Over 50 people were infected with coronavirus and around 300 more have been forced to quarantine after a pair of "superspreader" social events on Long Island this month.
Officials say the North Fork Country Club has been fined $17,000 after at least 90 people, well over the state’s 50-person limit on social gatherings, attended a wedding there on October 17th. Thirty people, including 27 guests, two employees and an outside vendor, later tested positive for the virus, and 159 people are under quarantine.
General manager Raluca Pintea told the Suffolk Times the country club would remain closed for two weeks, but members could still book no-contact rounds of golf with no food or drink service. She added that she couldn't comment on "any weddings or other events held at the club and wanted to protect member privacy."
On that same day of that country club wedding, a birthday party took place in Bellport with about 50 people in attendance; 26 of those guests have since tested positive for coronavirus, and another 132 people have been forced to quarantine as a result. That gathering did not quite violate the state's limit of 50 people, but Bellone said the lack of social distancing at the party showed how easily COVID-19 can spread.
“This kind of blatant disregard for the well-being of others is not only extremely disappointing—it will not be tolerated,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said at a news conference on Wednesday. “If you violate the rules, you’ll be caught and held responsible.”
And that's not all: a local homeowner, Kim Catalanotto, was fined $2,500 for allegedly hosting a large house party attended by 200 to 300 people, most of them underage, on October 24th. Catalanotto was also charged with criminal nuisance in the second degree for allowing minors to drink.
Two weeks ago, Suffolk County officials fined the Miller Place Inn $12,000 for hosting a Sweet 16 party that had more than 80 people in attendance. 37 people tested positive for the virus after the event, and 270 were forced to quarantine.
As with New York City, cases on Long Island have slightly but steadily increased over the month of October. According to data from the Suffolk County Department of Health, there were 634 positive tests last week and 598 the week before, compared with just 276 in the last week of September. The 163 reported cases this past Saturday is the highest single-day number since June 1st.
Officials fear that as with the Brooklyn and Queens hotspots, these kinds of social events could spark a wider outbreak.
“These kinds of superspreader events are a threat to our public health and to our continued economic recovery,” Bellone said. "While I understand people's frustration with the situation that we are all in, we have come this far because we've worked together. And these types of events can undermine and undo all that good work."
Earlier this month, the state health commissioner issued a pre-emptive order to limit the number of guests expected to gather for a wedding at a Williamsburg synagogue. Over the summer, a small wedding in Maine became a superspreader event that infected and killed people across multiple states.