The number of confirmed coronavirus cases on the Great Neck peninsula continues to increase at a higher rate than a majority of other villages in Nassau and Suffolk counties.
According to data from the Nassau County Department of Health, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the Village of Great Neck increased by 30, from 291 on Sept. 30 to 321 as of Wednesday morning. To put that figure in perspective, the village saw an increase of 58 cases from Aug. 24 to Sept. 30, more than one month.
On the peninsula, Kings Point, the Village of Great Neck, Kensington, University Gardens, Saddle Rock, Great Neck Estates and Harbor Hills each have a daily increase of 0.2 or more cases on a seven-day average per 1,000 residents, according to county data. The only other areas in Nassau County with figures that high are Lawrence, Inwood, Cedarhurst, Lido Beach, Woodmere and North Lynbrook.
Village of Great Neck Mayor Pedram Bral implored residents to abide by the state-mandated health and safety protocols, including wearing a mask or face covering and social distancing.
“We have been able to come back to some normalcy here, but that can go away if we become complacent,” Bral said during Tuesday night’s Board of Trustees meeting. “Please make sure to use your common sense and heed to the advice of the physicians and listen to the scientists.”
Kings Point has become another area in the Great Neck peninsula with a recent spike of coronavirus cases. From Sept. 1 to Sept. 30, the village saw an increase of 27 cases, to 168. In the last week, that number has increased by 18, from 168 to 186 as of Wednesday morning, according to Health Department statistics.
“As Village of Kings Point officials do everything possible to protect the health and safety of residents, citizens are urged to continue to help stop the spread of COVID-19 by staying home, practicing social distancing, washing their hands often and wearing masks when it’s necessary to leave the house,” a public notice on the village’s website reads.
Village officials declined to comment on the matter.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he would meet with officials from communities with “hot spot ZIP codes” over the coming days. Cuomo also said on Monday that religious institutions have been “a problem” in terms of trying to contain the spread of the virus.
“We know there have been mass gatherings going on in concert with religious institutions in these communities for weeks,” Cuomo said. “Religious institutions are mass gatherings and raise the greatest potential.”
Cuomo clarified that the religious gatherings applied to all religions rather than specific groups, but said he planned to meet with members of the “ultra-Orthodox” community.
“Whether it’s the Jewish community, whether we’re talking about Black churches, whether we’re talking about Roman Catholic churches, the religious community has to agree to the rules and they have to agree that they are going to follow the rules,” Cuomo said.
Bral also spoke on a “request to name and shame” certain members or groups.
“Despite some request to name and shame I will refuse to do so [e]specially to generalize about one community,” Bral said in a Facebook post. “I did not like it when they did it to our Chinese-American community, I did not like it when they did it to our Black community, I did not like it when they did it to the Orthodox community, and I do not like it when they do it to the Persian community. Generalization [is] usually racist or can be construed as racist. We must all refrain from doing so. There are individu[a]ls in every community who do not abide by the guidelines.”
Nina Gordon, a resident of the peninsula, commented on an article last week in the Great Neck News about residents’ concerns about a lack of enforcement regarding face coverings that quoted Bral’s comments on naming and shaming.
“It’s not ‘naming and shaming’ when there is photographic and video evidence of Persian weddings being held in violation of the law,” Gordon said in an online comment. “It’s speaking the truth. And the truth is, anyone who is holding large gatherings is breaking the law and endangering our entire Great Neck community.”
Gordon drew a response from several other online users, one of whom said her criticism of Bral was unwarranted and accused her of shaming the Persian community.
“No other mayor in Great Neck has informed the public about how to stay safe during the Covid pandemic more than Bral,” the user said. “It seems that your goal is to shame the Persian community, when noncompliance is not limited to one group.”
“If you or whoever doesn’t like the fact that people in Great Neck don’t wear masks, put your house up for sale and move to another town or country like China that adheres to masks,” another user said. “If you choose to stay in Great Neck, stay indoors and zip your mouth.”
These comments piggybacked off other Great Neck residents’ comments regarding a lack of respect from groups of typically younger people mocking those who wear masks even when outside where social distancing can be adhered to.
Village of Great Neck resident Jean Pierce said she went to check in on a friend when she noticed a group of people beginning to mock her and verbally insult her for wearing a mask on the sidewalk.
“People literally laugh at you if you put [a mask] on,” she said. “I had one man tell me that because I’m old, I shouldn’t even be walking outside. People just don’t get it. It’s like the virus doesn’t exist to them.”
Marnie Ives of Krön Chocolatier on Middle Neck Road said she hopes residents listen to the pleas of elected officials to wear a mask and maintain social distancing so that businesses on the peninsula do not have to go through another shutdown, something not all can afford to do.
“If people thought that the business district of Great Neck Plaza and Middle Neck Road wasn’t in great shape before, many businesses will not be able to come back again if another shutdown occurs,” Ives said.
Ives said she has seen instances of younger people not abiding by the laws, so she has a face mask and sanitizer ready when people walk in.
“Kids may be out riding their bikes and want to come in for some chocolate, but they have no mask on,” Ives said. “I’m happy to give them a mask, but it’s a problem when they go into a store and could potentially be spreading the virus if they don’t have that protection.”
“I don’t think anyone actually likes to wear masks all the time, but if the numbers creep up on the peninsula, we’ll lose this downtown that is already suffering,” she said.