COVID-19 UPDATE: County Executive Bellone Optimistic As Downward Trends Point Toward Imminent Reopening – 27east.com

Posted By on May 25, 2020

Sunday, 3:30 p.m.: County Executive Bellone Optimistic As Downward Trends Point Toward Imminent Reopening

While the weather is not cooperating, the official start of summer in the Hamptons is not canceled and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said he is confident that a slow, smart reopening will only build its momentum, as long as overall COVID-19 metrics continue to decline.

Our beaches are open and they will stay open. We are going to have a summer here, he said during a press conference. Our families and kids are going to enjoy our beaches this year.

On Sunday afternoon, Mr. Bellone reported 162 additional positive COVID-19 cases over the last 24 hours, bringing the county total up to 38,964. But for the first time since March 27, hospitalizations have dipped below 400, to 374, which he said is very good news.

That is a very good thing, as we approach phase one of opening this week, he said. Getting those numbers down and seeing those numbers go as low as possible is important as we begin to put more activity into the economy.

Slated to begin this week, phase one is expected to include construction, agriculture, forestry, fishing, hunting, curbside or in-store pickup retail, manufacturing and wholesale trade.

We are on the downward trajectory. We have been for weeks now and we see progress happening everywhere, and what I would say to people in our county is continue to be smart, he said. We are on the road to recovery. Progress is being made every day. If we continue to be smart, then we will make that progress quicker, faster, and come out of this stronger than we otherwise would.

The East End can still expect Long Island to reopen by Wednesday, despite an increase in COVID-19 deaths on May 23 an uptick from 84 to 109 reported Governor Andrew Cuomo during an update on Sunday morning.

Long Island is on track to meet the numbers on Wednesday, he said during a press conference from Jones Beach Theatre in Wantagh. We have to get the number of deaths down on Long Island and we have to get the number of tracers up, but were doing that.

New York State beaches are currently open, and campgrounds and RV parks will follow suit tomorrow. The Long Island Rail Road and MTA bus system are also readying for a new mode of operation, which will include a mandatory mask policy, additional train cars for social distancing, and daily cleaning and disinfecting of all trains and buses for the first time ever, Mr. Cuomo said.

Were now, decidedly, in the reopening phase, and weve been following the numbers from day one, not emotions following the science, not the politics, he said. This is not a political ideology question, this is a public health question. Its about a disease, stopping the disease, stopping the spread of the disease, and thats science, not politics.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone echoed Governor Cuomo's statement that if the metrics continue the way they are going Long Island could reopen by Wednesday.

"The Governor today spoke about a timeline ... so Wednesday, the Governor specifically mentioned, is the date that if we continue on this track, which I believe that we will, that we are looking at reopening Long Island. That is great news. Hitting the first phase."

Bellone stated the county is on track with training contact tracers, "We intend to have over 1,000 people trained by the time we get to Wednesday, when we need to meet this metric ... We will get everyone trained and we will be ready. Tracing will not prevent us from reopening."

On Friday the county opened up camping reservations and the response was so overwhelming the website crashed.

"We have these sites opening again on June 1, said Bellone. "We have reservations from the 1st through the 15th, We reopened last night at 7 p.m. for June 15 moving forward, unfortunately we had so many people hit the site it crashed. We are working and have been working with our vendor to get that repaired. We will get that back up and running this week and we will give people plenty of notice before opening up the site once again so everybody has a fair opportunity to get a reservation,

Governor Andrew Cuomo stated in an update this morning that Long Island could reopen by Wednesday if the number of COVID-19 deaths continue to decline and corona virus tracers are in place.

The number of deaths in New York State dropped below 100, with 84 in total, 62 in hospitals and 22 in nursing homes.

"What we are doing is working," said Governor Cuomo. "You look at the new York curve, you look how low it is, you look at the number of deaths, you look at the decline. Compare that with the rest of the nation where you still see the rest of the nation's curve going up."

On Friday evening Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order to allow groups of 10 or less to gather, provided they observe safety and social distancing rules.

For several days, the countys interactive map has reported numbers in excess of the data related by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone during daily media updates. On Friday, he reported 38,672 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Suffolk County, up 119 from Thursday. However, the GIS map lists cases at 43,069. Apprised of the disparity, Mr. Bellone said he was unsure why the numbers were different but said he would get it clarified.

That in mind, the map shows cases in Southampton Town topped 1,004, with 276 confirmed cases of coronavirus depicted for the Town of East Hampton.

Reporting hospitalization data for May 20, Mr. Bellone said general hospitalizations were down by 28 patients to 425, with intensive care unit admissions up by two patients to 131. Hospital capacity was right at the metric, he said, with ICU capacity at 65 percent. Each region in the state must meet or exceed seven metrics before reopening may occur. Long Island has met five of the seven. A metric related to contact tracing is expected and a metric related to a decline in the number of deaths remains elusive.

Fifty-eight patients have been discharged from area hospitals. Twelve patients died in the 24 hour period ending Friday afternoon, bringing total fatalities in Suffolk County to 1,814.

Echoing comments made earlier in the day by Governor Andrew Cuomo, the county executive said Long Island was on track for Phase 1 reopening in a week. We are ready, he said.

Discussions with the business community have been underway for a long time now, he informed. Businesses adapt and adjust and they make it work.

Mr. Bellone spoke of Memorial Day weekend as more than the unofficial beginning of summer; in 2020 its the unofficial beginning of the reopening of the economy. As the county this weekend demonstrates it can reopen beaches safely, he said, so, too, can we reopen businesses safely.

The county will reopen its campgrounds beginning June 1, Mr. Bellone said. The reservation system for booking sites is slated to open Friday night at 7 p.m. Reservations are available for spots beginning July 15. A county camping committee has developed safety rules. Only self-contained units may visit the sites, bathroom and shower facilities will not be provided. Tents will not be permitted and no visitors to the site will be allowed. The sites are just for families, not gatherings or parties.

A letter from a low-level bureaucrat with the U. S. Department of Veterans Administration rejected Mr. Bellones request for permission to place flags at the graves of veterans this weekend.

This is a decision I cannot fathom, he said.

He acknowledged it was likely made with an overabundance of caution, but said officials should bend over backwards to find ways to accomplish the traditional activity. The county executive said he thinks President Donald Trump would be appalled if he was aware of the underlings determination.

Now that the county has stepped forward to fund the drive-up testing site in Southampton, would it also underwrite the site in East Hampton? It opened earlier this month, thanks to funding from a private non profit. Mr. Bellone said one testing site was envisioned for the South Fork, as officials considered spreading them out across the region.

Long Island could reopen next week if deaths continue to decline and the region trains enough contact tracers, Governor Andrew Cuomo said Friday morning.

In anticipation of phase one of reopening beginning in a week, the governor said construction staging is now allowed on Long Island and in the Mid-Hudson region. That includes delivering construction materials to work sites and putting safety precautions in place.

In addition to construction, phase one of reopening includes agriculture, forestry, fishing, hunting, curbside or in-store pickup retail, manufacturing and wholesale trade.

According to the New York State Regional Monitoring Dashboard, Long Island has had eight consecutive days of decline in COVID-19 hospital deaths as of Wednesday. To reopen, a streak of 14 days is required. Alternatively, the region could reopen if it has fewer than five deaths per day, based on a three-day average. Long Island now has 10 per day on average.

Long Island still needs more contact tracers to reopen, but according to the dashboard, the region is expected to meet that requirement.

The governor also announced that the state is making $100 million in small business loans available, targeting businesses with 20 or fewer employees and less than $3 million in gross revenue.

Also, New York State is making its contact tracing training curriculum available at no cost to all states.

Thursdays one-day COVID-19 death toll in New York State was 109, with 82 deaths in hospitals and 27 in nursing homes.

Since testing began, East End officials have been urging county counterparts to host a testing site on the South Fork. Last month, confronted with governmental inertia, Southampton Village Mayor Jesse Warren collaborated with the Hamptons Health Society to amass funding to create a testing site on property owned by Stony Book Southampton Hospital.

The society collected donations sufficient to run the site for the month of May and into the first week of June. Located at the Krause Family health center, the site is operated by Hudson River Health Care. HRH offers free testing to uninsured residents at sites through out Suffolk, assisted by county funding.

On Friday, Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman announced that the site will stay afloat. He reached out to Legislator Bridget Fleming and County Executive Steve Bellone, hoping the county would pick up the funding of the site. The response was affirmative.

Said Mr. Bellone in a release announcing the measure, Access to widespread testing is one of the most critical tools in the battle against COVID-19. As we get closer to reopening, Suffolk County will continue to work with all of our partners to ensure our testing sites remain open and anyone who needs to be tested has access.

Testing is a key metric in the reopening plan, Ms. Fleming observed. With more testing, we are able to determine the extent of the spread of the disease.

Jays wonderful, said Dr. Peter Michalos of the Hamptons Health Society. He convinced the county to chip in and help the East End. Its amazing he was able to do that.

Continuing, the doctor added,Im happy East Hampton has been able to duplicate what weve done, setting the precedent of public/ private partnership.

Earlier this month an HRH popup site in East Hampton thats funded by the East Hampton Healthcare Foundation opened.

The Southampton testing site runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 am to 3 p.m. the East Hampton site is open on Wednesdays and Fridays. Both require appointments. Call 845-553-8030.

All three of us have worked incredibly closely together throughout this unprecedented pandemic, County Executive Steve Bellone said Thursday during a Zoom meeting with counterparts Laura Curran of Nassau County and George Latimer of Westchester County. Representing a combined total of 4.5 million people, the trio leaned on each other, communicated with each other, and shared ideas, Mr. Bellone said.

In some ways, Ms. Curran said, reopening is more complicated than operating on crisis mode during the coronavirus surge. As the healthcare crisis begins to subside, the focus is on putting the pieces back into some kind of new normal, she said.

Residents have done a fantastic job acting in compliance with NY PAUSE, she said. She believes theres room for recalibration in the metrics necessary for reopening.

People are ready, she said.

The Long Island region dropped down from meeting five of seven metrics to meeting four. The number of hospitalizations increased once the facilities were opened up to elective and other non-COVID-related procedures. Mr. Bellone said he was confident the region would meet the metric nonetheless.

Introducing Mr. Latimer, Mr. Bellone noted Westchester was at the epicenter of the outbreak at the outset. He said he was grateful for his colleagues leadership. Mr. Latimer offered that theres a benefit in shared experiences and emphasized that the regional approach is the way to go. The downstate economies are interconnected, he underscored.

Each county is following a similar protocol with beach openings as the holiday weekend approaches.

Demand is going to be strong, Mr. Latimer cautioned.

But, like Mr. Bellone, both he and Ms. Curran made the decision to open to their own county residents only.

In Westchester, Mr. Latimer said tough decisions were made in terms of other summer attractions Playland amusement park will stay closed trough July, with social distancing and sanitizing impossible at such a venue.

So, too, are myriad summer ethnic festivals where, by definition, people cluster together. The July 4 fireworks shows have been canceled in Westchester ; in Suffolk, the decision has yet to be made and in Nassau all summer events in Eisenhower Park have been canceled. No formal decision about fireworks shows has been made in Nassau, Ms. Curran qualified. Stay tuned, she said.

Were trying to rise to a moment that none of us has ever experienced, Mr. Latimer said.

Asked whether he sees the upcoming weekend as a litmus test for how Suffolk County will handle the rest of the summer, Mr. Bellone said, Every new step we take is sort of a test.

Eleven people died from COVID-19 in the 24-hour period from Wednesday to Thursday, bringing Suffolks death toll to 1,802. Mr. Bellone reported 142 new confirmed cases during the same time frame, for a total of 38,553 cases countywide.

Summer school across New York State will be done through distance learning, and it is too soon to determine if classrooms can welcome students in the fall, Governor Andrew Cuomo said Thursday.

During his daily COVID-19 briefing, Mr. Cuomo said the facts have changed on schools because while it was once believed that children are not affected by the coronavirus, now it appears they are.

The New York State Department of Health is now investigating 157 cases of an illness in children that may be related to COVID-19. It is an inflammatory disease that has symptoms like Kawasaki disease or toxic shock syndrome and causes inflammation in blood vessels that can also affect the heart. Mr. Cuomo said New York was the first to investigate cases of the illness, and now 25 states and Washington, D.C., have reported cases as have 13 countries.

This is one of those situations, where the more they look, I believe, the more they are going to find, Mr. Cuomo said.

The governor said schools have high-density issues in classrooms, cafeterias and school buses and density is how coronavirus spreads.

Summer school is not going to open statewide for in-class teaching, Mr. Cuomo said. It will be through distance learning, and meal programs and child care services for essential employees will continue. In terms of opening up schools for the fall, its still too early to make that determination.

The governor said more information on the inflammatory syndrome is needed and the state is waiting to see how development of a vaccine proceeds. The state will issue guidelines in early June for schools and colleges to make plans to possibly open in fall, he added, and the state will approve or not approve those plans in July.

Mr. Cuomo advised that the states contact tracing program is beginning, and he urged New Yorkers who have tested positive for COVID-19 to take the call if their caller ID identifies an incoming caller as NYS Contact Tracing.

The governor said employees who believe their employer is not following PPE, hygiene and social distancing guidelines may call the New York Coronavirus Hotline at 1-888-364-3065.

Total hospitalizations and the number of intubated COVID-19 patients were both down statewide Wednesday. The number of new COVID-19 hospitalizations on Wednesday was just 246, based on a three-day rolling average. Mr. Cuomo said that is lower than the number was in the early days of COVID-19s emergence, before the spike in cases.

There were 105 deaths attributed to COVID-19 reported statewide Wednesday. That matches the low that was set on Monday. Of Wednesdays reported deaths, 78 occurred in hospitals and 27 occurred in nursing homes.

Long Island has eight consecutive days of decline in hospital deaths as of Wednesday, with an average daily death toll of 10. Fourteen days of decline are required to reopen a region.

Long Island reports 1.43 new COVID-19 hospitalizations daily per 100,000 residents. That number must stay under 2 per 100,000 in order to reopen, and for the past few days Long Islands number keeps getting lower.

Long Island has moved in the wrong direction on the availability of hospital beds. A region must have at least 30 percent of its bed capacity available, and at least 30 percent of its ICU beds, specifically, available. The region has 33 percent of its ICU beds free, but just 27 percent of its total number of beds free. However, this appears to be due to both Suffolk County and Nassau County hospitals being allowed, as of this week, to resume elective surgeries, and not due to an increase in COVID-related hospitalizations.

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COVID-19 UPDATE: County Executive Bellone Optimistic As Downward Trends Point Toward Imminent Reopening - 27east.com

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