ALBANY — Businesses that violate infection-control rules amid the COVID-19 pandemic can now be stripped of their liquor licenses or shut down immediately.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday said he’d issue an executive order that gives the state Liquor Authority increased powers to penalize businesses that don’t follow state-issued restrictions. The order also will make bar owners responsible for activity on sidewalks and other areas immediately adjacent to their business.
But putting new teeth in the rules will not be enough, and local agencies must step up, the governor said.
“I need local governments to do their part,” Cuomo said. “As we go through the phases of reopening the responsibilities of the local governments increase. The state cannot do enforcement on these local issues all across the state. I would, we don’t have enough people.”
Recent images of life resembling pre-COVID normalcy — businesses crowded with people not wearing masks and not staying six feet apart — prompted Cuomo to threaten to reverse the reopening of New York City.
But with so much of the enforcement done at the city and county level, and with cities and counties so varied in their approach to enforcement, compliance with the rules can vary significantly from one locality to the next.
Also Thursday, Cuomo said the state needs more data on infection and illness over the next couple of months before determining if colleges and universities will be allowed to resume in-person instruction and offer on-campus housing this autumn.
In the meantime, it is directing higher education institutions to prepare plans to reopen, monitor health, contain infection, and shut down if need be.
Grade schools are in a similar limbo: Cuomo has instructed them to provide plans for reopening but not told them whether they’ll be allowed to reopen come September.
Thursday’s briefing was the next-to-last daily press event the governor plans to hold on a scheduled basis. The pandemic has eased greatly in New York since early April, so after Friday, he’ll do COVID briefings only when circumstances require them.
Cuomo on Thursday continued the valedictory of sorts he’d begun Wednesday, with a review of how New Yorkers had worked to contain the virus and save thousands of lives. So few people are now testing positive in this state that he was in a “happy-go-lucky” mood.
He segued next into an impassioned indictment of the federal government’s handling of the pandemic, then into a warm tribute to the press corps that has covered the state’s response to the crisis.
Cuomo admitted he has felt a little like a pin cushion at times, as reporters bore down on him.
He has managed to sidestep most of the hard questions over the weeks and months, or say there was no blame, or deflect the blame elsewhere.
Thursday’s questions were easier.
- Might New York impose a 14-day quarantine on visitors arriving from states where infections are surging? Experts have recommended this. It’s still under consideration.
- Is a spike in infections or second wave of the pandemic coming? Mathematical probability would suggest there will be, as the economy reopens, but if full precautions are taken it is not inevitable.
- What’s next? I’ll be governor as long as the people of New York will have me.