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Upstate N.Y. Sheriffs Refuse to Enforce Cuomo’s Ten-Person Gathering Limit

N.Y. Gov. Cuomo speaks at the St. Nicolas National Shrine in New York, August 3, 2020. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

Several sheriffs in upstate New York say they will refuse to enforce Governor Andrew Cuomo’s new order limiting gatherings in private residences to ten people, which comes just as families are preparing to gather with extended family for Thanksgiving.

Fulton County Sheriff Richard Giardino said in a Saturday Facebook post that he will not be enforcing the order and questioned whether it was even constitutional, saying, “who and how many people you invite in to your home is your business.”

“Frankly, I am not sure it could sustain a Constitutional challenge in Court for several reasons including your house is your castle. And as a Sheriff with a law degree I couldn’t in good faith attempt to defend it Court, so I won’t,” Giardino said.

“We have limited resources and we have to set priorities, so obtaining a Search Warrant to enter your home to see how many Turkey or Tofu eaters are present is not a priority. We won’t be doing that,” the sheriff wrote. “I trust people in Fulton County to use their own judgement on who and how many people they invite. Obviously if you have high risk family members you will weigh the risks to your loved ones versus the reward.”

Cuomo announced new lockdown and social distancing restrictions for New York on Wednesday as coronavirus numbers in the state continue to trend upward. Under the new statewide restrictions, indoor gatherings at private residences across the state must be capped at ten people. In addition, all bars and restaurants with state liquor licenses as well as gyms must close at 10p.m., starting on Friday. Cuomo called such locations “main spreaders” of the coronavirus.

Washington County Sheriff Jeff Murphy and Warren County Sheriff Jim LaFarr also both said they will not enforce the ten-person cap on parties in their counties.

“We can’t enter people’s homes — there’s very limited circumstances,” LaFarr remarked. “We don’t know how to enforce this.

Saratoga County Sheriff Michael Zurlo issued a statement to the same effect, saying officers will not be policing Thanksgiving gatherings.

“I can’t see how devoting our resources to counting cars in citizens’ driveways or investigating how much turkey and dressing they’ve purchased is for the public good,” Zurlo said.

New York, which became the epicenter of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak in the spring, is seeing coronavirus cases increase again, especially in certain hotspots in New York City including Staten Island. The state’s positivity rate was 2.8 percent as of Sunday.

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