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Warren County sheriff says he can't enforce 10-person house party limit

Warren County sheriff says he can't enforce 10-person house party limit

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Warren County won’t be enforcing the 10-person house party limit either, Sheriff Jim LaFarr said Monday.

Washington County Sheriff Jeff Murphy posted on Facebook over the weekend to tell people his deputies would not be counting cars in people’s driveways or otherwise checking up on them to enforce Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order limiting private home gatherings to 10 people.

LaFarr said he wants to support Warren County Health Services, which has strongly advised against traveling or participating in non-essential gatherings.

But, LaFarr said, there’s no way to enforce the executive order.

“The order doesn’t contain any sanctions. The governor has issued an order we can’t enforce,” LaFarr said.

The trouble is that sheriff’s deputies can’t randomly search people’s houses. It’s not the same as stopping drivers to check for drunken driving.

“We can’t enter people’s homes — there’s very limited circumstances,” he said. “We don’t know how to enforce this. This is an order I don’t know how, or with what means, any law enforcement agency would enforce it.”

Deputies would be allowed to knock on a door if they believed a crime was happening inside a house, but none of the governor’s executive orders have been filed with the legal documentation as to what crimes would apply. Some orders have included fines, but not this one.

For the penalty-less orders, the Sheriff’s Office has skirted the issue by simply telling people what the rules are and asking them to comply. That’s worked so far, LaFarr said.

“Our sheriff’s department has been doing our best to be diplomatic,” he said. “It’s safe to say Warren County has seen very good success.”

He said he would not issue a statement about whether people should celebrate with only their household, as the governor has asked, or stick to a 10-person limit, as the executive order requires.

“Exercise your best judgment. Do your best to stay safe, stay healthy,” he said, noting that it would be worse to invite one infected person than 10 people that the host knows have been careful to avoid infection.

Whitehall students

Many high school students are quarantined because of cases involving high school students, Superintendent Patrick Dee said at Monday’s school board meeting.

According to the school COVID database, a state lab has reported one case involving a student. But Dee said it was more than one.

“We do have students at our high school level that are unfortunately testing positive for COVID and we have a pretty significant number of students that are now in quarantine,” he said.

The high school is not offering in-person classes, but school officials had said they wanted to open the school next year, perhaps in March.

Now, Dee said, he’s just hoping to keep the elementary school open.

“What we’re trying to do is keep as many people off campus as possible because if we hit that magic number that the governor has set, we will need to have to close our elementary to solely virtual instruction as well.”

At issue is that if the area has too many cases, it becomes a “yellow zone,” in which schools that offer in-person classes must test 20% of the students and staff every week.

“We simply don’t have the capacity to test,” Dee said, adding, “I would have no idea how we would get parental consent. We would likely need to close.”

BOCES case

A student who attends classes at the BOCES center on Dix Avenue in Kingsbury has tested positive for coronavirus, Washington County Public Health reported.

The person was in the building last week. On Monday afternoon, after getting the positive test report, Public Health was able to contact every person who had close contact. The building remains open for in-person instruction.

SUNY Adirondack

A student who lives off-campus has tested positive for coronavirus, according to the SUNY COVID dashboard. The student is isolating off-campus. So far, despite numerous tests of the entire on-campus population, none of the on-campus students or staff have tested positive.

Monday’s statistics

  • Warren County reported one new case, for a total of 447 confirmed cases since March. The person had been in quarantine after being in contact with a person who tested positive for coronavirus. There are 31 people currently ill, and none are hospitalized.
  • Washington County reported three new cases, for a total of 375 confirmed cases since March, and five recoveries, for a total of 339 recoveries. There are 23 people currently ill, one of whom is hospitalized.
  • Saratoga County reported 81 new cases since Friday, for a total of 1,686 confirmed cases, and 10 people recovered, for a total of 1,408 recoveries. A total of 258 people are currently sick, and 15 people are hospitalized, one more than Friday.
  • In the northern Saratoga County towns, new cases include two Moreau residents (for a total of nine), one town of Saratoga resident (for a total of five), and two Wilton residents (for a total of 16). Still ill: seven Moreau residents, four Northumberland residents, four town of Saratoga residents, two Schuylerville residents, two South Glens Falls residents and 14 Wilton residents.
  • Essex County reported six new cases since Friday, for a total of 183 cases since March. There are 14 people currently ill, one of whom is hospitalized. The person who was hospitalized last week has been discharged, but a new person was later hospitalized. So far, no cases have been linked to the exposure at St. Agnes Catholic Church in Lake Placid.
  • Saratoga Hospital reported seven coronavirus patients, and Glens Falls Hospital reported zero.

For Sunday, the most recent day for which the following data was available:

  • The Capital Region reported a total of 96 cases, a positive test rate of 2.3%. The goal is to stay under 1% to keep the virus under control, but every county other than Warren and Washington are well above that mark.
  • Warren County was at 0%, with a seven-day average positive test rate of 0.9%.
  • Washington County was at 0.9%, with a seven-day average of 0.8%.
  • The other counties, from highest to lowest: Schenectady County was at 3.7% with 19 new cases; Rensselaer County was at 2.9% with 12 new cases; Columbia County was at 2.4% with five new cases; Albany County was at 2.2% with 43 new cases; Saratoga County was at 1.9% with 14 cases Sunday; and Greene County was at 1.4% with two new cases.
  • Statewide, 3,490 people tested positive Sunday, an overall positive test rate of 2.8%. The hot spots had a positive test rate of 4.19% and the state without the hot spots had a positive test rate of 2.5%.
  • There were 1,968 people hospitalized with coronavirus Sunday and 25 people died.

You can reach Kathleen Moore at 742-3247 or kmoore@poststar.com. Follow her on Twitter @ByKathleenMoore or at her blog on www.poststar.com.

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