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Despite Spike In COVID Cases In Suffolk County, Frustration Grows Over State Mask Mandate

SMITHTOWN, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Wednesday marked another day of shattered COVID-19 daily positivity records on Long Island. Suffolk County had the highest numbers in the state.

As medical experts pushed for boosters and indoor mask wearing at stores and holiday gatherings, some lawmakers and business owners pushed back, CBS2's Jennifer McLogan reported.

Donato Panico owns Community Market in Smithtown.

"People were arguing over who was wearing a mask and who wasn't wearing a mask, and putting me in the middle of it," Panico said.

He said he worries about a state mandate that could fine him if he doesn't enforce the indoor mask or vaccine guidelines.

Fish market owner Joseph Marquez shared the concern.

"I don't want to be a referee as far as who wears a mask and who doesn't. I have a thousand other things to do to run a business," Marquez said.


Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin of Suffolk County hopes to ride the issue into Albany and unseat Gov. Kathy Hochul.

"The governor of the state of New York is threatening a $1,000 fine," Zeldin said. "The governor's statewide mask mandate that was just rolled out is one that has caused mass confusion."

A Marist poll shows stark political division. Of those likely to limit holiday celebrations based on vaccine status, 79% are Democrats and 27% are Republicans.

Hospital staff and resources are now being challenged by the winter holiday spike. Long Island's COVID-positive numbers are tops, with nearly 14% in Suffolk County and almost 13% in Nassau County.


Some leading infectious disease specialists on Long Island are concerned about the numbers and believe the surge will likely last until spring.

"Especially as we go into colder months and we bring a lot more people inside, the concern is that we are going to have more close contact," said Dr. Frederick Davis of LIJ Medical Center, "and we know that Omicron spreads a lot more quickly than the Delta variant and because of that masks are the best defense of this."

"We have to wear double masks so we can be safe in school, because in our classes some people have to be remote now," 8-year-old Maya Miller said.

Suffolk is expected to open three more testing sites next week.

As some CityMD centers close, lines for boosters and testing elsewhere continue to grow.

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