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How are Gov. Cuomo's COVID-19 rules being enforced locally

Posted at 7:13 PM, Nov 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-16 19:13:48-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — In a coronavirus update on Monday Governor Cuomo said "Local governments, do the enforcement."

It's a statement Cuomo has said countless times since the start of the pandemic. 7 Eyewitness News looked for answers as to what extent the enforcement is occurring in Buffalo and Erie County.

One of the most recent COVID-19 rules is a ten person limit on private gatherings. .

“We’re not looking to go into people’s houses and start enforcing this," said Buffalo Police Department Captain Jeff Rinaldo. "We’re asking for compliance, we’re asking for people to take this seriously."

Rinaldo said police will respond to every complaint.

Erie County officials said contact tracing shows many cases are coming from friends and family at private gatherings.

Rinaldo said the college detail, which is used every year to patrol large parties, has shutdown a handful of parties this year due to a mix of COVID-19 violations and non-COVID-19 rules being violated. He said less parties have been shutdown than in years past.

One of the earliest NYS COVID-19 Executive Orders is wearing a mask in public when social distancing isn't possible.

Rinaldo said there's no summons in the system that could fine someone for violating mask protocol because there's no city ordinance for mask violations. He said officers are instructed to give people masks.

“We have not seen situations where our officers have been forced to take any kind of enforcement action in a public setting due to people not abiding by social distancing or wearing masks,” said Rinaldo.

The Erie County Health Department said that since March it has issued more than 500 COVID-19 related violations at food service establishments, with 60 of the enforcements including fines.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said that sanitarians will many times work with the local police department on enforcement.

“There’s a certain amount the Erie County Department of Health does, it’s required to inspect these facilities," Poloncarz said. "It is doing that. It is doing that on a daily basis, on a nightly basis, to ensure that compliance is being met, but when it’s also in the general public we need help from our local law enforcement agencies as well.”

On Friday, Erie County Sheriff Timothy Howard said he will not use his office to enforce limits on Thanksgiving gatherings.

"This national holiday has created longstanding family traditions that are at the heart of America, and these traditions should not be stopped or interrupted by Governor Cuomo's mandates," said Howard in a release.

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul responded saying, “The elected official in question has a job to do and it’s expected that it be followed."

Since October, the New York State Department of Health can fine local governments in hot spots up to $10,000 a day for not enforcing COVID-19 rules.