LAKE RONKONKOMA, NY (OnSachem.com / OnTownMedia.com) — As students at Sachem High School North prepare to return to in-person classes on Wednesday after COVID-19 cases forced distance learning for two weeks, Suffolk County officials fined a catering venue for holding a “super-spreader” Sweet 16 party that led to a COVID-19 outbreak and Sachem North’s closure.
On Tuesday, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said Miller Place Inn, a catering venue at 195 North Country Road in Miller Place, held a Sweet 16 party for 81 guests on Sept. 25, in violation of New York State Executive Orders limiting all non-essential gatherings to 50 or fewer people. According to Bellone, the party lead to 37 COVID-19 positive cases. Of those cases, Bellone said 29 were individuals who attended the Sweet 16, seven were household contacts, and one case was a close contact of someone who attended the party.
"Egregious violation" to Hold Large Sweet 16 Party: Bellone
As OnSachem News was first to report on Oct. 4, a source familiar with the COVID-19 cases within Sachem Schools told OnSachem that the social event was a Sweet 16 birthday party, however the party location was not released until Bellone’s announcement on Tuesday. Over several days, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases for Sachem High School North increased to 15, according to Christopher Pellettieri, superintendent for the Sachem Central School District.
Bellone said the Suffolk County Department of Health Services issued a notice of formal hearing to the Miller Place Inn on October 10 to respond to various charges of COVID-19 violations.
“This was an egregious violation and should serve as a stark reminder of the consequences that exist for flouting COVID-19 protocols,” said Bellone. “These rules and regulations exist for a reason - to keep New Yorkers safe - and we all have an obligation to act responsibly.”
According to health officials, the Miller Place Inn is charged with causing, permitting and serving as the venue for an indoor gathering of over 50 persons and did not enforce New York State and county COVID-19 restrictions. Additionally, the Miller Place Inn was charged with operating a food establishment in an unsanitary condition, officials added.
COVID-19 Spread in Sachem Schools Following Party: Bellone
The legal action follows the reporting of several positive COVID-19 cases throughout the Sachem Central School District to the county health department beginning Sept. 30. Bellone said the county began comprehensive contact tracing investigations. As a result, he said the health department determined the cases were connected to the Sweet 16 party held at the Miller Place Inn on Sept. 25.
Bellone said the health department took immediate action, and contacted the hosts of the event to obtain a copy of the guest list, which was provided voluntarily. Once health officials received the list, which comprised 81 guests, including 49 students and 32 adults, the department quarantined the entire guest list and entered the contact information into the county’s contact tracing system, Bellone said.
According to Health Commissioner Dr. Gregson Pigott, the situation is under control, and there is no community spread at this time. “This cluster should serve as a stark reminder of the consequences of violating COVID-19 rules and regulations,” said Pigott.
To date, health officials have identified 334 contacts, 151 who were non-school affiliated and 183 who were school affiliated. At present, 270 contact are under quarantine and 11 cases are under active isolation. Several contacts have already completed their quarantine period, as their exposure dates back over 14 days.
Health officials report that eight schools have reported positive cases in connection to the Sweet 16 party and 35 schools have at least one student who has been affected by the event, while one school had as many as 74 students impacted.
NYS Executive Orders limit all non-essential gatherings to 50 or fewer people or 50% capacity, whichever is less. Fines for the violations include: $10,000 for violations of Section 12-B(2) of the Public Health Law and violations of New York Executive Orders and $2,000 fine due to violations of Suffolk County Sanitary Code.
According to data reported by New York State as of Oct. 13, there were four COVID-19 cases at Sachem High School East in Farmingville, four at Seneca Middle School in Holbrook, and 14 at Sachem North, although the district reports 15 for Sachem North. There was a single earlier case at Chippewa Elementary School in Holtsville. The state’s COVID-19 Report Card is available at https://schoolcovidreportcard.health.ny.gov.
Sachem High School North Reopens Wednesday, Oct. 14
Sachem High School North closed as of Oct. 1, forcing all students to move to remote-learning only. The closure was originally for two-days on Thursday , Octo. 1, and Friday, Oct. 2. However, the district extended the closure twice, first as of Monday, Oct. 5 for another two days, and again as of Wednesday, Oct. 7, for another week, with intentions to resume in-person learning on Wednesday, Oct. 14.
On the eve of reopening, Sachem Schools announced on its website, www.sachem.edu, "Sachem North High School will be reopening for in person instruction tomorrow, Wednesday, October 14. It will be a “D” day. Thank you for your support and patience during this transition."
Related Coverage from OnSachem News about COVID-19 at Sachem High School North
LAKE RONKONKOMA, NY — Sachem High School North in Lake Ronkonkoma will remain closed for another week as the number of COVID-19 cases jumps up to 15.
LAKE RONKONKOMA, NY — 6:30 P.M. SUNDAY UPDATE: Sachem High School North, which had been closed on Thursday and Friday because of COVID-19 cases among students, announced Sunday evening the closure will be extended for Monday and Tuesday. The decision comes as the number of COVID-19 cases continued to climb in the school.
COVID-19 cases increase at Sachem HS North & East, District to announce Sunday night if North will reopen Monday
LAKE RONKONKOMA, NY — Sachem School officials announced that a decision will be made on Sunday about whether to reopen Sachem High School North in Lake Ronkonkoma on Monday, as the number of reported COVID-19 cases among students at both HS North and East increased since Friday. Meanwhile, OnSachem has learned the type of social event that led to the spike in cases among several schools.
LAKE RONKONKOMA, NY — Sachem School officials announced that a single social event last weekend led to positive COVID-19 cases among students at several schools, forcing one school to close for in-person instruction for two days.
LAKE RONKONKOMA, NY — Positive COVID-19 cases among students at Sachem High School North in Lake Ronkonkoma mean the school will not have in-person classes for the rest of the week, school officials announced Wednesday evening.