State cracks down on businesses that break reopening rules

Gov. Andrew Cuomo holds his daily coronavirus briefing Thursday with Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa. (Provided photo — governor’s office)

NEW YORK — Businesses that violate the state’s COVID-19 reopening rules and guidelines can immediately lose their liquor licenses or be ordered to shut down, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo declared in an executive order Thursday.

The mandate strengthens state enforcement to ensure business compliance during New York’s four-phase gradual reopening of nonessential businesses. The governor also signed a second executive order making bars responsible for the area immediately outside their establishments, expanding the State Liquor Authority enforcement area. SLA investigators are out monitoring enforcement.

“Local governments must get their act together,” Gov. Cuomo said Thursday during a pandemic briefing at his Manhattan office. “If you ignore the rules, then it’s not a phased reopening.”

The state has received 25,000 complaints, including phone calls and letters, about businesses that are not enforcing social distancing guidelines, minimizing crowds or enforcing that patrons wear face masks since New York started reopening nonessential businesses last month.

New York colleges and universities will receive guidance to allow for some in-person instruction and on-campus housing for the fall semester. Campuses must develop reopening, monitoring, containment and shutdown plans.

New York may consider implementing a 14-day mandatory quarantine to prevent the spread of COVID-19 from out-of-state travelers as the virus continues to spread in 20 states and Puerto Rico, Gov. Cuomo said.

State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard A. Zucker said medical experts do not know enough about COVID-19 antibodies to date to have an efficient antibody test.

“We don’t have an answer yet,” the commissioner said Thursday. “There are multiple different tests. We are speaking to scientists about this exact issue. We don’t know yet.

“Scientists ask why are the numbers down…New York’s done a phenomenal job.”

About 60 to 70% of the general population must be infected or exposed to a virus to achieve herd immunity, Mr. Zucker said.

“We’re nowhere near that,” Gov. Cuomo added.

New York City is on track to enter Phase II of reopening Monday. Global experts are studying the numbers and expect to give official clearance Friday.

“The issue going to Phase II or Phase III is compliance by people and enforcement by local government,” Gov. Cuomo said. “It depends on how people act, which is how this has always been determined. And people, especially in New York City, Long Island, compliance matters. And it’s not just moral and ethical, communal — it’s legal. So, be aware of the law, follow the law.”

Officials continue to monitor the number of new positive COVID-19 cases across New York on a daily basis. The state had 618 new positive virus cases Wednesday, or .90% of the 68,541 conducted tests, bringing the statewide total to 385,760 cases.

The 0.9% positive rate was the state’s lowest since the pandemic began in March. Contact tracers showed a COVID-19 outbreak at an apple processing factory in Central New York caused a small spike in positive cases, visible by the region’s increasing numbers from 0.6% positive diagnostic COVID-19 tests Saturday, up to 1.3% Sunday and a surge to 3% positive Wednesday.

The plant had 34 infected workers to date.

“That’s the only caution sign across New York state,” the governor said.

The state saw 29 virus-related deaths Wednesday, including 22 in hospitals and seven in nursing homes. The state’s daily death toll has continued a flattening decline for several weeks.

Statewide coronavirus hospitalizations declined to 1,358 patients Wednesday, down 121, according to the governor’s office.


Tribune News Service contributed to this report.


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