anyone found guilty of that level of crime in New York faces maximum penalties of up to three months in jail or one year probation. In addition, a fine of up to $500 or double the amount of the defendant’s gain from the commission of the crime may be imposed,” says Day. “In addition to the “B” Misdemeanor charges, and maybe more significantly, we’re utilizing the same authority we used during the measles outbreak. Violators of Order Number 1 and Order Number 3 would also face fines from our Commissioner of Health of $2,000 per day per violation under the Rockland County Sanitary Code.
As of the time of Day’s orders, Rockland County had 18 positive cases of COVID-19.
“As we said during the first measles state of emergency, nearly a year ago, the goal here is not to fine or imprison anyone,” Day says. “We are only interested in getting compliance to protect the health and safety of all of our residents.”
Day also issued a recommendation.
“We are asking our local stores to allow older residents and those who have underlying health conditions to shop during the first hour when they’re open each day,” says Day.
Westchester County Executive George Latimer also declared a state of emergency Monday.
UPDATE from County Executive Ed Day’s office: In order to comply with Governor Cuomo’s school closing announcement the “Emergency School Closing Order” no longer exempts daycare, preschool and pre-kindergarten.