It’s everywhere on social media: residents complaining about people filling stores, walking close together, teens gathered on bicycles or playing basketball, ice cream trucks roaming neighborhoods and public recreational sites.
Since the government-ordered shutdown of schools and many businesses, people suddenly find themselves at home where the urge to go out and hang out with others can seem overwhelming. Shopping, practically a sport on Long Island, draws many. The urge to have a backyard get-together or see friends at religious services appeals to others.
But it is the sight and photos of kids playing together, socializing as if they’re enjoying a snow day off from school, that seems to provoke the most comments, often followed by mind-your-own-business responses.
“Parents: Why are you letting your kids ride bikes in groups and stop to hang out, talk, hit each other, play around???”
“Why aren’t these parents doing their job?” and “Call the cops!” are frequently met with such comments as, “Mind your own business pull your shades down paint your bathroom get off your soap box.”
There is no room for debate as far as government authorities are concerned. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday that he is increasing fines for violations from $500 to $1,000 and has repeatedly criticized communities that haven’t cracked down. The Suffolk Police Department has patrols out in business districts in every precinct, looking for violators. The Town of Huntington has repeatedly asked residents to report violations on public property.
The health concerns are real. The point of the shutdown and endless reminders to practice social distancing was to stop the spread of the contagious coronavirus, one that has already claimed the lives of nearly 5,000 people in New York State.
“We have gotten a number of calls about people and businesses who are not following social distancing guidelines,” said Inspector William Scrima, commander of the Suffolk County Police Second Precinct. “Many of the calls are unfounded, others are at businesses that people mistakenly believe are not designated essential.
“We have encountered a few non-essential businesses that are open and a few gatherings of people in public areas. All have complied with the guidelines, when notified by our officers.”
That was last week. As government officials get more frustrated, as more deaths occur, but as unemployment continues to skyrocket because of the shutdown, attitudes, and whose business it is to address what’s happening, could change.