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With COVID-19 hospitalizations in New York escalating, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is imploring local governments to enforce capacity and other restrictions that have been put in place for bars, restaurants, gyms and other businesses.

“The numbers are going up. The hospitalizations are serious and hospitalizations are inarguable,” Cuomo said today.

There were 159 new hospitalizations in New York yesterday, according to state data.

“People don’t go into a hospital if they’re feeling well. They don’t go into a hospital to play politics. They don’t go into a hospital if COVID is a hoax. They go into a hospital because they’re really sick,” Cuomo said. “That number is going up. Please, please, little bit of rationality and sensibility and a little common sense. Please, be smart.”

“The lack of compliance is a problem,” Cuomo said.

And having restrictions without enforcement makes the restrictions “pointless,” Cuomo said during a phone conference with reporters this afternoon.

“If you allow the restrictions not to be enforced, people will not follow the restrictions. If you don’t give speeding tickets, people will speed. That’s the way it works,” he said.

“And that’s my point about local governments that are not enforcing the restrictions and not using their police departments to enforce the restrictions,” the governor said.

Riverhead Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said town police respond to complaints about possible violations and if patrol officers see possible violations at a place of business, they will investigate and advise the operator of the rules with the goal of securing compliance.

“It’s more rehabilitative than punishment,” Aguiar said. “That should be the goal here. You know, it’s our neighborhood and it’s our community, and we’ve got to make sure we don’t hurt our community and perform an aggressive, all-out check on businesses and give $10,000 fines out,” she said.

“We’re not doing anything different than any other town. Not one town is pursuing that type approach anyway. We all agree — all 10 supervisors [in Suffolk County] agreed together, cohesively, collectively, that it is more rehabilitative as opposed to a punishment,” Aguiar said. “If we get a complaint, we see a complaint, or we receive a complaint from New York Pause, we will visit the location.”

The Riverhead Police Department does not have a separate COVID enforcement unit dedicated to enforcing the restrictions, Aguiar said. Instead it relies on mobile patrols to keep an eye on things “from the outside.”

She said the town has had minimal violations. And when the police become aware of violations, such as the 300-person party on Middle Road Oct. 9, “we went there and did what we had to do,” she said.

“We’re in good shape here,” Aguiar said.

The supervisor said the State Liquor Authority has 1,400 inspectors on an enforcement detail and state inspectors have been in Riverhead almost every day.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.