Residents irked by lack of mask wearing, enforcement as COVID-19 cases increase throughout village

Robert Pelaez
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases throughout the Village of Great Neck have increased by 58 over the past month. (Photo from the Island Now archives)

Residents in the Village of Great Neck have expressed concerns about the lack of enforcement regarding protective face coverings and masks as the number of coronavirus cases in the village and Great Neck peninsula continues to rise.

According to figures provided by the Nassau County Department of Health, the Village of Great Neck has seen an increase of 58 cases from Aug. 24 (233 cases) to Sunday (291 cases).  Some residents shared stories of groups of people poking fun at or disrespecting those who wear masks outdoors.

“Whenever I walk out my door my mask is around my neck, and the moment I see someone it goes right up,” village resident Jean Pierce said. “There are plenty of people walking in groups on the weekends, and there’s not a mask in sight.”

Pierce said she went to check in on a friend over the weekend 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.”

Fellow resident Judy Rosenthal shared a similar instance of groups of people making a mockery of others trying to adhere to the state-mandated safety protocols. According to Rosenthal, she and her husband were walking the residential streets of Baker Hill in a face covering, when people without masks began to approach.

“One group easily observed I was holding back and started pretend coughing,” Rosenthal said. Rosenthal spoke of another occasion where “a man on a scooter saw my husband and I were stopped (to engage with a friend in a temporarily stopped vehicle) but the man on the scooter kept coming at us. Before we knew it, he was on top of my husband and without a mask.”

Rosenthal also said the lack of social distancing and face coverings were prominent throughout Memorial Park before the start of Yom Kippur late afternoon Sunday.

“I fear the mayor of Village of Great Neck and park commissioners care more about being liked and re-elected than performing the intensely difficult task ahead of them – saving lives,” Rosenthal said. “Residents are furious at being vulnerable to other’s aggression. This is a political war, the lines have been drawn. Residents want action. I want action.”

Resident Chris Knauer said the problem, from her point of view, is the amount of younger people not wearing masks or face coverings.

Fellow village resident Amy Glass shared Rosenthal’s sentiment of wanting to see more being done from those in leadership positions in the village, such as Mayor Pedram Bral. Glass asked Bral what he could do to urge residents to wear masks and socially distance both indoors and outdoors during a Board of Trustees meeting on Sept. 15.

“I have heard [Bral] say that he does take COVID seriously, and would like to see people following the recommended behaviors,” Glass said. “It’s hard for me to figure why he doesn’t take a more active role.”

During the Sept. 15 meeting, Bral said the increase in cases is something the village must pay close attention to.

“I think it’s something we need to take extremely seriously,” Bral said. “There are many parties that are being held indoors with minimum or no social distancing and almost no masks.”

Glass asked the board who is in charge of helping the village control the spread of the virus, and asked if a bulk phone call blast could aid in spreading the message of awareness to abide by state-mandated health and safety measures.

“The village does not have the ability to enforce this code. Fire marshals and health departments are the ones that do so,” Bral said. “Our code enforcement are for traffic and for building codes. Besides that, unfortunately, we cannot go to people’s homes and stop them from having parties.”

Bral said the people having large, indoor parties without abiding by proper safety measures should be expected to be reported by others.

Efforts to reach the 6th Precinct in Nassau County, which serves the village, for comment on what measures have been taken were unavailing.

Last week on Facebook, Bral made several posts continuing to warn the Great Neck community about the virus and the importance of taking proper safety precautions such as wearing a mask and socially distancing.  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. “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.”

Bral also mentioned the increase of confirmed coronavirus cases in peninsula and the nation.  According to the county data, the Great Neck peninsula has seen the number of cases increase from 910 on Aug. 24 to 1,035 on Sunday, an increase of 125.

Some residents also pointed out a discrepancy with numbers between the county Department of Health and Newsday.  According to the county, the Village of Great Neck had 291 confirmed cases of the coronavirus.  According to Newsday, the village had 347 cases.

While efforts to reach a county representative for comment were unavailing, the county’s map has another area listed as “Great Neck,” directly south of Great Neck Estates and west of Lake Success, with 56 cases as of Wednesday.  Adding the 56 cases to the 291 from the village results in the 347 figure.

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