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Bellone: Thirty guests at North Fork Country Club wedding have tested positive for COVID-19

About one third of all guests at an Oct. 17 wedding held at North Fork Country Club have tested positive for COVID-19, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone has announced.

So far 30 of 91 guests at the wedding, which was held in violation of New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo’s executive order limiting catering hall guests to 50, have been reported as confirmed coronavirus cases. More testing results are pending, the county executive said.

Mr. Bellone announced at a press conference in Yaphank Wednesday that the Cutchogue catering facility will be fined $17,000 by the Suffolk County Department of Health for violations of the public health and sanitary codes, a spokesperson said.

“It will not be tolerated. If you violate the rules you’ll be caught and held responsible,” Mr. Bellone said. “We have come too far — been through too much, experienced too much pain, anxiety … economic harm. Businesses are still struggling to survive. This kind of activity is what threatens to bring us back.”

In addition to the party guests, multiple staff members at NFCC and at least one wedding vendor have tested positive for COVID-19.

The county executive said at least five students at Suffolk County schools have tested positive and the outbreak has impacted learning at a total of six schools. Mattituck High School was closed twice this week due to positive diagnoses connected to the wedding. The County Executive said Wednesday that the wedding also impacted the Three Village, Hampton Bays, Eastport-South Manor, East Quogue and Northport school districts.

A total of 159 people are in quarantine in relation to the wedding, Mr. Bellone said.

“There’s really no excuse for it,” the county executive said. “This is a clear blatant violation of the guidance … because of this one event and a business choosing to ignore the guidelines, you had lives upended and threatened public health and our economic recovery.”

North Fork Country Club closed last Thursday after it learned one of its staff members had tested positive for the coronavirus, something they reported to the Suffolk County Department of Health, NFCC general manager Raluca Pintea said in an interview Friday. Ms. Pintea did not respond to a follow-up phone message after The Suffolk Times learned of the scope of the confirmed cases and the pending Department of Health fines.

Last week, Ms. Pintea said “a couple” of positive cases have been reported among her staff, though she declined to give an exact number.

The North Fork Country Club has shut down its catering events since the outbreak. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)

Ms. Pintea said all staff members, regardless of where they work at the club, have been required to undergo COVID-19 testing. She said that while some employees received rapid tests, others were still awaiting results late last week. All employees are isolating at home, she said.

The country club will remain closed for two weeks, Ms. Pintea added, though members can continue to book no-contact rounds of golf with no food or drink service. She said she could not comment on any weddings or other events held at the club and wanted to protect member privacy.

Ms. Pintea said the employee who first reported testing positive for COVID-19 does not have contact with guests, but the county executive’s office said at least one member of the catering staff had tested positive.

Grace Kelly-McGovern, a Suffolk County DOH spokesperson, said the guests at the wedding who tested positive are also under home isolation.

Mr. Bellone said that through contact tracing the spread of the virus has been contained.

Ripple effects from the wedding have been felt in the surrounding community. Carolyn Iannone, the owner of Love Lane Kitchen in Mattituck, said she was forced to close her restaurant last Thursday after learning of the positive tests and knowing that two of her employees attended the wedding. She also required all staff members to undergo testing and said the restaurant may need to operate on a limited schedule to maintain adequate staffing and customer safety.

Ms. Iannone said she did have enough staff members who tested negative for the coronavirus and had no exposure to reopen for takeout the following day.

“This has just been so challenging,” she said of operating during the pandemic. “But the safety of our staff and community remain our No. 1 priority.”

A closure at the Orient firehouse also appeared to be connected to the wedding, though county officials could not confirm any connection.

A dozen Orient Fire Department members or associates were exposed to COVID-19 at the district’s budget hearing last Tuesday, officials confirmed in a press release.

As a result, the firehouse has been closed with the exception of emergency calls by order of the chief. The district said only that the exposure had no connection to an emergency call or training and would not interrupt service. District officials declined to comment on the possibility that the exposure was related to the wedding.

The fire district said Saturday morning that all testing to date has come back negative and that each of the exposed members and associates will be tested. They are also following state and county guidelines, including a 14-day quarantine, according to the district.

All district buildings and vehicles have also been sanitized and the Suffolk County and New York State Department of Health have both been notified of the exposure.

The number of COVID-19 cases has increased in recent weeks in Suffolk County, according to data provided by the Suffolk County Department of Health. There were 634 positive tests last week and 598 the week prior, compared with just 276 in the last week of September. The 163 reported cases on Saturday is the highest single-day number since June 1.

Two other Suffolk County catering events made headlines in recent weeks. Giorgio’s in Baiting Hollow had its liquor license suspended after hosting a wedding with nearly 100 guests last month. Current state guidelines limit catered events to 50 guests.

The Miller Place Inn was fined $12,000 by the Suffolk County Department of Health following a Sweet 16 that Mr. Bellone called a “superspreader event.” The Miller Place party led to 37 positive COVID-19 tests among people who attended.

Mr. Bellone also discussed house party in Farmingville where more than 200 guests were in attendance and a birthday party that led to 20 positive cases in Bellport.

“Where have we seen this virus spread? Gatherings,” he said. “I understand that we want to come together, we want to be together. Take precautions. We have come too far to go back now.”