Thanksgiving gathering limits: Where area sheriffs stand on the issue

Coronavirus

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo said this week we will see a tremendous spike in Covid-19 cases after Thanksgiving.

He recently declared a limit of no more than 10 people at gatherings, and is ramping up that message for next Thursday. Particularly on turkey day, Cuomo has asked first responders to help with his executive order. 

“I don’t believe as a law enforcement officer you have a right to pick and choose what laws you will enforce,” Cuomo said. He added, “An executive order is a law that has been litigated. ‘Well I don’t believe in that law and therefore I won’t enforce it.’ That is frankly frightening to me as an individual, frightening to democracy. It’s arrogant and it violates your constitutional duty. You didn’t say ‘I swear to uphold the laws I agree with.’”

But the local Sheriff’s Office wants to make it clear: “The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office is not going to be coming around and knocking on your door and asking how many people you have in your residence,” says Sgt. Matthew Battone.

He says they just don’t have enough deputies to do that. Battone says people should know the rules and act accordingly. If a call does come in for some large group, they’ll work with the health department.

“So what would happen is we would triage those calls. Most of that enforcement is going to happen by the Department of Public Health,” he says.

In a statement on Facebook, Wayne County Sheriff Barry Virts says he is not defying the Governor, but he and his team, “will not enforce or respond to reports of gatherings of 10 or more during the Thanksgiving holiday time period or at any time”. Sheriff Virts says private gatherings are “outside the scope and functions of this office.”

Battone says just because they won’t be peeking in windows, doesn’t mean deputies won’t be hitting the streets this holiday like they do 24/7. “We’re still going to be out there. We’re still going to be answering our 911 calls.”

Battone says the advice to combat coronavirus is tried and true: mask up, stay socially distant, and if you have any type of Covid symptom, stay home. He says that’s a choice you’ll have to make. 

“We’re all in this together. And we’re all in this together so we can have Thanksgiving together next year,” he says.

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