By BILL HUTCHINSON, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — On its website, the North Fork Country Club boasts about being the setting of “peace and relaxation, tranquility and togetherness.” But New York state health officials said it was also the backdrop of a COVID-19 “super-spreader” wedding, at which dozens were infected and more than 100 others were forced to quarantine.
The wedding in October that drew more than 100 guests to the private Long Island waterfront venue is being made the latest example of what Gov. Andrew Cuomo described as the “dire consequences” that come from flagrant violations of the state’s pandemic-related restrictions on gatherings.
“Hosting one of these events after all New York has been through is obnoxious and irresponsible — not to mention illegal,” Cuomo said in a statement.
Once the U.S. epicenter for the coronavirus pandemic, when new COVID-19 hospitalizations reached nearly 19,000 per day, New York had reduced that figure to just above 400. But in recent weeks, hospitalizations in New York rose from 410 on Sept. 5 to 1,444 on Nov. 7, according to the state health department. New York’s daily positivity rate, which was below 1% on Sept. 18, jumped to 2.8% by Sunday.
The combination of super-spreader events, like this wedding, and otherwise responsible New Yorkers fatigued by months of coronavirus restrictions letting their guards down, government officials said they fear a second wave of the contagion.
“This type of blatant disregard for the wellbeing of others is not only extremely disappointing, it will not be tolerated,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said in a statement.
On Monday, the governor announced North Fork County Club’s liquor license has been suspended in addition to a $17,000 fine levied against the Cutchogue club by Bellone for allegedly violating Cuomo’s executive order that limits nonessential gatherings to 50 attendees.
According to the Suffolk County Department of Health, 113 guests attended the Oct. 17 nuptials at the North Fork Country Club. Through aggressive contract tracing, the department of health determined the wedding led to 34 people contracting the virus and that it “created widespread impacts on the surrounding community” with at least 159 individuals being potentially exposed and forced to quarantine.
Health officials said several schools also were forced to temporarily suspend in-person learning due to the super-spreader event.
Raluca Pintea, general manager of the North Fork Country Club, declined to comment on the fallout from the wedding on when reached by ABC News on Tuesday.
“I think our lawyers are going to say something,” Pintea said without elaborating.
The super-spreader wedding came less than a month after a Sept. 25 Sweet 16 birthday party addended by 80 people at Suffolk County catering hall led to 37 infections and another 270 individuals being exposed to the virus and forced to quarantine, according to county officials. Bellone fined the catering hall $12,000 for violating Cuomo’s executive order.
Vincent Bradley, chairman of the New York State Liquor Authority, said it’s baffling that such violations could still be occurring this far into a pandemic that’s killed 238,251 people in the United States and infected more than 10 million.
“By now, every licensee should be well aware of the protocols in place to stop the spread and should know that an event like this is unacceptable,” Bradley said. “We are still in the midst of a public health crisis, and the SLA will continue to hold those who ignore these lifesaving rules accountable.”
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