CHAPPAQUA, NY — New Castle police are increasing their enforcement of pandemic protocols for social distancing in the wake of Horace Greeley High School graduation events that have so far caused 14 cases of new coronavirus.
The announcement came Monday afternoon after Westchester County officials visited New Castle and begged the hundreds of people who were exposed at graduation or the related parties to comply with the mandatory quarantine and to answer the phone when contact tracers call.
The new case numbers also came Monday afternoon, a jump from just five cases connected to HGHS graduation that had been confirmed Sunday. SEE: Coronavirus Cluster: 14 In Isolation From Graduation, Parties.
The HGHS outbreak is connected to two local families who returned from trips to Florida, County Executive George Latimer said at a news conference on the steps of town hall. The events over June 20-21 drew not only the school's more than 300 graduates but also family members, other Greeley students and staff, as well as teenagers from nearby communities.
Latimer and Health Commissioner Sherlita Amler repeatedly reminded residents that everyone who attended the ceremony or parties must properly quarantine themselves.
"If you go get tested and you're negative that does not release you from quarantining. Please don't go to the grocery store. Please don't get your hair done," Amler said. Plus, she reminded people to keep themselves separate if they're sharing a dwelling. "Quarantine is not just staying home."
Latimer and Amler also repeatedly asked people to answer calls from contact tracers, saying that tracing and warning everyone that people who have tested positive for the new coronavirus came in contact with while infected is essential to stopping the outbreak.
Plus they repeated the arguments for wearing masks, so that you don't infect others.
Don't want to do any of it? "Too bad. Too bad," said Latimer. "The pleasurable use of your time or my time is secondary to stopping the spread of the disease."
But everyone has to be practical, he said.
"There are not enough police in the world to come to your front door to make you do what you know is right," he said.
Still, two hours later, New Castle Police Chief James D. Carroll sent out a townwide alert saying that additional officers have been assigned to pandemic protocol enforcement.
"The New Castle Police Department, like every other police department in Westchester County and across the state, hoped that most persons and businesses would voluntarily comply with the Governor’s COVID-19 related Executive Orders. We have made a concerted effort to educate and warn violators that non-compliance could result in a criminal or civil charge. While the overwhelming majority of residents are compliant, we are increasing our social distancing enforcement based on recent activity in Town," he said.
Be advised from the delivery of this NiXLE until the Governor’s Orders change, you can be charged with the following:
- Violation of Health Law (PBH § 12-B) – criminal misdemeanor; up to $10,000 for a first-time violation and/or up-to one-year imprisonment.
- Violation of Health Law (PBH § 12) – civil violation; up to $2,000 for a first-time violation and $5,000 for repeat violations.
- 10 NYCRR 66-3.2 Section 66-3.2. Non-essential gatherings prohibited – civil violation; maximum fine of $1,000 for each violation.
- Disorderly Conduct, PenalLaw § 240.20 (6) – criminal violation; up to a $250 fine and fifteen days in jail.
If you observe a social distancing violation or any other violation of the Governor’s Executive Orders, please call (914) 238-4422.
The governor's orders also include mandatory 14-day quarantine for everyone who attended the HGHS graduation ceremony, Field Night event, or events associated with graduation, which continued into June 21. If they show no symptoms and their test results are negative, that's until July 5.
Anyone with symptoms should be tested immediately. A 14-day isolation period is required of everyone who tests positive.
A photo from the graduation ceremony widely shared on social media shows many students and guests mingling without masks during the ceremony, which was planned as a "drive-in" event at the Chappaqua train station's south lot.
During the news conference, Lt. James Dumser of the New Castle Police Department said two officers were at the ceremony and asked the school district to make an announcement during it for people to get back in their cars. He said those two officers are now quarantining because of possible exposure.
Latimer said he understood what happened. "We can absolutely relate to the emotion of the moment," he said. "This may be the last time you see them as you all go off to college and separate lives."
He also reminded county residents that this could happen to them, calling Chappaqua's coronavirus cluster "a cautionary tale."
"It could be an Independence Day event you host at your home," he said. "One of the important messages is it could have happened anywhere."