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Thanksgiving restrictions cause 'more damage' to fractured police relationship with community: New York Sheriff

Sibile Marcellus

Planning for Thanksgiving during the coronavirus pandemic has turned into an anxiety filled exercise in deciding whether or not Grandma should be invited.

The CDC has warned against travel for the holiday in the wake of the rise in coronavirus cases across the country. Governors in several states, including New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and North Carolina have placed a 10-person limit on the number of people Americans can invite into their homes for the holiday.

In New York, which is seeing an increase in the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations, many law enforcement officials are refusing to enforce Gov. Cuomo’s executive order limiting Thanksgiving gatherings. Fulton County Sheriff Richard Giardino publicly expressed his opposition to Cuomo’s order in a Facebook post on Saturday.

“I think people can make their own decision as to a risk-reward situation. And I think that people should take precautions. I do think it’s a serious disease,” Giardino told Yahoo Finance. “I just oppose the fact that it’s the governor overreaching with an executive order to try to get into somebody’s home, and to make the law enforcement have to do the dirty work, so to speak.”

FILE - In this Sept. 5, 2020, file photo, police use chemical irritants and crowd control munitions to disperse protesters during the 100th consecutive day of demonstrations in Portland, Ore. At least several thousand people are expected in Portland on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020, for a rally in support of President Donald Trump and his re-election campaign as tensions boil over nationwide following the decision not to charge officers in Louisville, Kentucky for killing Breonna Taylor. The rally and the unrest it could cause come as Portland approaches its fifth month of near nightly protests against racial injustice and police brutality. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)
In this Sept. 5, 2020, file photo, police use chemical irritants and crowd control munitions to disperse protesters during the 100th consecutive day of demonstrations in Portland, Ore. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)

Giardino points out that law enforcement is already trying to mend a fraught relationship with the community in light of the racial justice protests that were ignited after the killing of George Floyd over the summer.

“So at the same time we’re doing police reform, we’re going to send police officers to knock on your door at Thanksgiving, and say how many people are here. I want to look...I want to count how many people you have here. And we’re going to go in and check in the laundry room to see if grandma’s hiding out there,” said Giardino. “I think that does more damage in an already fractured relationship between the police and the community.”

As the sheriff of Fulton County, N.Y., Giardino views Cuomo’s executive order as a waste of limited police resources. “I have three deputies for 500 square miles on a shift and 55,000 people. I can’t be entering everyone’s home and counting cars,” he said.

In response to law enforcement opposition, Cuomo’s senior advisor accused police of playing politics, pointing out that sheriffs are elected officials.

In this Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020 photo provided by the Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, Gov. Cuomo holds a press briefing on the coronavirus in the Red Room at the State Capitol in Albany, N.Y. During the news conference, Cuomo predicted a "tremendous spike" in COVID-19 cases after Thanksgiving as he pleaded with people not to be lulled into a false sense of safety over the holiday. (Darren McGee/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo via AP)
Nov. 18, 2020, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo holds a press briefing on the coronavirus in the Red Room at the State Capitol in Albany, N.Y. During the news conference, Cuomo predicted a "tremendous spike" in COVID-19 cases after Thanksgiving as he pleaded with people not to be lulled into a false sense of safety over the holiday. (Darren McGee/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo via AP)

“Politicians acting like politicians and ignoring what the actual experts say has been fueling the spread of this virus [and] is what plunged this country in this continued public health crisis in the first place,” Cuomo senior advisor Rich Azzopardi told Yahoo Finance in a statement. “We urge everyone to continue to be smart and act responsibly. We know this makes people unhappy, but better unhappy than sick or worse.”

Giardino draws a distinction between Cuomo’s orders limiting home gatherings and businesses. Recent restrictions on businesses include the 10 p.m. curfew on bars and restaurants that went into effect a week ago.

“The governor can do that in businesses…[for] bars, restaurants because he has administrative oversight of the health department [and] the state liquor authority,” said Giardino. “You have to abide by the rules or they can suspend your license.”

Most businesses in Fulton County have followed the rules, Giardino said. “There’s some that I get multiple complaints,” he said. “We call them. We explain [that] the health department can shut them down or fine them.”

The coronavirus pandemic has claimed at least 250,000 lives in the U.S. (David Foster/Yahoo Finance)
The coronavirus pandemic has claimed at least 250,000 lives in the U.S. (David Foster/Yahoo Finance)

While precautions need to be taken to contain the spread of the coronavirus, the damage of some of the restrictions on businesses and people is permanent, says Giardino. “I think the damage done to social isolation [because of] some of these restrictions is not repairable. We have a doubling of mental health calls in our county,” he said.

Beyond Fulton County, the country as a whole is facing a mental health fallout as a result of the pandemic. “A lot of this is due to loss of jobs, furlough, fear that they’re going to lose their mortgage,” said Giardino.

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