County Issues Public Health Order to enable Enforcement of NYS Order Prohibiting Gatherings

NEW CITY, NY, – To curtail the rapid spreading of COVID-19 in Rockland County, County Executive Ed Day has announced that Rockland County Health Commissioner Dr. Patricia Ruppert has issued a new Public Health Order. The Order specifies criminal penalties associated with the violation of the common-sense social distancing and gathering prohibitions set forth by New York State Executive Order 202.10. This additional route of enforcement enhances the ability of law enforcement where groups or gatherings of more than 10 people are not complying with social distancing.

The Health Department’s new order, Order 2020-0010S: COMMISSIONER’S AMENDED STANDING ORDER PROHIBITING GATHERINGS OF MORE THAN 10 INDIVIDUALS, is attached for reference.
The Commissioner also issued amended orders for the following, which are also attached:
Order 2020-008G:  COMMISSIONER’S AMENDED SECOND EMERGENCY SCHOOL CLOSURE ORDER
Order 2020-007G:  COMMISSIONER’S AMENDED COVID-19 TEST PROTECTIVE ORDER
Order 2020-0010S,  which is the “Social Distancing” order, prohibits gatherings in excess of 10 persons for any reason, not deemed essential by the Governor’s orders and guidance. The County Department of Health’s social distancing order prohibits larger gatherings and groups of people. It provides a clear rule against the mere existence of a larger group or gathering and clarifies that charges may be brought simply upon the existence of such a group.
County Executive Day spoke today with the Offices of the District Attorney and Sheriff. It was acknowledged that under the current enforcement scheme created by the Governor, gatherings themselves were not subject to criminal penalty. Penalties only arise after there is interference with law enforcement trying to break up a large group, such as disorderly conduct, obstruction of governmental administration, etc. However, if a group is acting peaceably, but does not disperse, the use of these laws could be limited.
“The orders issued today by our Health Commissioner have addressed the loophole that was keeping our local police agencies from being able to adequately enforce the Orders,” said County Executive Day. “This new Rockland County Health Order makes it illegal to participate in a group or gathering of more than 10 persons, or organize a gathering over 10 persons. I am pleased that we were able to work together with the Rockland County DA and the Rockland County Sheriff to bring clarity and consensus to this enforcement issue, and make it crystal clear to our residents that there will be consequences for anyone who violates the Orders.”
The County’s Public Health Order is in addition to the Governor’s Executive Orders, and provides a clear standard of behavior, which is enforceable by local and State law enforcement agents. The criminal penalties may be acted upon by law enforcement without the need for any Health Department intervention. Law enforcement can act on their own, citing violations or arresting persons on misdemeanor charges any time they observe groups or gatherings of more than ten people together.
Criminal penalties that may be asserted for violations include:
 • Public Health Law § 12-b, which providing for a misdemeanor for violation of any of these health orders;
• Public Health Law § 348 providing for a violation punishable on conviction for a first offense by a fine of not more than two hundred fifty dollars or by imprisonment for not more than fifteen days or by both such fine and imprisonment; and for a second or subsequent offense by a fine not exceeding five hundred dollars or by imprisonment for not exceeding fifteen days, or both; and
• County Sanitary Code § 1.24.0 providing for a violation punishable on conviction for a first offense by a fine not exceeding two hundred fifty dollars ($250) or by imprisonment for not exceeding fifteen days, or both; and for a second or subsequent offense by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000) of by imprisonment for not exceeding fifteen days (15) or both.
Even in circumstances where the enforceability of the Governor’s PAUSE orders may be unclear, these new Public Health Orders are immediately and fully enforceable in Rockland County under any and all of the penalties provided.
Due to amendments in the prior health orders, these criminal penalties are also enforceable against persons violating the County Health Department’s orders concerning:
• School closures, and
• COVID testing protective order, requiring those who have been tested to stay home until results are received.

As we approach the Easter and Passover holidays, we implore everyone in our community to heed the advice of health officials and stay home to curb the spread of this virus. These upcoming holiday meals should only be celebrated with the members of your immediate household. The NYS Department of Health has also issued updated guidance on this subject, making it clear that non-essential gatherings of any size for any reason, including worship services, parties, celebrations or other social events, are cancelled or postponed (see attached NYS DOH guidance issued 4/5/20).
For the most up to date information on the 2019 novel (new) Coronavirus (COVID-19), please visit the Rockland County Department of Health’s main Coronavirus webpage: http://rcklnd.us/covid19 or the Center for Disease Control & Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.