Follow the rules!

People have lodged complaints about customers at Walmart stores, including the company’s Batavia location, about not adhering to safety protocols. Lauren Miller/Watertown Daily Times

If more people throughout the state refuse to wear masks or follow social distancing rules while interacting with others, authorities may tighten the reins on reopening procedures.

For more than three months, we’ve had to adjust to lockdown orders to help prevent spreading the novel coronavirus. The Finger Lakes region, which includes Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming counties, was among of the first regions in New York to move into Phase IV of the reopening process, the final stage for getting many businesses operating again.

That’s the good news. Statistics from throughout the state regarding infection rates and hospitalizations have steadily progressed. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced June 28 that five deaths occurred as a result of COVID-19 the previous day, the lowest number since March 15.

Locally, the number of confirmed cases are still increasing, but at a significantly lower rate then it was before the reopening process began. There are days when one or more of the four GLOW counties reports no new cases, or the number of recoveries outnumbers the number of new cases – all positive trends.

However, the leeway offered by the state over the past few weeks is being threatened. More people appear to be ignoring the safety protocols put in place.

The Genesee County Sheriff’s Department has received five complaints regarding Walmart in Batavia through a referral system that is part of the New York State on PAUSE Enforcement Assistance hotline, Sheriff William Sheron Jr. told The Daily News.

Sheriff’s personnel have responded twice to Walmart, primarily for complaints about customers not wearing face masks.

The store has been cooperative, according to Sheron.

“We have responded to Walmart and spoken with managers there to inform them of the complaints and educate them on the guidelines and orders,” Sheron said.

Walmart said in a statement Monday, “Maintaining customer and associate safety remains our top priority. We encourage customers to be especially mindful of one another during this unprecedented time and adhere to recommendations and decisions made by local officials regarding the use of protective facial coverings while in public spaces.”

Beyond face masks, we must also remain cognizant of the need to practice social distancing and other health and safety recommendations.

Mr. Cuomo has referenced major problems in New York City with people ignoring social distancing rules in bars, restaurants and recreational spaces. He said that businesses may have their liquor licenses suspended if they don’t enforce his orders. The state is now taking an additional step to address this issue.

“New York will create its own coronavirus order enforcement department as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo expressed concern Wednesday that the virus could resurge in the state as residents and local governments grow complacent in enforcing mask and social distancing measures and the pandemic spreads across the U.S.,” according to a story published Thursday by The Daily News. “State officials tasked with enforcing that New Yorkers remain socially distanced and wear facial coverings in public, including inside businesses, will supplement the state’s 500-plus local police departments as the governor said citizen compliance is slipping. Indoor dining will remain closed in New York City as the city prepares to start Phase III of reopening [June 29]. COVID-19 testing rates across the five boroughs remain stable or below 1 percent positive, but the governor is concerned about restarting indoor dining in the city — the nation’s former coronavirus epicenter. State police, State Liquor Authority and Department of Health officials monitored patrons at city bars and restaurants [June 30] to help Gov. Cuomo and his aides make the citywide decision.”

(On Monday, Cuomo announced the New York City would enter Phase III of reopening, without indoor dining and subject to comprehensive state guidance.).

Documented cases of the coronavirus remain relatively low in the GLOW region compared to some other parts of the state. But the numbers have climbed in some areas, so we all need to be conscientious about doing our part.

There are 716 total lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the GLOW region as of July 6, a number that has increased by 18 in the past week. The breakdown: Genesee County, 228 cases, up 7 in the past week; Livingston, 131, up 7; Orleans, 267, up 1; and Wyoming, 90, up 3 since June 29.

Let’s not become complacent about a possible surge in infection rates. Wear masks when outside your homes, and follow the proper social distancing rules.

We’ve worked hard to regain some of the freedom of movement we surrendered in March, and it would be a shame if everyone lost these again due to the carelessness of a minority of residents.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1