Health

Suffolk County Police commissioner Geraldine Hart alongside Steve Bellone. TBR News Media file photo

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart spoke by phone to TBR News Media about the ongoing police response to the pandemic.

TBR: How have you reassured people during the pandemic?

Hart: When the Governor issued the stay at home orders, that was the public perspective of uncertainty. Once we had a high visibility presence in our communities, a lot of the anxiety level started to dissipate. With the unexpected and uncertainty that was out there in the communities, we wanted to make sure we were still connecting, making sure we were still a visible presence to everybody, which includes different types of outreach. I have been on the phone with the Chambers of Commerce, making sure they understand all the efforts we are taking to make sure their businesses are safe.

TBR: What are you doing to protect businesses?

Hart: We are working on two fronts. We are getting the calls coming in through 311 to our department of people who are seeing businesses that are non compliant or who are seeing suspicious activity in those areas. Those numbers are high. We also have proactive policing in those areas. The order has gone out that [officers] need to proactively check on all these businesses. The officers know the precincts the best. They make sure they are dropping by businesses and making sure there is no disruption, no break ins, broken glass, nothing to indicate there’s been a break in. They are going to record that.

TBR: Crime has decreased.

Hart: It is true. It bears out. Commercial burglaries are down significantly since the March 22 order went into effect. The high visibility of police officers out in the precincts and on the streets is important and it’s paying off.

TBR: Is there anxiety among police officers?

Hart: From the beginning, we have messaged that it’s important to the department that we ensure the safety and health of the officers. By doing that, we’ll ensure the safety and health of our communities. We took steps looking back to January of making sure everyone has the [Personal Protective Equipment] they need.

TBR: How do officers protect themselves?

Hart: They have the n95 masks and they have the medical, surgical masks as well, with the understanding that the burn rate is high on these. The direction to them, if they are encountering someone who is confirmed COVID-19, they need to don the n95 mask. If they are taking someone into custody who has the potential [to be infected], they should have that individual wear a surgical mask so they are not infecting our officers.

TBR: If someone in custody gets in a car, should that person wear a mask?

Hart: if the prisoner is thought to have symptoms or exhibit any signs of COVID-19, they should be wearing a mask.

TBR: What about those people who are asymptomatic but infectious?

Hart: The hope is that they would wear a mask. The officers can’t social distance with a prisoner, even if they are asymptomatic. The guidance would be, if possible, have the prisoner wear a medical mask.

TBR: Have you been vigilant about domestic abuse as people remain confined to their homes?

Hart: Reports of domestic violence continue to receive the same response. It’s always a mandatory 911 … It’s always a priority in our department. In Suffolk County, [people can] text to 911, if they are near a person who is the offender and can’t make a phone call safely. We want to message that and get that out.

TBR: Have the police been on the lookout for any hate crimes in connection with the virus?

Hart: We have a very significant hate crimes unit, which has a number of detectives assigned to it. I met with them to see if there’s anything specific they need to bring to my attention. I haven’t seen that to date.

TBR: The rate of infection among Suffolk County police officers is considerably lower than in New York City, which reported a 20 percent infection rate. How has the Suffolk County Police Department kept that rate down?

Hart: New York City has its own challenges as far as the density of the population. They have challenges to deal with, versus Suffolk, where people are spread out.

TBR: What are the police doing to help the communities?

Hart: We are looking for all those opportunities. We initially, when the school shut down, were reporting to schools for breakfast and lunch curb side. We had our community officers there to help with that. We had never done that before. It wasn’t in place. We thought it was a good opportunity to get out in the community and help where we could.

TBR: Have officers raised any funds for groups or people who need it?

Hart: They are delivering meals, and the [Police Benevolent Associations] and unions went to hospitals with meals for health workers. All our organizations are plugged in, veterans and fraternal are doing it as well, as are Cops Who Care. We are making sure we are identifying those people who are in need with food and different things.

TBR: Do you have enough staff?

Hart: Each day, I’m briefed on staffing levels. We assess it. We have made adjustments accordingly. We have not been outside the patrol bureau. We don’t have to bring in other units. We are prepared to with a continuity of operations plan. If we see more infections [among officers], we will bring other commands.

TBR: How is the mental health of the officers?

Hart: We are making sure we are connecting. We have peer teams at each level. They have unions, a peer support team, which are critical. They are out there working together and are able to observe somebody who might be having a tough time in getting the support they need. There’s a great [resource] with EAP and Chaplain Program, led by Stephen Unger.

TBR: How are you doing?

Hart: We have pushed a lot of things to teleconferencing. We jam pack everything in [to the schedule]. I don’t have to travel anymore. It’s a fantastic command staff. Everybody really is working together. We say that as a cliche, but it’s absolutely true here. Chief [Stuart] Cameron is well versed in all sorts of terrorism situations and homeland security, active shooter training. We have tremendous resources and are coordinating a lot of efforts. All our division chiefs have a wealth of knowledge through many emergency situations. This one is different, bringing that experience, making sure we are sharing that information, with a priority of officer’s health and safety.

TBR: Has anyone in your command staff tested positive?

Hart: Nobody has. We are distancing even in our headquarters. When we have our staff meetings daily, we changed rooms. We are six feet apart. We have a contingency plan if chiefs go out sick. We’ve been healthy and distancing and taking all precautions we need to be effective.

Sticking to a plant-rich diet that can reduce high blood pressure. Stock photo
Call to arms to reverse high blood pressure, once and for all

By David Dunaief, M.D.

Dr. David Dunaief

Hypertension (high blood pressure) and COVID-19 are intertwined. Those who have hypertension are more susceptible to COVID-19 and are more likely to get a severe form and experience complications from the virus. A study done in China captured the statistics: of 1099 patients infected, 15 percent had hypertension, and of those with severe cases, 23.7 percent had hypertension (1). Ultimately, those with hypertension are at higher risk, but we don’t at this point understand the specifics of why.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, a recent study showed that the number of deaths from hypertension had increased a whopping 26 percent overall from 2007 to 2017 (2). 

What about medications to blunt the association? There is a THEORY, not a study, that angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) may be harmful by increasing ACE2 in the lungs, which is a receptor that COVID-19 binds to; however, there is also a case for these medications having benefits (3). Do not stop or change your hypertension medications without talking to your doctor. Remember, this is just a theory, and theories are very dangerous; we don’t have research to support them, by definition (4).

I view this as a call to arms to control and, even more importantly, treat and reverse hypertension. Presently, only 54 percent of hypertension patients are controlled with medication (5). 

Potential to control and reverse hypertension through diet

We have the capability to treat and reverse hypertension with lifestyle modifications, including diet, exercise, sleep and stress management. We are going to focus on diet.

A whole foods plant-based diet (WFPBD) that is dark green leafy vegetable-rich has been shown to help prevent, control and possibly reverse hypertension. I call this the LIFE diet, which stands for Low Inflammatory Foods Everyday. The most researched type of WFPBD is the DASH (dietary approach to stopping hypertension) diet, which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, grains and reductions in saturated fats and total fat. DASH was the first randomized control trial to show that a predominantly whole food plant-based approach reduces blood pressure (6).

Why does diet have an effect? There are several factors, including inflammation; electrolytes, specifically sodium and potassium; and phytochemicals (plant nutrients and fiber content).

Why is inflammation so important?

Inflammation is a culprit in most chronic diseases, including hypertension. It also plays a crucial role in the severity of COVID-19. Those who take a turn for the worse in COVID-19 have high inflammation. On the news, an ER doctor noted that while COVID-19 patients may come in stable, they need to be watched carefully; in 3-24 hours, they could show high inflammation and fluid in their lungs and need to be on a ventilator.

There are several studies that show a direct relationship between high sensitivity C-reactive protein, one of the most well-studied biomarkers for inflammation, and hypertension in both men and women (7)(8). In the Physicians Health Study, those men who had high hsCRP (>3 mg/L) and hypertension had a 40 percent increased risk of stroke compared to those without hypertension and with hsCRP <1, which is optimal. Not to leave women out, the CARDIA study found that premenopausal women with elevated hsCRP were significantly more likely to have hypertension.

How can we decrease inflammation?

Anti-inflammatory drugs, including NSAIDS like ibuprofen, may suppress the immune system and make patients more susceptible to COVID-19. They also worsen hypertension and may increase the risk for cardiovascular events, such as a heart attack. In fact, prescription NSAIDS carry an FDA black box warning about this dangerous side effect. Anti-inflammatory drugs should not be the “go-to” solution.

Fortunately, a WFPBD is associated with reduction in inflammation, specifically hsCRP. We recently published a study showing that the LIFE diet has an inverse relationship between blood levels of beta carotene, a phytonutrient, and hsCRP (9). As you increase the intake of dark green leafy vegetables, the higher the beta carotene and the lower the hsCRP. There was a 75 percent reduction in inflammation with those that increased their beta carotene over the normal level compared to those who were non-adherent. The DASH diet also emphasizes an increased intake of vegetables.

There are studies to suggest that, as we lower animal protein intake, we are able to better reduce blood pressure. In the EPIC study, those who at who reduced animal protein to none had the biggest impact on blood pressure. This study compared meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans (10). 

Electrolytes – sodium and potassium

The optimal approach for these electrolytes is to have a sodium to potassium ratio that is less than one. For most, this means consuming less sodium and more potassium (11). The American Heart Association emphasizes low sodium, less than 1500 mg of sodium per day and higher potassium intake (12). 

What I find in my practice is that blood levels that are south of 140 mmol/L are better and that the bottom of the range is ideal; the range is between 135-145 mmol/L. This way, whether you are sodium-sensitive or not, you can either help control blood pressure or rule it out as a factor. Potassium should be 4.5 (units) or higher. These electrolytes should come from vegetables, especially dark green leafy vegetables, which have a natural balance of potassium and sodium. Other good sources of potassium are beans and nuts.

Ultimately, the power is in your hands. By changing your diet to one that is more plant-based and vegetable-rich, you can reduce inflammation, strengthen your immune system, possibly reduce or even get off anti-hypertension medications, reverse the trend of dying from hypertension, and reduce your susceptibility to severe COVID-19.

References:

(1) N Engl J Med. Online Feb 28, 2020. (2) J Am Coll Cardiol. Online March 19, 2020). (3) Nephron. Online Mar 23, 2020.) (4) Nature. Feb 2020, 579:270–273. (5) Circulation. 2016;133:e38–e360. (6) N Engl J Med. 1997 Apr 17; 336(16):1117-24. (7) JAMA.2015 Sep:4(9):e002073 (8) Menopause. 2016 Jun; 23(6):662. (9) AJLM Online. Dec. 21, 2019. (10) Oybkuc Gektg Bytr, 2002 Oct; 5(5):645-54. (11) Circulation Online. Oct 11 2017. (12) heart.org.

Dr. Dunaief is a speaker, author and local lifestyle medicine physician focusing on the integration of medicine, nutrition, fitness and stress management. For further information, visit www.medicalcompassmd.com.  

Cars line up at the Stony Brook coronavirus testing site. Photo by Kyle Barr
The coronavirus continues to take a heavy toll on residents of Suffolk County, a region County Executive Steve Bellone (D) described as being at the “epicenter” of the pandemic in New York.

The county had an increase of 64 deaths, bringing the total number of Covid-19 related fatalities to 263.

At this point, the morgue at the county is up to 70 percent capacity. Bellone is working with other local officials to bring in additional capacity, in case the number of deaths exceeds the capacity. The county is working with New York State to bring in an additional mobile refrigerated trailer.

Suffolk County continues to focus on so-called hotspot areas, where the incidence of infection is higher than in other parts of the area. These areas include Brentwood, Huntington Station, and Central Islip. In these communities, it is “difficult to get the messaging through because of the language barrier. We are communicating in multiple different ways.”

The county is setting up hotspot testing programs, which will offer tests for free. The county will have more information on these programs, which will be operated by HRHCare, in the next few days.

In terms of overall testing, 15,553 people have tested positive for the virus. Bellone said the positive news was that the number of people in intensive care unit beds had dropped to 506 from 546.

“We’ve seen for the first time a drop in the number of people in ICU beds for the county” since the pandemic reached New York, Bellone said on his daily conference call with reporters.

The county executive said he has been fielding questions about whether the County has plateaued. It is too early to make that determination, he suggested.

The message “is not mission accomplished,” he said. “It is, stay the course,” to prevent a resurgence in the number of cases and increasing demands on emergency services and health care workers.

After dropping as low as 43 on Friday, the number of ICU beds available reached 96 today, with 631 hospital beds currently available in the county.

Additionally, hospitals continue to release patients who have battled the virus. In the last 24 hours, 73 residents have left the hospital.

Bellone thanked Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) for delivering an additional 136 ventilators, which have been distributed to hospitals throughout the county.

Finally, the Suffolk County Police Department had 57 sworn members who tested positive for the virus.

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Officials from the Port Jefferson village, chamber and BID joined Teachers Federal Credit Union and hospital heads to accept a $5,000 check allowing more meals to hospital workers. Photo by Kyle Barr

Port Jeff business organizations have gotten a helping hand from Teachers Federal Credit Union in their quest to bring meals to hospital workers on the front lines of the coronavirus, as well as support restaurants that have seen massive drops in sales since the start of the pandemic.

Mary Joy Pipe, the president of the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, and Inna Sprague, the chief experience officer of Teachers, joined together in offering a check to the chamber and BID’s program offering meals to hospital workers. Photo by Kyle Barr

Holding a large $5,000 novelty check in front of the PJ Lobster House, Mary Joy Pipe, the president of the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce and Inna Sprague, the chief experience officer of Teachers,joined village and hospital officials in accepting the check. It was also a show of how people try to maintain social distancing even in such simple events like a press conference.

“Thank you for thinking of us as your hometown as all of our hometowns are suffering,” Pipe said.

For the past few weeks, Port Jefferson village, the chamber and the Business Improvement District have teamed up to have restaurants supply meals that are shipped to both John T. Mather and St. Charles hospitals. James Luciano, the owner of PJ Lobster House and the BID’s secretary, said they are sending 40 meals to hospital workers at a time on a rotating basis between businesses. Participating businesses include Slurp, Nantuckets, Prohibition Kitchen, Wave Seafood & Steak, Pasta Pasta, The Steam Room, Fifth Season, C’est Cheese, Saghar, The Pie, PJ Lobster House and Salsa Salsa.

The money raised is also partially to help businesses support some of their staff while there are a limited number of customers.

BID and chamber leaders said they have been holding constant meetings alongside village officials to try and keep on top of events.

“The BID and chamber are matching contributions from the restaurant association to help keep these meals moving along,” Mayor Margot Garant said. “We accept any support we can get from partners and our residents to help keep our businesses relevant and open to help feed the front line and also the people who are in need of supplies and meals.”

The chamber has established a Gofundme page at www.gofundme.com/f/help-port-jeff-restaurants-feed-hospital-workers. So far they have raised nearly $6,500.

“The restaurants and shops are the backbone of our community,” Roger Rutherford, the general manager of Roger’s Frigate and BID president said. “When we see partners such as Teachers stepping up it’s a really wonderful thing that helps us sustain and weather the storm.”

The idea of supporting hospitals during the crisis has spread to downtowns all throughout the Island. Sprague said Teachers originally caught on to what Port Jeff and other communities like Patchogue were doing through the Greater Long Island websites. Last week they donated $5,000 to the fundraising efforts in Patchogue. Later this week the credit union plans to donate another $5,000 to restaurants in Bayshore and Babylon.

“Our goal is to continue to support frontline staff who are deemed essential to our society, as well as keep our local businesses employed and functioning and operating,” she said.

By David Dunaief, M.D.

Dr. David Dunaief

COVID-19, a strain of the coronavirus, is now a pandemic. I have been barraged with questions from patients, neighbors and friends. They are right to be asking questions, because there is not enough information being circulated about how to protect yourself and your family. 

Key elements

The key weapons we have in this fight against COVID-19 are containment and mitigation. A lot has been shared about containment by the Centers for Disease Control. Containment is reducing the incidence of new cases to a goal of zero, thus flattening the prevalence curve so this virus is no longer infecting anyone. This requires social distancing, hand washing for at least 20 seconds, surface cleaning, and avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth (1). If you have not already, I encourage you to review the guidelines at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus.

There is less information being provided about how we can minimize the severity of the disease if we are infected. This is mitigation. Mitigation is about preparing ourselves, so we experience an asymptomatic or a mild form. 

Who is most at risk?

According to a study focusing on Wuhan, China findings, people most at risk are those who have chronic diseases, with high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease being the three most common (2). Also at risk are those who are “older,” that is 60 years or older, for they are more likely to have weakened immune systems and increased inflammation.

Managing your immune response

Ultimately, the goal is to have a healthy, appropriate immune system response. If the immune system “under-responds,” the virus’s symptoms will be more severe. Another term for this is immunocompromised. 

If the immune system is overstimulated, your white blood cells are more likely to attack healthy tissue and cause further damage, exacerbating the situation. This sometimes happens after a heart attack, where the immune response is overzealous, targets healthy tissue and causes dysfunction in the heart. This process is called remodeling.

The goal is to create a healthy/strengthened immune system — not to boost and not to suppress the immune system. You want the “Goldilocks” of immune responses: not too little, not too much, but just right.

What can be done?

The best methodology here is to lean on what I call the four pillars of lifestyle modification: diet, exercise, stress management, and sleep.  

Diet. By implementing a nutrient-dense, whole food plant-based (WFPB) diet or, more specifically, what I call a “Low Inflammatory Foods Everyday (LIFE) diet,” you can rapidly improve or even reverse these chronic diseases, decrease inflammation and strengthen your immune system, which will decrease your chances of dying from the virus.

The Lancet study referenced above found that inflammation and a weakened immune system were central to determining how people will do on entering the hospital.

What I’ve found with the LIFE diet in my practice is that people have white blood cells that are on the low end of the scale, between 2.5-4.5, rather than in the middle or upper range of 6.0-10.8. Typically, my patients’ white blood cells when they get sick stay within the normal range of 3.4-10.8. In fact., I had a patient who recently got a cold virus: their white blood cells were 3.4 before they got sick, and they rose to only 7.8, well within the normal range. This resulted in a targeted response with recovery in a very short time period. 

For those with healthy immune systems, if they do get the coronavirus, their response will be more likely targeted instead of a disproportionately large response that starts killing the virus but also the healthy tissue in the lungs, leading to increased inflammation and fluid build-up in the lungs. Dr Fauci has warned this could potentially happen – what is called a cytokine storm – although the chances are very small. Ultimately, the immune system in these situations contributes to the problem, instead of helping.

So, what can you do to incorporate LIFE diet habits into your daily routine?

Focus on fresh and frozen fruits, vegetables and legumes. This is very important. With vegetables, the focus should be on dark green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, bok choy, kale, broccoli and cauliflower, as well as mushrooms. More is better. You cannot have too much. For fruits, apples have shown to play an important role in lung health, and all types of berries have high anti-inflammatory effects. 

WFPB diets ultimately help with inflammation and immune strengthening and also support reduced stress and better sleep. The reason for these effects may have to do with the microbiome, the microbes living in your gut, which are an important determinant of how your immune system functions. Seventy percent of your immune cells are in your gut.

You can test for inflammation by looking at both white blood cell count and high sensitivity CRP (hsCRP). Beta carotene levels in the blood are a way to measure nutrient levels. I recently published a study that showed there is an inverse relationship between beta carotene in the blood and inflammation measured through hsCRP. This showed a 75 percent reduction in inflammation with higher beta carotene levels achieved through a plant-rich diet focusing on dark green leafy vegetables.

Interestingly, you don’t seem to achieve the same reduction in inflammation from vitamins or plant-based powders as you do by eating actual fruits and vegetables and legumes.

Stress management and exercise. Please, don’t panic. When you stress, your body releases cortisol, or internal steroids, that actually weaken the immune system and increase your risk of serious infection. Techniques to reduce your stress include exercise, yoga and meditation.

Mild to moderate exercise can be effective, such as a walk or jog outdoors or up and down the steps of your home. Just because the gyms may be closed in your area does not mean you can’t get exercise. It is spring, let’s take advantage of the weather, which will also help with mood and stress.

You can also exercise your lungs using an incentive spirometer. My personal favorite is the Triflo II version, but there are many on the market. I recommend taking 10 breaths using the incentive spirometer twice a day. This can help expand your lungs and keep the aveoli healthy and open. Aveoli exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide molecules to and from the bloodstream.

Sleep. Exercise will also help with sleep, as will the LIFE diet. Getting enough quality sleep is important to strengthening the immune system. Quality, not quantity, is most crucial. 

What if you are infected?

If you are infected, supportive care is most critical: stay hydrated; focus on foods with fluids in them to help with this, like fruits, vegetables, and low-salt vegetable-based soups; and sleep.

Importantly, stay away from NSAIDS. These are mostly over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen, naproxen and even aspirin, but can be prescriptions such as diclofenac. These suppress the immune system, thus making it more difficult for it to fight (3)(4). The mechanism of action for this suppression of the immune system is an anti-inflammatory effect that is different and detrimental, compared to the favorable anti-inflammatory effects of a WFPB diet such as the LIFE diet.

Instead, you want to reduce fever using acetaminophen, or Tylenol. This will not have any effects on inflammation, thus not interfering with the body’s immune system. If you can’t tolerate acetaminophen for fever, some alternatives may be elderflowers, catnip (which is a gentle choice for children), yarrow, white willow bark, echinacea, and lemon balm, although there is little data on their effectiveness.

Do not hesitate to go to the hospital if you have difficulty breathing, persistent pain or pressure in your chest, new confusion or an inability to get up, or bluish lips or face. These are signs of potentially severe and life-threatening COVID-19 symptoms.

To sum it all up, chronic diseases and not managing those four lifestyle pillars are risk factors for dying from COVID-19. You can improve or reverse your chronic diseases, as well as strengthen your immune system and reduce inflammation through a plant-rich dark green leafy vegetable diet like the LIFE diet

References:

(1) cdc.gov/coronavirus. (2) Lancet. Published online March 9, 2020. (3) Lung. 2017;195(2):201-8. (4) Chest. 2011;139(2):387-94

Dr. David Dunaief is a speaker, author and local lifestyle medicine physician focusing on the integration of medicine, nutrition, fitness and stress management. For further information, visit www.medicalcompassmd.com.       

 

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin. Flie photo by Alex Petroski

Thousands of masks have come to Suffolk County over the past two days courtesy of the White House, both from purchases and donations.

After U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1) put out a tweet asking for help for Suffolk County, where the number of positive diagnosis for COVID-19 continues to climb above 10,000, a member of the President Donald Trump (R) family connected with County Executive Steve Bellone (D). The county executive, who had run out of his supplies of personal protective equipment, purchased 150,000 surgical masks.

On Sunday night,  Trump announced that he would ship 200,000 coveted n95 masks to Suffolk County, which came from a federal procurement collection, said Zeldin.

“For the n95 masks to come in without a charge helps all of those local entities laying out a lot of cash at the moment,” Zeldin said.

Zeldin is continuing to reach out to other resources around the country, hoping to secure hospital gowns, among other equipment. Indeed, Zeldin spoke earlier today with the Ambassador to Iceland, who is “working the phones to see if he can help the county procure gowns.”

The 1st district representative said he believes the timing of his tweet seeking assistance for Suffolk County “connected with Americans who may not even live in New York, but who were feeling the spirit as fellow Americans to do whatever they can.”

As for ventilators, Zeldin indicated that the White House is likely to respond to any requests for additional equipment with a question about the location and use of the 4,000 ventilators the federal government already sent.

“It appears [the ventilators from the federal stock pile] haven’t been deployed yet,” Zeldin said. “If you went back to the White House right now and said, ‘I need another ventilator,’ it would be a fair question to be asked back, ‘Where are the ventilators that we sent you?’”

Zeldin said he understands the plan at the state level to increase the number of ventilators as the state prepares for any sudden increase in demand, adding he wouldn’t expect the state to provide a map of where every ventilator is located,  but he does believe an accounting of the life saving equipment would help the White House respond to any further requests.

Zeldin said putting together the location of ventilators in Suffolk County is, “something that [Bellone’s] office is working proactively on to identify. It appears that they know where every ventilator is in the county. They were working to obtain additional information beyond that and hopefully will yield some additional intelligence that helps in the process.”

Despite Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) again today sharing he is optimistic New York could be hitting the apex of the virus, the number of cases on Long Island continue to grow as testing continues.

As of this morning, Bellone said the number of positive tests in Suffolk County for the virus had climbed to 13,487, which is an increase of over 1,000.

“We’re seeing a big increase in the number of people testing positive,” Bellone said.

The hospitalization rate, however, increased at a much slower pace than it had prior to Sunday as well. The number of people in the hospital with the virus stands at 1,463, which is up 26 patients, with 546 residents in the Intensive Care Unit, an increase of six patients.

“For the second day in a row, we’ve had a modest increase in the number of hospitalizations,” Bellone said “That is a good sign.”

Another positive piece of news, Bellone said, is that 63 people have left the hospital who had Covid-19.

These encouraging signs mean that the social distancing and New York Pause, which Cuomo extended until April 29, are working.

They do not, however, indicate that “we take our foot off the pedal,” Bellone said. “The worst thing is to see positive news and decide we can start adjusting our life back to normal. Then, we would see a rise in cases again and, instead of a plateau, we would go back up. We do not want to see that happen.”

As of today, Suffolk County had 710 hospital beds available, including 65 ICU beds.

The number of people who have died with coronavirus continues to rise. Bellone reported an additional 24 people who have died from complications related to coronavirus, which brings the total to 199. He expects those numbers may be under reported and the county may have crossed above 200 deaths.

Bellone continued to urge people who have recovered from a confirmed case of Covid-19 to donate blood plasma, which is rich in virus-fighting antibodies, to the Red Cross, to the New York Blood Center or to the Mount Sinai health system, which are available online at NYBloodCenter.org or MountSinai.org.

The Suffolk County Police Department continues to respond to calls about residents who are not complying with social distancing the New York Pause. Yesterday, the police department had 24 calls, of which three were non compliant. Once the officers spoke to those who were not compliant, they immediately changed their behavior and the officers didn’t have to issue any tickets.

Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said some of those who were not complying with the ongoing social distancing rules have been in the hard-to-reach immigrant community. The police department is going out with signage and fliers. This morning,  Hart participated in a radio show with La Fiesta “to make sure we’re communicating.” The police department has also reached out to community leaders to ask for their help.

To reach younger people who may not be complying, the police department has also used social media. Over the weekend,  Hart partnered with school superintendents to do a robocall to ask families to follow the current public health mandates.

As of this morning, 56 sworn officers and six civilians had contracted COVID-19.

Stock photo

Update: This story includes details about 200,000 n95 masks President Trump is delivering tomorrow to Suffolk County. The story also adds a quote from Representative Lee Zeldin.

With the well running dry for personal protective equipment from local resources as the viral pandemic spreads, Suffolk County is receiving much-needed help from President Donald Trump, White House Senior Advisor Jared Kushner and U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1).

After Suffolk County received 150,000 n95 masks Sunday, President Donald Trump (R) said the White House is sending an additional 200,000 masks to the county tomorrow at no cost.

Zeldin, who is a member of the bipartisan Congressman Coronavirus Task Force, had been asking for help to find masks for a county where the number of people infected and dying from the virus continued to climb.

Soon after Zeldin’s request for assistance, Kushner told Zeldin he would like to ensure that Suffolk County receives all the personal protective equipment it will need over the next 30 days.

“We are all in this fight together, and I am encouraged by the Administration’s swift, effective and immediate response to Suffolk Suffolk County has the support of officials at every level of government, Bellone said, with ongoing help from Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) and the commitment Zeldin received from Jared Kushner, a senior advisor in the White House and President Donald Trump’s son-in-law.

“It is a significant thing to know we have that commitment from the White House,” said County Executive Steve Bellone (D) on his daily conference call with reporters.

“I want to thank [Congressman] Zeldin,” Bellone said. “We will continue to work together.”

The Suffolk County Fire Chief’s Association, meanwhile, expressed its ongoing appreciation for the effort and sacrifice of health care workers throughout the county this evening at 7 pm. Throughout the county, Suffolk County fire trucks sounded their sirens in unison to “express their gratitude and support,” Bellone said.

Indeed, the number of positive diagnoses has increased to 12,405 in Suffolk County, which is an increase of 1,035 over the previous 24 hours,.

At the same time, the number of patients hospitalized with coronavirus increased to 1,435, which is a rise of 19 over the previous day. The increase is the second consecutive day when the number of hospitalizations has risen by a smaller amount.

“We’re hopeful that is a trend that will continue,” Bellone said. “We hopeful,” but it’s too early to say that is the case. At this point, it’s too early to predict when the surge will reach its peak.

The number of patients in the Intensive Care Unit climbed by 113, which is a “huge jump,” Bellone said, bringing the total in the ICU to 540 people.

Additionally, the number of people who have died with the virus has now climbed to 175

On a positive note, the number of patients with Covid-19 who were released from the hospital increased to 107 over the last day.

In addressing the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation that people wear face coverings when they go out in public, Bellone urged people not to use the N95 surgical masks that the county is reserving for health care workers and others exposed to infected residents regularly as a part of their jobs. Instead, he suggested that people use cloth coverings.

On his facebook page and social media sites, Bellone is sharing ways residents can make their own masks, which can include wrapping a tee shirt around their heads.

The county executive said he would be “wearing one when I am out in public. If I’m out anymore and I haven’t been going to the store much, I will wear a face covering in alignment with guidance from the CDC. We are modeling what we are asking county residents to do.”

Separately, the county is revising the limitations for cultural and artistic grants. Those organizations that have received those grants can use them to fund payroll and offer virtual programming. Bellone said the county “understands that may be a necessity for a while.”

Stock Photo

Suffolk County lost 28 more residents to the coronavirus, bringing the total in the county to 124, according to County Executive Steve Bellone (D). The residents who succumbed to the disease Covid-19 ranged in age from their mid 30’s to their mid 90’s.

“We extend our heartfelt condolences,” said Bellone on his daily conference call with reporters. “We pray for all those who are in the hospital and are struggling without family and loved ones to be there for them.”

Bellone reminded residents that the reason for social distancing rules and for the pause in non essential businesses is to prevent the spread of the disease and to save lives.

Bellone also reported that the county has given out over 1.7 million pieces of personal protective equipment, which has become a critical need for health care workers and first responders who help the public. At this point, the county has emptied its entire cache of supplies and is working to continue to get donations and to purchase personal protective equipment from around the world.

Bellone thanks the Long Island Chinese American Association for donating 20,000 ear loop masks. The county will “make sure they get to emergency personnel and to places that need them.”

The county executive suggested several ways residents could contribute to the effort to combat the virus and the effects it has had on the community.

People who have recovered from Covid-19 can become a part of the solution for others who are battling against the virus. Anyone who has had a confirmed case of the disease and has recovered can donate plasma as a part of a treatment regime. Their antibodies, which helped them fight off the virus, could also prove effective in the molecular battle others are fighting.

Bellone encouraged everyone who has had the virus and recovered to reach out to the red cross, at redcrossblood.org to see if they are eligible to donate life-saving plasma.

Additionally, people can provide financial support to organizations that work tirelessly to feed people throughout Long Island by donating to Long Island Harvest and Long Island Cares at LIHarvest.org and LICares.org.

As for the number of cases of coronavirus, Suffolk County now has 11,370 people with the virus. That’s an increase of 1,216 people over a 24 hour period.

The number of people hospitalized increased by 118, which is “a little bit of good news,” Bellone said. “That is a lower number than we’ve seen in the last couple of days.”

Health care workers throughout the county are currently caring for 427 patients in Intensive Care Units, which is up 26 from yesterday. The number of available ICU beds, however, climbed to 72, which is up from 43 the day before.

Also on the positive side, 96 patients hospitalized with Covid-19 left the hospital over the last day.

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has urged people to wear masks when they go out in public, Bellone said the Suffolk County Police Department has “had conversations” about officers wearing masks, but has not yet reached a decision on that.

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Ketogenic Diet
Making sense of the latest health trends

By Melissa Arnold

Low fat or full fat? Splenda, stevia or cane sugar? Three large meals or six small ones? New schools of thought and trends surrounding healthy eating are cropping up all the time, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed or confused, especially when the advice is conflicting. 

Whether you’ve been using a particular weight loss plan with accurate information is key. Dr. Konstantinos Spaniolas, Associate Director of the Stony Brook Medicine Bariatric and Metabolic Weight Loss Center, has given us his take on three of the most popular diet trends, the Ketogenic Diet, Clean Eating and Intermittent Fasting.

The Ketogenic Diet 

(also known as keto)

The basics: The keto diet uses the body’s metabolic processes to its advantage. In keto, carbs are drastically limited, which lowers glucose and insulin levels. Without glucose to use as its typical fuel, the body enters a state called ketosis, where fat is burned almost exclusively. Lots of unsaturated (healthy) fats, dairy products and moderate amounts of protein are central to going keto. Say goodbye to carbs and sugar, not only in forms like bread and pasta, but also in most fruits and some vegetables.

What it’s like: Tom Walheim, Sr., a 56-year-old engineer from Mullica Hill, N.J., started to search for a diet plan in 2018 when he acknowledged he wasn’t feeling as good as he did when he was younger. After trying other diets, he chose keto because it was easy to implement and would fit in well with his lifestyle. All three of Walheim’s children have celiac disease, so their home was already gluten free.

“Having already eliminated carbs, I had already separated myself from the things that would be tough for a lot of people to give up,” Walheim said. The first 15 pounds came off quickly, and within about six months he’d lost 40 pounds. Ultimately, Walheim has maintained a ketogenic diet for more than two years and plans to continue. 

“I love to grill, and I’ve rediscovered cooking through learning different keto recipes, like Instant Pot chili. And I’ve never felt deprived — I will occasionally have a cheat day when celebrating a special occasion with my family. For example, I enjoyed the cake at my daughter’s wedding this fall.”

Pros: Weight loss can be significant and quick, especially early on. Lovers of fatty foods can enjoy plenty of their favorites — keto is sometimes nicknamed the “butter and bacon diet.”

Cons: It takes time for the body to adjust to going keto, and you may feel moody, groggy, constipated or just unwell. The body can rebel when you begin to transition off of keto as well, causing gastrointestinal issues and even weight gain.

Dr. Spaniolas’ take: “In the keto diet, there’s an introductory week that is very low calorie, and that can be a problem for some people. With any diet that restricts certain foods, you can expect a period of adjustment, but most people tolerate it well. It’s important to stay well-hydrated to minimize risk of constipation and boost your overall wellbeing.

Clean Eating 
Paleo Diet

(also known as the Paleo Diet or Whole30, among others)

The basics: Generally speaking, eating clean is about sticking to foods that are in their natural, whole or unprocessed form. According to the Paleo Diet’s official website, this healthy eating strategy emphasizes foods eaten by our hunter-gatherer ancestors. That means lots of veggies, fruits, meat, eggs and some fats and oils are in, whole grains, dairy, processed foods and refined sugars are out. Different plans will vary their lists of acceptable foods.

What it’s like: As a captain in the U.S. Air Force, Gemma Fiduk works hard to ensure she remains healthy and fit. When it comes to dieting, she takes a balanced approach of eating well-rounded, nutritious meals along with occasional treats.

“In 2015, I was stationed in Little Rock, Arkansas. I was a physical training officer at the time, so I was trying to take a lot of courses on fitness and nutrition to better support my airmen,” said Fiduk, who’s now stationed in Fairborn, Ohio. “The gym on base offered a lot of different seminars and workshops, and one of them was about Whole30.”

Armed with information from the seminar and the official Whole30 book by Melissa Hartwig Urban, Fiduk said she was excited to give the program a try. 

“The program doesn’t hide that it takes discipline, but they prepare you well for the experience and I love a good challenge. Besides, it’s only 30 days,” she said. “I came away with a better understanding of my own body and the foods that were and weren’t best for me.”

While she didn’t weigh herself after completing Whole30, Fiduk noted a definite reduction in bloating and positive changes in her figure. After the initial cravings passed, she loved the sense of physical wellbeing and accomplishment that came along with cooking at home.

She admits that it can be easy to fall into eating the same meals repetitively or feeling bored with the menu, but said it’s easy to find a wealth of clean recipes online for those willing to look. The Whole30 website offers meal planning and grocery delivery services for a fee.

Pros: In the case of Whole30, the diet has a defined start and end date.

Cons: Lots of advance planning and shopping is required, and finding compliant ingredients or condiments can be tricky in regular grocery stores.

Dr. Spaniolas’ take: “The idea with clean eating is to take yourself back to the most basic nutrients. It’s less about weight loss than it is about overall wellbeing, and in the case of Whole30, it’s not meant to be a forever plan — you take it on for a set period of time and then return to eating normally.

Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent Fasting

(Also known as intermittent energy restriction)

The basics: Fasting is as simple as it sounds — not eating anything for a set period of time. By restricting the time spent eating, the body is said to better regulate blood sugar and increase the ability to burn fat. Options abound with fasting, including daily fasts of 12 to 20 hours, restricting eating hours only on certain days, or not eating at all for one or two days each week. During eating periods, a normal diet is consumed — calories are not restricted.

Pros: You can eat whatever you want — there are no forbidden foods. Fasting requires little preparation and can be started and stopped as your lifestyle requires.

Cons: Getting used to hunger pangs can be tough, and social situations might be hard to deal with if you’re the only one not eating.

What it’s like: Jeena Rudy, 26, of Setauket, was a college athlete and swim coach in her native California before becoming a missionary three years ago. She admitted her work with college students can make it too easy to make unhealthy food choices or overeat.

“One of my brothers is two years older than I am, and a few years ago he mentioned that his cholesterol was too high,” Rudy said. “I started to gain a little weight once I wasn’t swimming 40 hours a week, and I didn’t want to end up developing health issues. That conversation really motivated me to try intermittent fasting.”

Rudy fasted daily for 16 to 20 hours over a period of several months. She ultimately lost some weight and said she became more mindful about what she was eating.

“Fasting changed the way I think about food. I learned more about what foods help me to feel my best, too. Like right now I need to eat breakfast and could just grab a bagel, but making eggs would be a better, healthier option for me. I’m planning to take up fasting again in the future.”

Dr. Spaniolas’ take: “Again, staying hydrated will help you in fasting because it can quell hunger pains by keeping something in your stomach. I tell people to aim for at least 64 ounces a day, and if they can get closer to 100 ounces, that’s even better. Very low caloric plans, where people consume 600 calories a day for extended periods of time, should only be done under medical supervision, especially if you have health issues.

The best dietary plan is the one that works well for you. But just because a particular plan works well for one person doesn’t mean it will be the right one for someone else. For some people, giving up carbohydrates is easy, while others can’t give up fruits or go longer periods without eating. It’s about finding what fits best with your preferences, habits and lifestyle, and ultimately whether or not you can stick with it. 

Try something out for a week or two and see how you like it, but don’t combine diets. For some, dieting isn’t the best way to lose weight. If you’re having difficulty losing weight on your own, checking in with a physician to consider more targeted options can help. Remember to stay active as well, aiming for at least 10,000 steps a day or 30 minutes of exercise several times a week.” 

Remember to talk with your doctor before making any significant changes to your diet or exercise routine.

 

The coronavirus has so far claimed seven lives in Suffolk County as of March 20. Image from CDC

A total of 93 confirmed coronavirus patients have been released from hospitals in Suffolk as County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said they have been cleared to go home. Meanwhile, however, Suffolk is trying to meet the hard task of staying ahead in the number of beds available before the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients reaches its apex. 

Bellone said there are 648 hospital beds and 43 Intensive Care Unit beds available, and Gregson Pigott, Suffolk County’s health commissioner, said those were spread out among hospitals, though even still he admitted, “that’s not a lot of beds.”

As counties all across New York fight to stay ahead of the number of patients, all have seen a significant lack of personal protective equipment, including gloves, masks and gowns. Ventilators, which can be lifesaving to critically ill patients, have also been in extreme short supply. Stony Brook University Hospital, for instance, has been looking to detail plans and designs that could put two patients on a single ventilator at a time. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday morning he would be signing an executive order allowing the National Guard to go to facilities that are not currently using equipment like ventilators and bring them to places that need them.

“I understand they don’t want to give up their ventilators … the theory is if the government gets them they will never get that back, I understand that, but I don’t have an option,” Cuomo said. 

In that same press conference, the governor named several locations as COVID-19 “hotspots,” which included Stony Brook University Hospital. 

Cuomo added the city could start running out of ventilators by next week.

While Suffolk County has exhausted “all” its PPE equipment for health care facilities and has hosted equipment donation drives, Bellone said they have increasingly called on companies who were interested to retool any kind of production for purpose of making medical equipment. The first of these companies, Hauppauge-based 71 Visuals, a sign making company, has retooled its facility to making face shields for health care workers. So far the county has purchased 25,000 of said face shields. 

“When we can have local manufacturers, we can purchase which can be utilized in this fight to save lives,” Bellone said.

The county executive has called on any other company who is considering retooling their operations to reach out to them, saying those businesses will be worked with and compensated for their efforts.

The number of deaths due to the coronavirus continues to rise. There are now 10,149 confirmed cases, according to the county’s data tracking website. This past day saw nine new deaths, bringing the total fatalities in Suffolk to 93. 

Yesterday, The New York Times reported the navy ship USNS Comfort, which is docked inside New York Harbor, is not accepting coronavirus patients, instead being used as a place for overflow, non-COVID related patients. The vast majority of its 1,000 beds are currently unused, especially since non-coronavirus related sickness and injuries has severely decreased thanks to current stay-at-home orders.

Bellone criticized the fact the ship was not being used to field the flood of new daily coronavirus patients.

“Patients need to go where there is space available to help save lives,” Bellone said.