Local leaders urge WNY to stay home for holidays as local police don’t plan to enforce gathering order

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LOCKPORT, N.Y. (WIVB) — As people debate whether to spend Thanksgiving with loved ones, officials are urging them to think twice.

“Thanksgiving is a great holiday. It’s important to share it with the people around you that you love,” said Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein. “But this year, we really are begging you to share it with the people around you who you live with.”

Under the state’s newest COVID-19 ruling, people cannot have gatherings of more than 10 people. During his briefing Wednesday, the Governor called on law enforcement departments to enforce this order.

“I don’t believe as a law enforcement officer you have a right to pick and choose what laws you enforce,” Cuomo said.

But law enforcement officers across the state have come out to say they don’t plan to enforce this ruling, including in Western New York.

Niagara County Sheriff Michael Filicetti announced he would not be putting resources toward limiting private gatherings.

“I’m not picking and choosing what laws I’m enforcing. I’m enforcing the laws that I can legitimately enforce and this directive is not enforceable,” Filicetti said.

Cuomo has said he’s not expecting law enforcement to knock on doors and count heads, but Filicetti says his office has yet to receive formal guidance from Albany. Because of this, he tells News 4 he’s not telling his deputies to enforce this ruling.

Erie County Sheriff Tim Howard is also part of the long list of officials who will not enforce this mandate. Last week Howard announced he has no plans to “use resources or Deputies to break up the great tradition of Thanksgiving dinner.”

In Niagara County, Filicetti says he’s relying on residents to be responsible.

“I don’t want people to think that I’m advocating for large parties and spread COVID,” he said. “Use sound judgement, follow COVID protocols. That’s not what [not enforcing] is about. This is about legally what I can do.”

Marlee Tuskes is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.

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