As Suffolk County emerges from a public health crisis that claimed the lives of close to 2,000 residents and triggered an economic collapse, County Executive Steve Bellone (D) has renewed his request for financial aid from the federal government.
Following a municipal committee that laid out an economic shortfall for this year of over $800 million, the county’s nonpartisan Budget Review Office validated the enormous financial hole that threatens public health, public safety and social services.
“Our immediate need right now is for $1 billion in federal relief,” Bellone said on his daily conference call with reporters. “That won’t solve all our issues. We are still going to need to make some tough choices,” which he said includes streamlining processes and potentially cuts in other areas.
Bellone urged the federal government, which originally urged the lockdown to save lives, to prevent essential employees from not only risking their lives and the lives of their families by working during the pandemic, but then also from having to help foot the bill for these unprecedented efforts.
“What we’re asking Washington to do is to give us back a fraction of what we send every year,” Bellone said. “It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.”
Bellone felt confident that a bipartisan group of federal government representatives recognized the need for financial help from the government.
The budget review office provided a list of mitigation measures that could include laying people off, lagging in payrolls, raising an energy or sales tax and amortizing pensions, all of which would cause additional suffering for first responders, essential employees and county residents.
Even putting all those items together, however, would only add up to $150 million, which is well short of the financial need the county has over the next three months when the next budget is due.
Bellone said the county was considering cuts in all areas, which could include the Suffolk County Police Department.
The viral numbers continue to remain stable and is a considerably better daily tally than many other counties and states which have seen a surge in new cases and hospitalizations.
In Suffolk County, the number of people who tested positive for COVID-19 was 32, which brings the total to 40,770. The positive tests continue to represent below 1 percent of the overall tests from the county each day.
These numbers remain low over a week after many of the 100 protests over the killing of Minneapolis resident George Floyd, whose death triggered sweeping requests around the world for reform of police tactics.
“I feel very comfortable saying that [the low number of positive tests] is evidence that the outdoor environment is a very safe environment with the caveat that I’m not a doctor,” Bellone said. “When you’ve had this many protestors wearing face coverings and not seeing a spike in cases is real strong evidence about how safe the outdoor environment is.”
The number of people hospitalized increased by eight to 129, which reflects a continuing holding pattern in that figure around 125.
The number of people in the Intensive Care Unit declined by two to 35.
Hospital occupancy remained well below health care metrics. The occupancy of hospital beds was at 64 percent, while the occupancy of ICU beds was at 60 percent.
The number of people discharged from the hospital in the last day was 10.
Meanwhile, one person died from complications related to COVID-19 in the last day. The total number of deaths for Suffolk County now stands at 1,958.