• Rich Klein

EXCLUSIVE: Holiday Party For Law Enforcement Officers Led To Multiple Covid Cases

MONTICELLO - A holiday party for local law enforcement that was organized by a Sullivan County Sheriff's deputy - and held at Ciao Bella restaurant in Monticello on December 12, 2020 - turned into a significant Covid-19 event, a source told The SullivanTimes late Sunday night.


The source said that there were approximately 35 guests at the restaurant on Forestburgh Road here, which was reportedly a "protest" holiday party since the official (annual) holiday event hosted by the Sheriff's Office and scheduled for December 11 at The Rockland House in Roscoe was cancelled.


The source said that the Ciao Bella party was organized by Sheriff's Deputy Anthony Skow-Kwestal, who could not be immediately reached for comment.


Among the Ciao Bella guests, according to the source, were also some officers from Town of Fallsburg and Village of Liberty Police Departments, as well as some 911 dispatchers.


( The Sullivan County Public Health Department issued a public health advisory on December 17 confirming that a patron at a Ciao Bella party on December 12 had tested positive for Covid. The advisory stated that "more than two dozen people" attended the party and that "many were not wearing masks." It was not known until now that the party was actually a gathering of law enforcement officers).


The source told The SullivanTimes late Sunday that at least 12 of those estimated 35 guests had tested positive for Covid-19.


"The party resulted in nearly half of those guests contracting the novel corona virus and god only knows how many people they gave it to after that," the source said. "A couple of the attendees and their significant others got pretty sick but I believe all have since recovered, thankfully. The amount of guests far exceeded the allowed capacity of the small restaurant during this time of PAUSE (which was also open for business that evening) and there was no mask wearing or social distancing." The standing Executive Order for indoor dining on that day in Sullivan County was 50 percent capacity.


The SullivanTimes late Sunday and early Monday reached out to Sheriff Michael Schiff, Town of Fallsburg Police Chief Simmie Williams and Village of Liberty Police Chief Scott Kinne for comment.


The SullivanTimes early Monday also reached out to The Rockland House to determine if there was a planned December 11 party by the Sheriff's Office that was later cancelled, presumably due to Covid case increases in Sullivan.


As for the number of guests who might have tested positive from the December 12 event, that number has not been released by County officials or any local law enforcement agencies.


On February 1, Sheriff Mike Schiff and Undersheriff Eric Chaboty stated on the Sheriff's official Facebook page:


"Sheriff's Office personnel are on the front lines of possible exposure everyday they come to work."


DEVELOPING


Photo of restaurant from Google Maps


Below is the news release issued on December 17 by the County Health Department five days after the event.


SullivanTimes December 17, 2020 ·

(via Sullivan County, NY Government) Multiple Exposures During Party at Monticello Restaurant Thursday, December 17, 2020

Monticello, NY – Sullivan County Public Health Services has confirmed that a diner at Ciao Bella, an Italian restaurant in Monticello, tested positive for COVID-19.

While there is currently no indication that the patron contracted the virus at the restaurant, the diner was at a group party, and the restaurant was hosting over two dozen people at the time, many of whom were not wearing masks. Additional individuals are awaiting their test results.

The party was being held at the restaurant, located at 46 Forestburgh Road in Monticello, on the following date and time: December 12 from 6-10 p.m.

Public Health is currently conducting contact tracing, but if someone thinks they have been exposed and develops symptoms, they and their close contacts should self-quarantine for 14 days and call their healthcare provider, or call Sullivan County Public Health Services at 845-292-5910. Please DO NOT leave quarantine while awaiting test results.

The virus that causes COVID-19 most commonly spreads between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet, or 2 arm-lengths). It spreads through respiratory droplets or small particles, such as those in aerosols, produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, sings, talks, or breathes. These particles can be inhaled into the nose, mouth, airways, and lungs and cause infection. This is thought to be the main way the virus spreads. For an updated list of testing locations, visit www.sullivanny.us. Due to the large increase in the number of cases and communitywide transmission, and an anticipated surge in COVID-19 cases over the holidays, public health and medical experts highly recommend avoiding gatherings, especially if masks are not worn and social distancing cannot be maintained. The following parameters and protocols are based upon recommended preventive measures issued from the public health community. Follow these CDC guidelines to protect yourself and others: • Stay at least six feet from other people. • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others. • Avoid close contact with people who are sick, even inside your home. • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow and do not spit. Throw used tissues in the trash. • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. • Be alert for symptoms. Watch for fever, cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms of COVID-19. • Take your temperature if symptoms develop. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. Possible symptoms of COVID-19 include one or more of the following: • Fever or chills • Cough • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing • Fatigue • Muscle or body aches • Headache • New loss of taste or smell • Sore throat • Congestion or runny nose • Nausea or vomiting • Diarrhea If someone is showing any of these signs, seek emergency medical care immediately: • Trouble breathing • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest • New confusion • Inability to wake or stay awake • Bluish lips or face


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