Helen Fries, of Franklin Square, usually celebrates Thanksgiving with about 20 family members, and was planning to do so again this year when Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that gatherings must be limited to 10 people, and that any businesses that serve alcohol must close at 10 p.m., to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Nassau County had a 3 percent positivity rate for the virus last Friday, according to data from the county Department of Health, and Elmont and Franklin Square saw an increase in cases of about 4 percent from Nov. 6 to Nov. 13.
“If you look at where the cases are coming from, if you do the contact tracing, you’ll see they’re coming from three main areas: establishments where alcohol is served, gyms and indoor gathering at private homes,” Cuomo explained in a news conference on Nov. 11, adding that the new restrictions are in line with the state’s policy to determine whether to increase economic activity based on the state’s Covid positivity rate. “It was never binary — economic activity or public health — it was always both.”
Enforcement of the new restrictions, he said, would depend on local governments.
But some Franklin Square and Elmont residents responded to a Herald Facebook inquiry by saying they thought the new laws constituted governmental over-reach. Fries said her family is always careful about getting together, and another Franklin Square resident, Patrick Murphy noted that Americans have a right to assemble under the Constitution.
Christine Ingordino-DeVeau, also of Franklin Square, pointed out, “The governor is imposing these rules for families, struggling restaurants and eateries, but remains silent when it comes to Democrats celebrating in the streets [and] Black Lives Matter protests and riots.”
“It’s a disgraceful abuse of power in my opinion,” she said.
Christopher Gioia, who’s also from Franklin Square, suggested that rather than limiting the number of people who can assemble, the state government should instead protect the most vulnerable and let everyone else “go about our business and our lives.”
And Jessica Murphy, of Elmont, said that while she did not want anyone to contract Covid, she thought it would be better for the governor to reduce capacity at local restaurants. “I don’t think service businesses, which make up most of our economy, will survive another winter shutdown,” she said.
Anna Cortesiano, co-owner of Salvatore’s of Elmont, said she wasn’t sure how she would be able to continue paying her staff with hours reduced. “The state regulations keep changing daily, and it is very challenging for restaurant owners to keep track of every new rule that takes place,” she noted, adding that her and her husband, Vito, with whom she owns the Italian restaurant, “are on the state website daily to see if any updates are posted for restaurant owners.”
The Cortesianos already require staff members to wear masks and gloves, have their temperatures taken and complete a Covid checklist before every shift, Anna said, and Vito recently installed a walled tent with heaters to accommodate patrons during the winter months. “We have so much to do to keep us in the loop of what we need to do,” Anna said in a message to the Herald. “It is just really hard, yet my husband is the most positive person you will ever meet.”
Other residents, however, said they understood why Cuomo implemented the new regulations. Debby Maerhofter Iadeviao, of Franklin Square, said that while she was upset that she couldn’t spend the holiday with her family this year, she “decided that’s what’s best to ensure we all stay healthy.” And Steve Williams, also of Franklin Square, said he understood “why people feel like [Cuomo’s] stepping on their toes, but there’s a spike in cases, deaths and hospitalizations right now, so it’s probably best that we avoid or limit … gatherings.”
Alyssa Peverell said that it’s “better to have one irregular holiday season than to lose a loved one, or be the reason somebody else does,” and Roberta LeBaron suggested that people use technology to stay connected, saying, “Taking Covid seriously and some sacrifice this year will hopefully make it possible to enjoy more events safely next year.”
Shane Juman said that if people had followed Covid guidelines earlier, “we wouldn’t be in this situation” and “As strict as it sounds, Cuomo is trying to prevent another lockdown because of a bigger outbreak.”
“A distant relative,” Juman added, “is better than a dead relative.”