Rockland crackdown on coronavirus violations led to one fine that’s still unpaid – The Journal News

Posted By on November 13, 2020

A Rockland government enforcement of coronavirus violations during the pandemic's initial stages in March and April resulted in one congregation being fined by the health commissionerout of 13 citations, according to county documents.

The one group fined Congregation Shaarei Chesed in Ramapohas not paid the $4,000 penalty from April, government spokesman John Lyon said Thursday. The county has begun legal proceedings against the North Saddle River Road congregation, Lyon said.

Rockland County Executive Ed Day talks about the county entering Phase 3 of Covid-19 recovery at the Allison-Parris Rockland County Office Building in New City June 22, 2020.(Photo: Peter Carr/The Journal News)

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A Health Department inspector had cited the congregation for hosting more than 10 people in its synagogue in violation of the health commissioner's orders. Thesynagogue violated the attendance figure three times March 27, April 1, andApril 9, according to the county.

The congregation had been given60 days to pay the fine, said Lyon, a spokesman for County Executive Ed Day.

"This fine has not yet been paid," Lyon said. "It will soon be referred from the Department of Health to the Law Department so that collections can proceed."

A congregation official could not be reached for comment.

Lyon said the Health Department's involvement in combating thepandemic delayed the collection process after the deadline had not been met to pay Health Commissioner Dr. Patricia Ruppert's fine.

Ramapo policehad arrested eight men at the congregation on April 6 just days after the state government gave Rockland County officials the green light tocrack down on large gatherings.

Since the pandemic hit the state in the spring, there's been disputes and misunderstandings concerning whether county health inspectors or law enforcement should enforce the edicts of the governor and health commissioner.

Back in the spring, Day got into heated discussions criticizing Ramapo officials and police for notenforcing social distancing and limiting crowds attending funerals, weddingsand services after reading allegations of violations by residents on social media and receiving reports from inspectors.

Since October seven months after the pandemic struck the state took overenforcement of COVID-19 hot spots, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo threatenedto shut down religious gatherings and schools that violated regulations.

A total of seven violations have been issuedrecently under the commissioners Face Covering Order,Lyon said.

Rockland County is home to one of a handful of COVID cluster enforcement initiative zones that the governor enacted.

The hot spots includedareas in Rockland as Hasidic and Orthodox Jewish leaders rebuked the governor, once considered a strongally and recipient of thebloc vote, for targeting the community.

Congregation Shaarei Chesed at 92 N. Saddle River Road, Ramapo(Photo: Ramapo Police Department)

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In March and April, Rockland County government received 468 complaints predominately inRamapo. The violationsof county and state laws carry fines of $2,000 per violation.

The Rockland Health Departmentissued 13 violationssince enforcement beganin March toreligious organizations holding services and funerals, catering halls, people holding wedding receptions, schools and restaurants.

Out of the 13 notices of violations, the county has withdrawn all but one, according to Lyon and documents obtained by The Journal News/lohud under the state Freedom of Information Law.

Lyon said the violation noticesissued by the Health Department were withdrawn after the issues were corrected upon follow up and there was no need to move forward with penalties.

He said the goal was to compel compliance with the governors restrictions, not to collect fines or take punitive action.

The enforcement in Ramapo has been contentious, with leaders in the Hasidic and ultra-Orthodox communities contending their institutions had been targeted while other people and businessesgot away with allowinglarge gatherings without facial masks and social distances.

One Monsey woman saw the county notice of charges withdrawn after being accused of allowing too many people in her backyard during a March condolence gathering following the death of her husband.Some of the mourners didn't adhere to social distancing and didn't wear face masks.

The Health Department had withdrawn a violation notice days after issuing them to Central UTA of Monsey that the private school had violated the closure ban. The school officials, with their attorneys, argued parents and staff were at the school distributing books for home-study and lunches, as allowed by the governor's executive order.

"The goal was complete compliance," Lyon said, adding the notice of charges was intended to "issue a wakeupcall."

"In the broader sense, getting compliance increased awareness the rules needed to be followed by everyone," he said.

Steve Lieberman coversgovernment, breaking news, courts, police, and investigations.Reach him at slieberm@lohud.com. Twitter: @lohudlegal.Read more articlesandbio.Our local coverage is only possible with support from our readers.

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Rockland crackdown on coronavirus violations led to one fine that's still unpaid - The Journal News

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