NY Steps Up Social Distancing Campaign Amid Rising COVID-19 Cases In Young People

Special Police Officers patrol the boardwalk at Long Beach on the first day that New York beaches were opened ahead of the Memorial Day weekend following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on Long Island, New York, U.S., May 22, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced two new social-distancing measures meant to combat a spike in coronavirus cases among young people in recent weeks.

Along with the launch of an ad campaign to emphasize the risk of the virus young people, the governor said a multi-agency task force will work to investigate bars and restaurants in violation of distancing guidelines. Cuomo said many young people across the state are wrongly underestimating the virus’ impact on their demographic, which has led to a surge in cases in their age group.

“There is an attitude that young people are immune, you are not,” Cuomo told reporters Thursday. “From 21 to 30 the virus can kill you and if it doesn’t kill you, you can bring it home and give it to someone inadvertently and it can kill them. So they’re laboring under false pretenses.” 

The announcement follows data from the last two weeks showing a jump in coronavirus case rates from 9.9 percent to 13.2 percent among those from ages 21 to 30 statewide. Each of the five other age groups recorded either the same or lower rates of infection over the two weeks. Last week, local officials warned that the rate of transmission rose to 2 percent following Fourth of July parties, but the rate has since dropped back down to around 1 percent.

Calling the increase “significant,” Cuomo reiterated that local governments need to enforce proper safety measures, and indicated that he is willing to provide state police assistance to help local health officials if necessary. 

“Just because people don’t like the law that you’re enforcing, doesn’t mean you don’t enforce the law,” Cuomo said. “Send them [local health officials] with local policemen, if you need help we will get you help with the state police, but we have to enforce the law and the local governments have to do it.” 

The video ad campaign, which Cuomo plans to pass along to the Ad Council and run nationwide, will also be featured across social media on platforms including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, according to Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa. 

Targeted specifically to people in the 21-30 age group, the 30 second ad features news headlines of young people who have lost their lives due to the virus, along with young people repeating phrases often used as an excuse to violate safety guidelines. 

“I’m young, COVID won’t kill me,” the ad says in part. “Famous last words, don’t let them be yours. Be New York tough and smart, socially distance and wear a mask.”  

The multi-agency task force, which will be headed by New York State Police and the State Liquor Authority, plans to use real time data as a means of sending investigators to the site of social distancing violations “as they happen,” according to the state’s website. Other investigators on the task force will include those from the Departments of Health, Financial Services, Motor Vehicles, Taxation and Finance, Insurance Fund and Agriculture and Markets. 

In Suffolk County, local leaders have clashed with Cuomo over their response to various social distancing violations over the last few weeks, but that has not derailed his intent to enforce distancing measures. 

“You get groups of young people, it’s warm they’ve been locked up for a long time and they like to socialize,” Cuomo said. “But you don’t socially distance, you don’t wear masks, the virus spreads and it is happening. To young people, this is not the time to fight for your right to party.” 

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