56 get COVID after ‘superspreader’ wedding, birthday party

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A wedding and birthday party on Long Island have turned into coronavirus “superspreader” events after at least 56 people tested positive for the virus. Nearly 300 people in attendance are now quarantined, according to officials.

According to Suffolk County Executive Steven Bellone, the wedding took place at North Fork Country Club in Cutchogue on October 17. Despite restrictions, 91 people attended the wedding and at least 30 people have tested positive for COVID-19, the majority of whom were guests.

Bellone said that an additional 159 people are quarantining as a result and recommend fining the venue $17,000 for violating New York state’s rule limiting non-essential gatherings to 50 people or less.

“This type of blatant disregard for the wellbeing of others is not only extremely disappointing, it will not be tolerated,” Bellone said during a news conference Wednesday.

North Fork Country Club did not immediately respond to CBS News’ request for comment.

In nearby Bellport, a birthday party with about 50 attendees — not technically a violation of social distancing limits — took place on the same day. At least 26 guests have since tested positive for the virus, Bellone said, leaving an additional 132 people in quarantine.

Officials said a handful of Suffolk County school districts have been affected by the diagnoses and associated risks.

The two superspreader events come just two weeks after a Sweet 16 party in Suffolk County led to more than three dozen positive coronavirus cases. County officials fined The Miller Place Inn $10,000 for hosting the event.

Suffolk County has remained one of New York state’s hardest-hit coronavirus hotspots, with more than 48,000 confirmed cases and over 2,000 deaths. According to Johns Hopkins University, it is the 15th deadliest county in the U.S.

“We have literally come too far, here,” Bellone said Wednesday. “We’ve been through too much. We’ve experienced too much pain, anxiety, harm, both personal to people’s lives, economic harm — families are still in crisis, businesses are still struggling to survive, and yet, through all that, we have come incredibly far. And this kind of activity is what threatens to bring us back.”

In addition to the two superspreader events, a party in Farmingville led to several 911 calls on Saturday after an estimated 200 to 300 people crammed into a house, the majority of whom were minors. Officials said the homeowner — the first to be penalized in the county — was fined $2,500.

The Suffolk County Health Department is investigating the events for potential cases.

“These kinds of superspreader events are a threat to our public health and to our continued economic recovery,” Bellone said. “If you violate the rules, you’ll be caught and held responsible.”

New York, once the epicenter of the virus in the U.S., has seen hot spots pop up in recent weeks and officials have largely blamed social gatherings. Governor Andrew Cuomo urged residents on Wednesday to avoid such gatherings as the holidays approach.

“My personal advice is the best way to say, ‘I love you,’ this Thanksgiving, the best way to say, ‘I’m thankful for you and love you so much, I’m so thankful for you that I don’t want to endanger you and I don’t want to endanger our family and I don’t want to endanger our friends. So, we will celebrate virtually,’ but that is my personal opinion,” Cuomo said.

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