ALBANY — Bars and restaurants could lose their liquor licenses if they don’t enforce state COVID-19 social distancing and mask-wearing mandates after New Yorkers filed thousands of complaints, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Sunday.
The state has received 25,000 complaints, including phone calls and letters, about businesses that are not enforcing social distancing guidelines, minimizing crowds or enforcing that patrons wear face masks since New York started reopening nonessential businesses last month.
People filed complaints about businesses across the state, but most were in Manhattan and the Hamptons.
“These are violations of the law,” Gov. Cuomo said Sunday during a pandemic briefing at the state Capitol. “There is no excuse. What’s alarming about the 25,000 is the volume, but it also shows how smart people are and how offended people are that they’re calling and complaining ... they’re afraid for themselves — especially at bars and restaurants.”
State Liquor Authority inspectors are out investigating local bars and restaurants to ensure they are enforcing, otherwise the establishment could lose its liquor license.
The state saw 23 virus-related deaths Saturday, its lowest number of coronavirus fatalities in a 24-hour period since March 20, including 17 in hospitals and six in nursing homes. The state’s daily death toll has continued a flattening decline, but officials do not anticipate the figure will drop lower.
Statewide coronavirus hospitalizations declined to 1,657 patients Sunday, down 77, according to the governor’s office.
Local governments and officials must monitor the compliance in their municipalities and regions, Gov. Cuomo said.
“That is the local government’s responsibility,” he added. “You are responsible for compliance. Mayors, executives, you have to do your job. Failure to govern will result in closures.”
Gov. Cuomo also announced Sunday that the state will allow low-risk youth sports, including baseball, softball, gymnastics, field hockey, cross country and crew, to resume under Phase III of New York’s four-phase reopening plan. Two spectators are permitted per child.
Central New York, the Finger Lakes, the north country, Southern Tier and Mohawk Valley regions began Phase III on Friday. The Capital Region is on track to enter the third phase Wednesday and Western New York on Tuesday.
New York has the lowest COVID-19 transmission rate in the U.S. at 0.78 percent, or one person with the virus is infecting about 0.78 percent of another person, or less than one, indicating a decline.
Arizona has the highest rate of transmission at 1.21 percent. The next three states have similar infection rates at 1.11 percent in Alaska and 1.10 percent in Vermont and Arkansas.
Coronavirus cases have spiked in 22 states and Puerto Rico over the past several days following three weeks of protests, Black Lives Matter demonstrations and incidents of urban civil unrest in cities across the nation, Gov. Cuomo said.
Utah and Oregon rolled back reopening nonessential businesses because of the transmission surge.
“Imagine how devastating and dramatic an action that is,” the governor said. “What makes the determination? It’s what we do. It’s our behaviors.”
Gov. Cuomo warned New Yorkers to remain diligent about wearing face masks in public and maintaining six feet from other people to reduce the virus spread.
“The numbers can change in a week,” he said. “If you ignore the facts, it’s going to be to our peril. The reason we made the progress is because we followed the facts even though it was hard.”
State Department of Health officials are studying COVID-19 metrics in nursing and group homes statewide to develop a protocol to ease visitor restrictions. Right now, visitors are prohibited in New York nursing homes and group homes, as the facilities primarily house the populations most vulnerable to catching COVID-19, including senior citizens and people with underlying conditions and compromised immune systems.
“They’re talking to nursing home operators, a number of infectious disease doctors and we’re going to have an answer this week,” Gov. Cuomo said Sunday.
Officials continue to monitor the number of daily positive COVID-19 cases. The state’s 10 regions had between 0.6 to 1.4 percent positive virus tests Saturday of New York’s 50,000-plus diagnostic tests conducted each day.
Staten Island had the largest increase of positive cases in New York City’s five boroughs Saturday at 2.9 percent — up from 1.1 percent positive tests Friday. Officials will watch the figures for several days to determine if the downstate county uptick was a one-day anomaly, or indicator of a cluster or potential outbreak.
“You’re looking for basic consistency,” Gov. Cuomo said. “If it goes down, that’s great. You’ll see an up and down but if you see an uptick, uptick, uptick, uptick, then start to worry.”
The enrollment period for New York State of Health, the state’s health plan marketplace exchange, is extended 30 days through July 15.
Sunday marked 106 days since New York recorded its first positive COVID-19 case and 20 days of nationwide protests sparked by the May 25 death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in Minneapolis police custody.