For this Thanksgiving in New York State, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is telling families no more than 10 people can gather at the same location due to COVID-19. Protesters Monday morning outside of the Erie County Sherriff’s office called on local law enforcement to ignore the mandate.
“Here in Erie County, we have the sheriff saying one thing and doing another," said 2ANYS Founder Steve Felano. "So we implore the sheriff to step out publicly and say, we're not going to make or I'm not going to (enforce this) speaking as the sheriff.”
Felano is referring to a confrontation between business owners and a health inspector last Friday in Orchard Park at the fitness center Athlete’s Unleashed. Over 70 people gathered, many business owners, to discuss how to navigate future closures as positive COVID cases rise in the area.
“I’m asking for you to have some compassion,” said one Orchard Park resident to the health inspector.
“We do have compassion for people who have lost everything," replied the health inspector.
“Okay, well, you need to go have compassion out in the parking lot," said a different Orchard Park resident. "This is private property. This is private property,” he repeated.
Eventually, the confrontation led to members of the gathering chanting "get out" until the health inspector left.
Before the altercation, Erie County Sheriff Tim Howard released a statement:
“My office will respect the sanctity of your home and traditions, and I encourage you to follow your heart and act responsibly, as well as do what's best for your family.”
Felano and other protesters don’t want to see enforcement moving forward.
“I'm looking for clarity from the sheriff to come out and say no more office of the sheriff resources allocated to any type of enforcement whatsoever for these mandates,” Felano said.
Cuomo said several Western New York areas are trending toward becoming a COVID micro-cluster red zone, which would lead to more shutdowns as part of restrictions.
Cuomo said law enforcement officers don’t have the right to pick and choose what laws they enforce.
“How a law enforcement officer says, ‘I choose not to enforce that law,’ I believe that law enforcement officer violates his or her constitutional duty,” Cuomo said.
Cuomo added upstate sheriffs are just being political.
“The no more than 10 rule, people find intrusive. ‘You telling me in my house I can’t have more than 10 people? It’s none of your business what I do in my home.’ Well of course it is," Cuomo said. "Laws apply in your home. Domestic violence applies in your home. Drug laws apply in your home. Yes it does.”
Felano said regardless of restrictions, he believes COVID numbers will rise.
“If we look at countries that have the ability and the authority to literally lock in when you're home, and well, the door shut like China, they did all those things," Felano said. "They still had a resurgence, of sorts. So you're going to have increases in COVID, no matter what.”
2ANYS Founder Steve Felano says he’s concerned that Erie County Sheriff’s deputies forced their way onto private property to break up a private gathering of 10 persons or more about a week ago.
He says dangerous freedom is better than peaceful slavery. @WBFO pic.twitter.com/g4CKDPXcKT
— NicholasLippaWBFO (@NicholasLippa) November 23, 2020
Lancaster has the highest positivity rate in the state, hitting 9.17% as of Monday. As the virus spreads throughout the region, local and state officials continue to urge everyone to minimize the spread by avoiding large gatherings and wearing a mask.