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Long Island health law enforcement improves in restaurants, bars, Cuomo says

Nassau and Suffolk counties "have been more rigorous"

Nassau and Suffolk counties "have been more rigorous" in enforcing the health laws in restaurants and bars in Farmingdale and elsewhere, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Monday. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

This story was reported by Alfonso A. Castillo, Scott Eidler, Bart Jones and Beth Whitehouse. It was written by Jones.

State officials handed out summonses to 27 establishments Sunday night for failing to follow orders aimed at slowing the COVID-19 pandemic, mainly in New York City, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Monday.

Nassau and Suffolk counties have improved enforcement of regulations such as wearing masks and limiting crowds, in contrast to New York City, where enforcement continues to be a problem, Cuomo said.

"They have been more rigorous…," Cuomo said in a conference call with reporters, referring to both counties. " … We did the visits last night on Nassau and Suffolk, but we didn’t have any violations. So that makes the point. The violations were in New York City.”

Progress at getting Long Island establishments and their patrons to adhere to the mask and social distancing guidelines is a welcome change after Nassau, Suffolk and New York City had long been a source of frustration for the governor. Members of the state's task force that is focused on violations issued 189 violations between July 21 and Saturday, according to the governor's office. The majority were in the city and on Long Island, officials said.

On Sunday, several Long Island officials said they were cracking down on violators.

Authorities upstate have also done a better job of enforcing the laws, Cuomo said Monday.

“Many of the local governments in upstate New York are more aggressively enforcing the rules," Cuomo said. “We are seeing greater compliance by the local governments outside of New York City. That’s why we are focusing on New York City” and sending in state troopers and State Liquor Authority agents to supplement local efforts.

Authorities issued 53 summonses on Saturday and 52 on Friday, Cuomo said.

He also said the state has suspended the licenses of 40 establishments, including 10 since Friday. One of those, announced last week, was the Secrets Gentlemen's Club in Deer Park.

The majority of businesses causing the problems are frequented by young people out partying, Cuomo said. 

“Most of the bars and restaurants have been great," he said. "It’s always the same. It’s a handful of bad actors who ruin it for everyone."

Despite the violations, coronavirus indicators continued to be good across the state, with a 1.06% positive level in testing performed on Sunday, Cuomo said. Some 608 people were confirmed positive out of about 57,000 tested.

Eleven patients in New York died of coronavirus-related causes on Sunday, he said. That included one person in Nassau, according to County Executive Laura Curran.

It was the county's first death from the virus in nine days and a "sad reminder that despite the tremendous sacrifice and discipline our residents, frontline workers and first responders have demonstrated in crushing the curve, we are still not yet out of the woods," Curran said.

In Dix Hills, five staff members tested positive for COVID-19 at a day camp, the director of the facility said Monday, and some three groups of campers are quarantining for 14 days, though none have tested positive.

On Friday, one staff member informed Park Shore Country Day Camp of a positive COVID-19 test, director Bob Budah said. Four additional staff members then also tested positive, he said.

The camp’s health director immediately contacted the New York State Public Health Department Bureau of Communicable Disease Control hotline and worked with the Suffolk County Health Department to initiate protocols including contact tracing and quarantining, the camp said in a statement.

“We are confident that camp remains a safe environment for all of our campers and staff,” the statement said.

Cuomo said the number of cases of Kawasaki disease, a coronavirus-linked syndrome that can inflame the heart and damage blood vessels in children, teenagers and young adults, has risen to 240 statewide, an increase of about 15 in the past month.

But he noted that "New York is not a good gauge for this" because overall numbers of coronavirus are dropping here, while they are rising in other states. 

Cuomo also announced that Empire State Development has identified 20 companies the state will invest in to increase their manufacturing capacity of personal protective equipment.

When the pandemic hit, he said, New York did not have enough. 

"We can't go through what we went through last time," he said. "We can't be scouring the globe and paying exorbitant prices for medical equipment. You know, an N95 mask, before COVID started, we paid 70 cents per COVID mask. When the crisis was at the high point, $7 per COVID mask. So it's not just a necessity. It's also an economic reality that the price gouging happens and we don't want to be subject to either."

Meanwhile, Kennedy Airport on Monday announced it had become the first airport in the United States to use camera technology for monitoring and addressing social distancing. The CrowdVision SafeDistance technology, deployed in JFK’s Terminal 4, can automatically identify areas where people need to be dispersed in order to prevent prolonged overcrowding, and provide the real-time data to airport workers, who can respond and break up crowds. 

“The introduction of CrowdVision will not only help us become more efficient but will also help maintain a safe environment in the wake of COVID-19,” said Roel Huinink, president and chief executive officer of JFK International Air Terminal LLC, the terminal’s operator.

Meanwhile, MTA officials were still holding out hope Monday that a forthcoming COVID-19 stimulus package will include enough aid need to balance their budget this year.

Some federal lawmakers on Monday said a bail out should include funds to keep the transit agency afloat in 2021.Six members of Congress from the region, including Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City), joined the Riders Alliance and other transit advocacy groups Monday in calling for the $15 billion that was included in the House’s HEROES Act to be upped to $32 billion.

That would be enough to fill the $10.3 billion budget deficit the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said it expects to have by the end of 2021.

“Healthcare workers, first responders, and the other essential workers who rely on public transportation during this pandemic could be unjustly faced with higher fares and service cuts if the federal government doesn’t step in,” Rice said in a statement. “Our regional transit agencies need direct federal assistance to avoid budget shortfalls and maintain their operations. It is imperative that Congress provide further COVID relief transit funding before it is too late.” 

The MTA, which has already spent the $3.8 billion it received in the CARES Act, has been pleading for another $3.9 billion in federal aid to get through the rest of this year. But it has also cautioned that the revenue losses caused by the pandemic will last through 2021 and beyond. 

The Long Island Rail Road expects to lose about a half-billion dollars in fare revenue this year alone.

Without a government rescue, the MTA has said it would have to turn to fare increases, service cuts, lay offs, and the deferral of several infrastructure projects.