Some fear new guidelines will cause people to take advantage
After almost a year and a half of social distancing protocols and masking, New York State adopted the CDC’s newly instated guidance that vaccinated people can ditch their masks—in most public settings—and get closer than six feet to one another again. The new guidance from the CDC follows on the heels of New York lifting most capacity limits in offices, restaurants, bars, gyms and other locations on May 19.
For now, schools, public transit, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, nursing homes, and healthcare settings will continue to follow the state’s existing COVID-19 health guidelines until more New Yorkers are fully vaccinated.
“Today is a milestone in New York State’s war against COVID,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. “With positivity and hospitalization rates at their lowest levels since last fall, and more than 10 million New Yorkers having received at least one vaccine dose, New York State is adopting the CDC’s updated guidance on masks and social distancing. This means that, 399 days after New York was the first state in the country to implement a mask mandate, effective [May 19], fully vaccinated individuals no longer need to use a face covering in most public places. New York is coming back, and it’s a testament to the strength and grit of New Yorkers who banded together, stayed tough, and fought as one to defeat this COVID beast.”
However, if you’re still unvaccinated you have to keep the mask on and keep socially distant from others. But others worry that some might not be honest and say they’re vaccinated when they’re not, just so they can throw away the mask. Those worries might be heightened a little after an incident that happened last week when Nassau County Police arrested a Levittown man who was in possession of fraudulent vaccination cards.
According to detectives, the Nassau County Police Department Criminal Intelligence Rapid Response Team observed 21-year-old Zachary Honig sitting in a gray Mazda with the engine running in a high crime area. Officers exited their vehicle, while displaying their identification, when Honig immediately exited his vehicle and slammed the door. Officers asked for identification and vehicle information, and observed a pair of silver colored brass knuckles. Further investigation revealed Honig to be in possession of a controlled substance, eight pre-filled COVID-19 vaccination record cards, and 54 blank COVID-19 vaccination record cards. Honig was placed into police custody without further incident.
Honig was charged with eight counts of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon, and petit larceny. He was arraigned on May 12 in Mineola.
“The world we know will be opening up quite a bit this month,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said at a recent press conference. “Often to get into things or go to places, you need to show that vaccine card. Whenever there is an opportunity, there is a scam and this has happened right here in Nassau. I know that the federal government and the state are looking for ways to crack down on this, but here in Nassau we are not wasting any time. I am going to file some legislation about this to make sure that we send a very clear message that this is not acceptable. The reason we can get back to normal is because people are getting vaccinated. If you’re faking it, this can set this whole thing back. That’s the last thing any of us want.”
According to Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder, the eight pre-filled COVID-19 vaccination cards had the batch number, the store number and the dates that the vaccination was administered. The only thing that wasn’t filled in was the name and address of the people who were going to use that vaccination card.
“This person is an employee of CVS—or was an employee of CVS,” Ryder said. “These cards were taken in the last couple of days and his intent was to share them with family members and friends so they can go into venues and possibly use them when they go back to school in September.”
Honig worked at three CVS locations, according to police, in Levittown, North Bellmore and possibly East Meadow, which police are further investigating.
Ryder added that the police department has reached out to its federal partners and has spoken to the federal Health And Human Services Inspector General’s office, which is going to continue the investigation with the county to prevent any further cases.
“We’re asking all the companies to make sure they secure [the vaccination cards],” Ryder said.
According to Ryder, if those fraudulent cards were used by anyone who connected it to the state’s Excelsior Pass to gain entry to venues or other places, it wouldn’t work because the pharmacies would have to input the actual information of a vaccination into the state’s database.
Now that the new vaccination rules are being adapted by the state and stores such as Starbucks, Target, Walmart, Costco and others are allowing vaccinated customers to shop without their masks, some stores still require you to wear one. That request alone can get heated among people like it did at an Ace Hardware store in Garden City Park last week.
According to Nassau County detectives, a male entered Costello’s Ace Hardware, located at 2323 Jericho Tpke., without wearing a face covering. A female sales associate asked him to put on a face covering and informed him that it was store policy to do so. The unknown suspect refused to comply and became irate, yelling and cursing at the female. When the suspect exited the store, he threatened the victim, which placed her in fear for her life. He then fled the scene in a white sport utility vehicle. Detectives request anyone with information regarding this incident to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-244-TIPS. All callers will remain anonymous.