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Broome County Sheriff: 10-Person Limit Is Unconstitutional

BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG) — Broome County Sheriff David Harder released a statement on Tuesday stating he won’t enforce state guidance on private gatherings limits during the upcoming holidays.

Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order earlier this month that restricts gatherings in private residences to 10 people or fewer in an effort to curb recent surges of COVID-19 across the state and country. The governor said it is up to local governments to enforce it.

But the sheriff and County Executive Jason Garnar both said that order can’t practically be enforced.

Harder and other sheriffs with the New York Sheriffs Association said doing so would be unconstitutional.

“We believe strongly that this is a violation of the constitutional rights of citizens,” Harder said.

Last week, Cuomo said officers don’t have a choice in what they enforce or not.

“There’s a law and you have to enforce the law, or don’t call yourself a law enforcement officer,” the governor said on Wednesday.

In the statement, Harder called the comment “ironic” and “disingenuous.”

Garnar previously expressed his doubts about the ability to enforce the executive order.

The holiday season is often a busy time for law enforcement personnel, Garnar said.

“There’s an increase in drunk driving, impaired driving, amongst other types of things,” he explained during his COVID-19 briefing Tuesday.

Harder said he has a limited number of sheriffs, barring the extent they would be able to check on gathering throughout the county. When asked whether law enforcement would check on gatherings that received complaints, he said it would depend on the size of the gathering.

The sheriff said the Broome County Health Department should instead be responsible for carrying out the law, although he noted they are tight on staffing as well.

In his statement, Harder said residents should find ways to protect themselves and others from the virus.

Despite limits to its enforcement, Garnar said residents should still make every effort to follow the 10-person limit. That could prevent another massive spike in COVID-19 cases.

As of Tuesday, there are 580 active cases of the virus in Broome County and 29 hospitalized residents. More than 4,400 people are in quarantine, or 2 percent of the county’s population.

Garnar also announced a new COVID-19 hotspot at Elizabeth Church Manor Nursing Home. Bridgewater Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing remains another hotspot of the virus.