TROY, N.Y. — The Rensselaer County Sheriff’s Office said it won’t enforce the New York Governor’s recent order limiting the size of private gatherings. It is among several sheriffs’ offices in the state to have made similar announcements ahead of Thanksgiving.
Rensselaer Sheriff Patrick Russo has said his office doesn’t have the extra time to check on whether residents are following the directive during Thanksgiving celebrations.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s order, which took effect Friday, limits indoor and outdoor home gatherings to 10 people following a recent surge in the novel coronavirus disease.
New York state has recorded more than half a million COVID-19 infections and upwards of 34,000 deaths since the pandemic started at the beginning of the year, according to the Coronavirus Resource Center of Johns Hopkins University.
If Rensselaer deputies receive a call to check on a home’s compliance, and they’re not tied up on another call or arrest, Russo said getting a search warrant to enter the home could take “several hours.”
“We need to prioritize our calls and don’t have the time to spend those hours waiting,” the sheriff said in a news release Monday.
The 667-square mile county, Russo said, is usually patrolled by two or three deputies per shift. Rensselaer County borders Bennington County to the west.
Russo asked residents to “use common sense” and “follow best practices” to stay safe from the coronavirus. He cited practices such as social distancing, wearing masks and frequent hand-washing.
Russo’s stance on the governor’s order mirrors that of several New York sheriffs, including Saratoga County’s and Fulton County’s.
Fulton County Sheriff Richard Giardino has said on social media his office needs to prioritize calls for service due to limited resources. He said also he doesn’t think the order could sustain a constitutional challenge in court.
Meanwhile, Vermont State Police said their enforcement of Gov. Phil Scott’s new social restrictions — including against multifamily gatherings — remains focused on education and voluntary enforcement.
The VSP, the state’s largest law enforcement agency, said it has issued the same guidance to local police departments.
“Vermonters are really coming together to heed the orders that have been issued to date,” Public Safety Commissioner Michael Schirling said in a statement, referring to the governor’s earlier social restrictions. “We expect the same will happen with this additional order.”
But extreme, or repeated, violations can be referred by police to the Vermont Attorney General’s Office, said VSP spokesman Adam Silverman. Residents can report concerns to their local law enforcement agency, or they can file a report through the Health & Safety Compliance Reporting Tool on the Department of Public Safety homepage.
In a news conference this week, Gov. Scott said fining violators remains an option, but is not his first choice. The state hasn’t seen the need for fines, he said, because Vermonters on the whole have complied with the orders.
On Wednesday, the state health department reported 51 new COVID-19 cases, bringing Vermont’s total to 3,161. Deaths stood at 60, up by one in the past day.