BATH, N.Y. (WETM) – Officials say that social distancing is key to flattening the coronavirus curve. For those who don’t practice social distancing seriously could face serious consequences.

Steuben County officials announce enhanced enforcement of social distancing practices prescribed by New York State on PAUSE, under the authority of Public Health Law Section 12-B. First violations will receive a warning, but any further willful violations are an unclassified misdemeanor. Penalties include up to 1 year in jail, a $2,000 fine, or both. I spoke with a local attorney to see what that means

“If you want to go for a walk with your family, that is not what this law is intended to address,” said Attorney Michael Donlon. “This law is intended really to address the folks that are congregating, playing basketball in the park, hosting public gatherings.”

With Easter Sunday coming up, this includes gatherings in churches and. “

There is no exemption in the law for religious gatherings, so without that exemption, they are subject to the same exact enforcement that anyone in the state would be subject to,” Donlon said.

According to Donlon, the fines were as high as $10,000, but on April 1, the amount was reduced to $2,000.

At the guidance and direction of District Attorney Baker and Sheriff Allard, law enforcement agencies in Steuben County will actively enforce the main provisions of NYS on PAUSE, as regulated by Executive Orders issued by Governor Cuomo, including:

1) Effective at 8PM on Sunday, March 22, all non-essential businesses statewide will be closed;

2) Non-essential gatherings of individuals of any size for any reason (e.g. parties, celebrations or other social events) are canceled or postponed at this time;

3) Any concentration of individuals outside their home must be limited to workers providing essential services and social distancing should be practiced;

4) When in public individuals must practice social distancing of at least six feet from others;

5) Businesses and entities that provide other essential services must implement rules that help facilitate social distancing of at least six feet;

6) Individuals should limit outdoor recreational activities to non-contact and avoid activities where they come in close contact with other people;

7) Individuals should limit use of public transportation to when absolutely necessary and should limit potential exposure by spacing out at least six feet from other riders;

8) Sick individuals should not leave their home unless to receive medical care and only after a telehealth visit to determine if leaving the home is in the best interest of their health;

9) Young people should also practice social distancing and avoid contact with vulnerable populations; and

10) Use precautionary sanitizer practices such as using isopropyl alcohol wipes.

Should a violation of social distancing laws be reported, law enforcement will investigate.  For the first violation, a letter of warning will be issued.  Any further willful violation constitutes an unclassified misdemeanor, with penalties which include up to 1 year in jail, a $2000 fine or both.

“While most residents continue to abide by social distancing practices, far too many are still gathering in groups for social purposes.” Smith said.  “We are thankful for the support of our public safety officials in enforcing these critical laws.”

“Our goals here are simple – to enforce the law and most importantly to keep people safe.” Baker said. “My hope is that through written warnings we can educate, eliminate ignorance, and help people keep themselves safe – and should they refuse, with this law, we have the tools to deal with those who have the arrogance to willfully put others at risk.”

“As we continue to respond to COVID-19, the state has placed responsibility for enforcement of NYS on PAUSE at the local level.” Allard said.  “We anticipate strong compliance with these laws and we will use our interactions to educate the public on social distancing, but will also actively address repeat issues.”

“We need the help of every county resident in the fight against COVID-19.” Wheeler said. “We have to double-down on our social distancing practices and go out only when absolutely necessary.”