Village’s security team verbally assaulted as a result of attempted face mask enforcement

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Officials throughout Nassau County spoke on the need to further enforce face masks in public places. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

The enforcement of wearing face masks and complying with state-mandated safety precautions due to the coronavirus pandemic has led to members of a village’s security team suffering verbal abuse from residents.

Village of East Hills Mayor Michael Koblenz said that while residents of his village are required to wear masks in the Park at East Hills, the streets are a different story. 

“It’s enforceable in my park, cause you can’t get in without a mask,” Koblenz said. “In the park, we can enforce it and not let you inside, but there’s nothing to be done when they say ‘no’ when they’re walking around on the streets.”

At first, Koblenz said, East Hills security would stop while on patrol and ask anyone walking in village limits without a mask to put one on. The reactions, he said, were “shocking.”

“The security people asked them to put on masks and they’d get abused,” Koblenz said. “They’d do more than say no. And since they were abusive to our security staff, I’ve asked [the staff] to stop asking.”

Security would also keep a log on incidents where those walking refused to wear a mask, he said.

Koblenz said that other than enforcing the masks in the park, “there’s not much more we can do about it.”

“My view is that people don’t take it seriously,” Koblenz said. “We don’t have any real enforcement power from the governor because the streets are the streets. I can’t protect people from themselves.”

In mid-April, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order requiring New Yorkers to wear masks in public when they are unable to maintain a social distance, which is considered six feet.

On May 27, he signed an executive order that permitted businesses to deny entry to potential customers who were not wearing face masks or a protective covering through June 27.

Now that the executive order has expired and was not reinstated by Cuomo, there is no official order or law that allows  a store to deter customers from entering a store without a mask on. 

On June 29, Cuomo called on President Donald Trump to “lead by example” and sign a national executive order to require wearing of face masks.

“The President doesn’t have to pass a piece of legislation, doesn’t have to call the Congress, just sign an executive order saying wear a mask,” Cuomo said. “We did it two months ago in this state. The other states are just starting to do it now.”

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, a Democrat, has long echoed Cuomo’s sentiment of the benefits of wearing masks and has continued to encourage county residents to adhere to the state’s guidelines throughout the pandemic.

On June 29, Curran tweeted, “Masks and social distancing work. COVID hospitalizations in Nassau County continue to decline to new lows, with 0.5% testing positive and 1 death since Friday. As new cases surge around the country, let’s keep our guard up to ensure we continue moving forward.”

Dennis Grossman, president of the Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce,  said he hopes people will use common sense while traveling outside of their homes to prevent the further spread of the virus.

“Wearing masks depends on physical and surrounding conditions,” Grossman said. “Given we have a constitutional issue and those who would defy if forced, it is better to give a set of medically very solid circumstances where mask-wearing could save your life, someone else’s life near and dear to you or prevent a nasty and maybe non-recoverable illness for the rest of your life.”

Grossman said that he has not personally seen any violations of the recently expired mandate, and encouraged others to do “the smart thing and wear a mask.”

Long Island Rail Road commuters also expressed their concerns to Newsday about others not complying with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s requirement to wear masks.

The transportation authority established the requirement in April, which echoed Cuomo’s initial executive order requiring state residents to wear masks and other protective shields in public places.

Gerard Bringmann, chairman of the Long Island Rail Road’s Commuter Council, said there is no foolproof way to monitor every passenger who gets on a train.

“You’re going to get those people who aren’t going to do it unless they’re nudged or someone speaks to them,” Bringmann told Newsday. “It’s just human nature.  It’s unfortunate, but that’s just the way it is. And there’s no way you can 100 percent police this.”

Long Island Rail Road President Phillip Eng said in a statement, “It’s up to each and every one of us and our actions that will determine how quickly we beat this virus. So I ask public transportation customers, and those out in the public generally, to do the right thing, and wear a face covering. You never know whose life it’s going to save.”

 Rose Weldon contributed reporting.

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