SUFFOLK COUNTY, NY — As new statewide restrictions go into effect Friday mandating that all bars, restaurants and gyms must close by 10 p.m., new enforcement teams will be out in Suffolk County to ensure businesses comply, County Executive Steve Bellone said.
The new restrictions also limit the number of individuals allowed at indoor and outdoor house parties to 10, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said this week. Restaurants will be able to serve curbside orders after 10 p.m. but no alcohol can be sold to-go, Bellone said.
Each of the six new enforcement teams will include one fire marshal and one staffer from the consumer affairs division, Bellone said. Those teams will be informing and educating, as well as issuing citations for egregious violations, Bellone said.
In addition, contact tracing efforts have been amped up, with an additional 200 case investigators now onboard. The goal is to reach all positive cases within 24 hours, so that individuals can quarantine and prevent community spread, Bellone said.
There is also an "army" of 1,000 New York State contract tracers working on Suffolk County cases, he said.
With the recent surge in coronavirus cases in Suffolk attributed to Halloween parties, Bellone said with Thanksgiving coming, it's more important than ever to take precautions, such as staying outdoors, limiting the sharing of food, and testing for COVID before traveling.
"Small gatherings that seem harmless could lead to a spreader event," Bellone said. "We've seen that happen in Suffolk County. Cases are surging nationally and Suffolk County is not immune. Now is the time to double down on common sense measures that work. We are one 14-day quarantine period to Thanksgiving."
The recent surge and "alarming spike" in numbers included a positivity rate of 3.8 percent in Suffolk County Monday, a far cry from the 1 percent where the county has hovered for months, Bellone said.
"We are entering a dangerous period. We've long talked about the possibility of a second wave in the fall and it feels like where we are," Bellone said. "People traveling and getting together with family and friends indoors for long periods of time is exactly what this virus needs to spread."
The recent restrictions are the greatest since the economy began to reopen in spring and Bellone said the only way to prevent additional closures and get the numbers under control is by holding the line and adhering to social distancing protocols.
"For week we have been defying the surge that was happening all around us but it is here now," Bellone said. "I know people are exhausted, that it's been a long haul. But now we need to rise to the occasion again."
Bellone urged residents to stay home this weekend if possible and limit gatherings, wearing face coverings and washing hands when they have to go out.
"We have gotten to the point where we have made all this progress and we can see the possibility of a vaccine that could end this pandemic and bring a return to normalcy," Bellone said. "But we are now in a period where cases are surging and it's important that we redouble the efforts that have allowed us to make progress so we can contain the virus and save lives."