State DOH Denies County Executive’s State of Emergency Request

State Issues Updated Guidance to Retail Grocery Stores in Response

New City, NY, – The New York State Department of Health has denied County Executive Ed Day’s request to issue a Local State of Emergency Order that would have required food markets and pharmacies to take steps to encourage social distancing. However, the State Department of Agriculture & Markets today issued updated guidance to retail grocery stores which mirrors many of the measures that Rockland County had called for in its Order. Rockland County now has a total of 7,122 positive cases of COVID-19 as reported by New York State.   

“We wanted to issue the Declaration to ensure that our residents can continue to purchase the essential items that they need while keeping them and those who work at grocery stores and pharmacies as safe as possible during this critical time,” said County Executive Ed Day. “These precautions are needed now more than ever if we hope to be able to flatten the curve here in Rockland County. While we are disappointed in the NYSDOH’s decision to deny our Order, we are glad to see that the State has issued updated guidance that incorporate several of our measures. However, there must be a recognition on the State level that sometimes guidance isn’t good enough. We, on the local level, are best positioned to determine how to protect the health and safety of our residents.”  

The Order that the county wanted to put in place would have designated all grocery stores and pharmacies in Rockland County as Critical Public Health Protective Zones. Grocery stores would be any business (other than a restaurant) which has more than 1,000 square feet of space in which food for human consumption is sold to the general public. The new State guidance refers only to retail grocery stores.  

“While we cannot require the actions that the Order would have called for, we are asking grocery stores and pharmacies to voluntarily abide by the spirit of what the Order would have been,” said Day. “We understand that many stores are already enforcing social distancing measures and we ask that ALL stores now do so.”  

In addition to the State Guidance (attached), which contains many of the measures shown below, the County is asking that grocery stores and pharmacies institute the following protective public health safety measures (if they have not already done so):  

  • Establish at least one hour a day during which the store is open only to customers over 60 years of age who do not exhibit COVID-19 health conditions; 
  • Limit the number of customers allowed in the store at any one time to a reasonable number to accommodate the CDC-recommended 6-foot physical distancing; 
  • Mark six-foot distancing lines outside the entrance to the store and at check-out counters, provide sufficient personnel to remind customers to observe such markings, and provide appropriate signage of the distance markings. 
  • Provide hand sanitizers and/or fresh gloves and, if available, face masks for each employee each day, and require them to be used while working, and post COVID-19 health safety guidelines for employees, including those regarding hand washing; 
  • Provide either fresh gloves or sanitizing wipes to customers prior to entering the store; 
  • Wipe cart handles between use by different customers; 
  • Provide a receptacle at all exits outside the store for the disposal of gloves and masks, labelled “used masks and gloves”, and, 
  • If feasible, establish one-way aisles inside the store and separate entrances/exits for customers.

Grocery stores and pharmacies that voluntarily meet these requirements may notify the County Executive’s Office by email (CountyExec@co.rockland.ny.us) and, upon confirmation, those businesses will be recognized for their efforts. Had the Local Emergency Order been allowed to be issued; law enforcement would have been authorized to enforce the requirements, and penalties could have included both fines and misdemeanor charges.  

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