Health

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Suffolk County has moved to Phase 3 of its economic reopening following a prolonged lockdown from COVID-19, as restaurants can offer limited seating dining and nail salons and tattoo parlors can reopen.

Additionally, the number of people that can gather together increased to 25 from 10.

For personal care and indoor dining, the maximum capacity is half of the pre-viral levels. Employees must be tested every two weeks at these establishments.

“It’s another huge step for all of us,” County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said on his daily conference call with reporters.

The viral numbers in the county continued to remain well below guidelines and limits.

The number of people testing positive for the virus was 45, bringing the total to 41,101.

The number of people hospitalized with the coronavirus declined by one through the 24 hour period ending on June 22, bringing that total to 88.

The number of people in the Intensive Care Unit with complications related to the virus decreased by two to 26.

The percent of hospital beds occupied was 64, while the percent of ICU beds in use was 60 percent.

The number of people who died from complications related to COVID-19 increased by two to 1,972.

Suffolk County distributed an additional 15,000 personal protective equipment in the last day, with much of that going to the police department and nursing homes.

Separately, Suffolk County is continuing its movie series, which kicked off this past weekend with the showing of “Jaws” on the 45th anniversary of the shark film’s debut.

Reservations are open starting today for “ET The Extra-Terrestrial,” which will be shown next Wednesday, July 1. Upcoming movies include “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” and “The Addams Family.”

Residents interested in seeing the free movies at the Smithpoint County Park can get tickets at suffolkcountyny.gov/driveinmovieseries.com.

After Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) indicated recently that Phase 4 reopening would exclude malls, movie theaters and gyms, Bellone said he is continuing to communicate with the state about these limits.

Bellone said he believes malls “can reopen with a limited capacity and requiring face coverings.” After looking at the Phase 3 data, he expects the state may reevaluate those guidelines to see what else can be reopened.

Dairy may not be as beneficial as we have been led to believe. Stock Photo
Does calcium really reduce risk?

By David Dunaief, M.D.

Dr. David Dunaief

The prevalence of osteoporosis and low bone mass increase dramatically as we age. According to the Centers for Disease Control, over 48 percent of those ages 65 and older in the U.S. are affected by low bone mass, and 16.4 percent by osteoporosis (1).

Why do we care? Because they may lead to increased risk of fracture and, subsequently, lower mobility, which may have significant quality of life impacts (2). That is what we know. But what about what we think we know?

For decades we have been told that if we want strong bones, we need to consume dairy. This has been drilled into our brains since we were toddlers. Dairy has calcium and is fortified with vitamin D, so it could only be helpful, right? Not necessarily.

The data is mixed, but studies indicate that dairy may not be as beneficial as we have been led to believe. Even worse, it may be harmful. The operative word here is “may.” We will investigate this further. Vitamin D and calcium are good for us. But do supplements help prevent osteoporosis and subsequent fractures? Again, the data are mixed, but supplements may not be the answer for those who are not deficient.

Holes in the dairy paradigm

The results of a large, observational study involving men and women in Sweden showed that milk may be harmful (3). When comparing those who consumed three or more cups of milk daily to those who consumed less than one, there was a 93 percent increased risk of mortality in women between the ages of 39 and 74. There was also an indication of increased mortality based on dosage.

For every one glass of milk consumed there was a 15 percent increased risk of death in these women. There was a much smaller, but significant, 3 percent per glass increased risk of death in men. Women experienced a small, but significant, increased risk of hip fracture, but no increased risk in overall fracture risk. There was no increased risk of fracture in men, but there was no benefit either. There were higher levels of biomarkers that indicate oxidative stress and inflammation found in the urine.

This study was 20 years in duration and is eye-opening. We cannot make any decisive conclusions, only associations, since it is not a randomized controlled trial. But it does get you thinking. The researchers surmise that milk has high levels of D-galactose, a simple sugar that may increase inflammation and ultimately contribute to this potentially negative effect, whereas other foods have many-fold lower levels of this substance.

Ironically, the USDA recommends that, from 9 years of age through adulthood, we consume up to three servings of dairy per day (4). This is interesting, since the results from the previous study showed the negative effects at this recommended level of milk consumption. The USDA may want to rethink these guidelines.

Prior studies show milk may not be beneficial for preventing osteoporotic fractures. Specifically, in a meta-analysis that used data from the Nurses’ Health Study for women and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study for men, neither men nor women saw any benefit from milk consumption in preventing hip fractures (5).

Calcium disappointments

Unfortunately, it is not only milk that may not be beneficial. In a meta-analysis involving a group of observational studies, there was no statistically significant improvement in hip fracture risk in those men or women ingesting at least 300 mg of calcium from supplements and/or food on a daily basis (6).

The researchers did not differentiate the types of foods containing calcium. In a group of randomized controlled trials analyzed in the same study, those taking 800 to 1,600 mg of calcium supplements per day also saw no increased benefit in reducing nonvertebral fractures. In fact, in four clinical trials the researchers actually saw an increase in hip fractures among those who took calcium supplements. A weakness of the large multivaried meta-analyses is that vitamin D baseline levels, exercise and phosphate levels were not considered.

Vitamin D benefit

Finally, though the data is not always consistent for vitamin D, when it comes to fracture prevention, it appears it may be valuable. In a meta-analysis involving 11 randomized controlled trials, vitamin D supplementation resulted in a reduction in fractures (7). When patients were given a median dose of 800 IUs (ranging from 792 to 2,000 IUs) of vitamin D daily, there was a significant 14 percent reduction in nonvertebral fractures and an even greater 30 percent reduction in hip fractures in those 65 years and over. However, vitamin D in lower levels showed no significant ability to reduce fracture risk.

Just because something in medicine is a paradigm does not mean it’s correct. Milk may be an example of this. No definitive statement can be made about calcium, although even in randomized controlled trials with supplements, there seemed to be no significant benefit. Of course, the patients in these trials were not necessarily deficient in calcium or vitamin D.

In order to get benefit from vitamin D supplementation to prevent fracture, patients may need at least 800 IUs per day, which is the Institute of Medicine’s recommended amount for a relatively similar population as in the study.

Remember that studies, though imperfect, are better than tradition alone. Prevention and treatment therefore should be individualized, and deficiency in vitamin D or calcium should usually be treated, of course. Please, talk to your doctor before adding or changing any supplements.

References:

(1) cdc.gov (2) JAMA. 2001;285:785-795. (3) BMJ 2014;349:g6015. (4) health.gov. (5) JAMA Pediatr. 2014;168(1):54-60. (6) Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Dec;86(6):1780-1790. (7) N Engl J Med. 2012 Aug. 2;367(5):481.

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. 

Officials celebrate the installation of a denitrifying septic system in Nesconset in 2015. Photo from Bellone’s office

County Executive Steve Bellone (D) has made two proposals to the legislators that he believes will protect taxpayers and environmental programs in the wake of the economic effects of COVID-19.

He would like to use two existing tax stabilization funds to mitigate the budgetary impact of the virus.

These proposals, which he would like to add as a referendum for voters in November, would “protect taxpayers and essential employees and 100 percent protect environmental programs,” Bellone said on his daily conference call with reporters. “Any legislator who votes no on this legislation is only making layoffs more likely to occur.”

He urged legislators to give taxpayers the option of voting for these proposals, which he suggests will protect taxpayers, employees and environmental programs.

In addition, Bellone said he appreciated the efforts of U.S. Reps Tom Suozzi (D-NY-3) and Lee Zeldin (R-NY-1) to reverse the effect of an Internal Revenue Service ruling that taxes homeowners who participate in a septic improvement program, which was designed to protect Suffolk County’s waterways.

Suffolk County residents “care about clean water,” Bellone said. “These individuals should not be liable to pay taxes on grant money that never even touches their hands.”

The county executive applauded people who move beyond earlier versions of wastewater treatment systems, which, he said, “degraded” water quality and represented a mounting threat.

Separately, the county has no plans to provide any fireworks for the 4th of July celebration. Belone said some local municipalities have considered such an option.

Amid concerns about the illegal use of fireworks, Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said the police have made two arrests to date and will be providing a public service announcement regarding fireworks and the dangers involved.

Residents who see or hear illegal fireworks, which can lead to injuries, fires or cause other damage, can call crime stoppers at (800) 220-TIPS.

“We want people to enjoy themselves,” Bellone said. “These fireworks are dangerous. The best thing you can do is to leave fireworks to the experts.”

As the county prepares to move into Phase 3 of its reopening tomorrow, Bellone called the continued reopening, which is occurring two weeks after the start of Phase 2, a “big milestone for us.”

Bellone will continue to monitor the viral figures that come out of upstate New York, where several counties are entering phase 4, to get an indication of whether the next phase of reopening could begin two weeks from now.

Viral Numbers

Even as other states, such as Florida, Texas and Arizona are encountering a surge in cases and hospitalizations, Suffolk County continues to move down the infection curve.

In the last 24 hours, an additional 46 people have tested positive for the coronavirus. That is a positive rate of 1.3 percent among those tested, which is above recent trends but still well below rates during the worst of the pandemic on Long Island. The number of people who have tested positive for the virus is now 41,056.

The number of people who have tested positive for antibodies to the virus stands at 18,188. These are people who didn’t have a COVID-19 positive result, but whose bodies have produced antibodies.

Hospitalizations declined by one to 89. People with COVID-19 in the Intensive Care Unit increased by one to 28.

Hospital capacity remained well below guidelines, with hospital beds and ICU beds at 63 percent and 60 percent capacity, respectively.

An additional six people were discharged from the hospital over the previous day.

Meanwhile, the number of people who died from complications related to COVID-19 increased by five to 1,970. During each of the previous four days, one person died each day from the virus.

The county distributed 4,000 pieces of personal protective equipment over the previous day.

Sue and Rob Seiler (far right, back row by tree) poses with members of Gurwin assisted living staff as they receive their meals from Dix Hills Diner. Photo courtesy of Gurwin Jewish

Commack: Gurwin Jewish~Fay J. Lindner Residences staff, like employees at all senior living facilities, have been on the frontline of the battle during the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, a group of local community members took note and decided to treat the health care heroes at Gurwin’s assisted living facility to a pleasant and delicious surprise.

Resident family members Sue and Rob Seiler of Huntington joined with other family members to create a GoFundMe, with the goal of showing their appreciation for the dedicated Gurwin staff. After raising almost $1500, they partnered with Dix Hills Diner owners Michael Akapnitis and Peter Giannitsas to provide a delicious lunch for employees.

Seiler describes the food drop off as a win/win, showing appreciation to Gurwin staff members while giving a financial boost to the diner, also impacted by the pandemic. She says she and the others were inspired by the donations they were seeing larger healthcare facilities receive. 

“This place might be smaller than some hospitals and healthcare chains, but it’s big to me,” Seiler said about Lindner Residences, a 201- apartment community where her mom has lived since 2016. 

The effort provided nearly 100 meals for the staff. “Each and every one of our staff members are heroes, coming to work every day to take care of our residents despite the multitude of personal and family challenges they faced,” said Michael Letter, Administrator/COO of the Fay J. Lindner Residences. “We want to thank Sue, Rob, and the entire group for their generosity and thoughtfulness.”

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On Father’s Day, which also coincides with the start of summer, County Executive Steve Bellone (D) exuded optimism about the ongoing recovery from COVID-19, which created tremendous strain on the health care system and led to a lockdown that crippled the economy amid shuttered businesses.

“I’m happy to report for the first time since March 22 that we are below 100 people hospitalized with COVID-19,” Bellone said on his daily conference call with reporters. “That is a real milestone for us.”

Indeed, the number of people hospitalized fell by eight to 98 through the 24 hours ending on June 19. At the same time, the number of people in Intensive Care Unit beds has declined by 10 to 21.

“We have gone up this mountain, we have seen this surge occur, we have come down on the other side,” Bellone said. “As we begin summer now, we are in a far, far different place than we were.”

An additional 10 people were discharged from the hospital over the last day.

The number of people who tested positive for the virus was higher than in recent days, with 64 people testing positive for the coronavirus. That number had been tracking in the 40s. The percentage of positive tests rose above one percent, climbing to 1.2 percent.

While this remains a closely watched number, Bellone said he wasn’t particularly concerned about an increase of that size on a single day.

The number of people who have the antibody to the virus stands at 18,021.

For the third day in a row, one person died from complications related to the coronavirus. The total number who have died in Suffolk County since the pandemic began is 1,964.

Amid a report in the New York Times that contact tracers in New York City have only received information from 35 percent of people who tested positive for the virus about their interactions prior to their positive test, Bellone said he remains focused on the fall for any potential resurgence in the virus.

“Right now, we do have this opportunity to really hone and get down everything we need with contact tracing,” Bellone said. The focus is on getting the system right and ensuring that it works “better and better every day.”

He anticipates the contact tracing effort will include tweaks over the next few months.

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Even as public health information in other areas of the country are climbing at alarming rates, threatening to create a strain on health care on other health care systems that is all too familiar to Long Islanders, the COVID-19-related numbers have remained low enough to keep Suffolk County on track for a Phase Three reopening this Wednesday.

Phase Three will allow for indoor dining at restaurants, for groups of about 30 to convene and for more personal care businesses, like massage parlors and spas, to reopen with limitations on capacity, occupancy and services.

The number of people who have tested positive for the coronavirus was 44, which brings the total to 40,908. The percentage of people testing positive was at 1 percent.

The number of people who have tested positive for the antibody is 17,833.

The number of people afflicted with COVID-19 in the hospital fell by four to 106. The number of people in the Intensive Care Unit increased by two to 31.

For the second day in a row, one person died from complications related to COVID-19, bringing the total to 1,963.

People brought images of George Floyd to a Port Jefferson protest June 18. That protest was originally meant for June 19, otherwise known as Juneteenth. Photo by Drew Biondo

As the country grapples with various levels of implicit bias in the weeks after Minneapolis resident George Floyd was killed by a white police officer, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) signed two executive orders June 19, otherwise known as Juneteenth.

More than two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation while the country was in the throes of the Civil War, slaves in Texas were among the last to learn June 19, 1865, that they, too, were free.

Bellone signed one executive order that mandates the same kind of implicit bias training members of the Suffolk County Police Department have received since 2018 for every county employee before June 19 of 2021.

Additionally, Bellone signed an order that directs the county’s Office of Minority Affairs to prepare an annual observance of this important day in American history next year. The celebration could include festivals, parades, symposiums and musical events. The day will focus on the achievements of African Americans. The office will solicit input from the community and stakeholders to help plan these events.

As part of the outreach, the county executive’s office will also reach out to schools.

“The education piece is incredibly important,” Bellone said on his daily conference call with reporters. The effort is designed to ensure that students have a broader understanding of American history and about the progress the country is making and needs to make.

Viral Numbers

The number of residents who tested positive for COVID-19 in the last day was 54. That brings the total to 40,864. The positive tests continue to represent less than one percent of the total tests given by the county.

The number of hospitalizations, meanwhile, broke below a holding pattern for the last week. The number of residents hospitalized with the coronavirus fell by 15 to 110. The number of people in the Intensive Care Unit with the virus fell by six to 29.

An additional 21 people were discharged from hospitals in the county.

The number of people who have died from complications related to COVID19 increased by one to 1,962 over the last day.

Long Island Ducks

The Long Island Ducks recently announced a 2020 schedule that included 70 games between mid July and September.

Bellone endorsed the idea and suggested that he thought it would be safe, with the proper precautions, given that the activity is outdoors and the Ducks are planning to have games played in front of a stadium cut to one quarter capacity.

“We are very hopeful that in phase 4, we will see the Long Island Ducks back and out on the field,” Bellone said. “We want to see the Ducks defend their title.”

Stony Brook University Hospital

By Carol Gomes

SBU Hospital CEO Carol Gomes. Photo from SBU Hospital

If you were in need of an elective surgery or procedure before COVID-19 and have been delaying it, I want to reassure you that Stony Brook University Hospital is fully operational. 

We have everything in place to ensure that safe and effective care is provided to every one of our patients to meet their healthcare needs — whether it’s for a simple outpatient procedure or a more complex inpatient surgery. We continue to follow the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and New York State Department of Health (DOH) guidelines and universal precautions to provide the safest environment possible. 

You can also rest assured that the enhanced safety measures to protect our patients and hospital staff to prevent coronavirus spread also remain in place. Some of these safeguards include testing all patients prior to surgery, having patients self-isolate prior to surgery, and requiring all staff and patients to wear masks and be screened for symptoms. 

We also require all hospital personnel to wear the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). And of course, we have hand sanitizer stations located throughout our facilities, and patients in the hospital who test positive for COVID are separated in a designated area to minimize risk from other patients.

At Stony Brook University Hospital, we perform, on average, 100 to 120 surgeries daily. This includes a diverse area of specialization, including general surgery, orthopaedics, neurosurgery, surgical oncology, cardiac surgery, trauma, kidney transplants, urological procedures, gynecologic surgery and several other specialties. 

From the time you schedule your surgery, to pre-op, and every phase through post-op and beyond, our goal is to ensure your safety every step of the way, while our surgical specialists and their teams provide the quality care you need to restore your health.

Carol A. Gomes, MS, FACHE, CPHQ is the Chief Executive Officer at Stony Brook University Hospital.

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Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) signed an executive order earlier today that will allow the state’s enforcement efforts to increase for businesses that aren’t following social distancing guidelines.

The state liquor authority can immediately suspend a business’s liquor license for violating rules. Bars and restaurants are not only responsible for ensuring these social distancing requirements inside their establishments, but are also required to enforce the area immediately outside their location, which includes the sidewalk and any expansion of their business into the street.

“Some of what we saw were people mingling and not seated,” County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said on his daily conference call with reporters. The county sent notifications from the Department of Health reminding the businesses of the guidance.

“We don’t want to be overly aggressive with businesses struggling to get back on their feet,” Bellone said, although he suggested that “egregious violations” have an appropriate mechanism in place to allow authorities to respond immediately.

Viral Numbers

The data from the county regarding the spread of the virus continues to be positive as Suffolk entered the second week of its Phase Two reopening.

An additional 40 people tested positive for the virus, bringing the total who have tested positive since the pandemic reached Long Island to 40,810. The rate of positive tests was 0.7 percent, which is well below the positive testing rate during the worst of the pandemic, which was above 30 percent.

Hospitalizations continue to hover around the same level, climbing one day and then falling the next. In the 24 hours ending June 16, the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 was 125, which is a decline of four. That follows an increase from the day before of eight.

The number of people in the Intensive Care Unit with the virus remained the same, at 35.

An additional 15 people were discharged from the hospital in the last day.

The number of people who died from complications related to COVID-19 was three. Coronavirus has taken the lives of 1,961 residents of Suffolk County.

Hospital bed occupancy was at 66 percent, while the percent of ICU beds was at 62.

Earlier this week, the governor announced that hospital patients could receive visitors.

Stony Brook University Hospital received the updated guidelines to expand visitation with protocols for specific safety measures, health screenings and time limited visits, according to a Stony Brook Medicine official.

“We are currently reviewing these guidelines so that we can establish a safe process of visitation for our patients and their families while continuing to maintain a safe environment,” the SB official explained in an email. “We know visitors and loved ones play an essential role in the healing and recovery process of our patients and we look forward to welcoming them once again.”

The official didn’t indicate when the hospital might begin allowing visitors.

Summer Movies

At this point, the kick off to the summer film series at Smith Point County Park on Saturday, June 20 has sold out for the free showing of “Jaws” at 8:30 p.m. The date of the showing marks the 45th anniversary of the release of the film in which Richard Dreyfuss, playing Matt Hooper, proclaimed, “We’re gonna need a bigger boat,” when the shark attacked.

If those who have booked tickets do not arrive by 8:10 p.m., other residents can take their place, Bellone said.

The next movie in the summer film series is “Goonies,” which will be on June 24. Residents who would like to see the film can go to the web site suffolkcountyny.gov/driveinmovies to book their free tickets.

Other films on tap during the series include “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Elf”, and Harry Potter, although Bellone didn’t specify which of the eight films will be featured.

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Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) today announced that residents in hospitals could have visitors starting today and those in group homes could have visitors starting on Friday.

County Executive Steve Bellone (D) applauded the decisions, which were based on the lower rates of positive test and the declining strain on the health care system.

“There has been a lot of anguish and turmoil and pain throughout this whole COVID-19 crisis,” Bellone said on his daily conference call with reporters. “One of the biggest areas we have seen this in is the inability to be with loved ones when they are ill or sick or to visit loved ones in group homes.”

Bellone called the decision a “big step forward” for numerous families.

Separately, the county executive said residents could reserve a spot at the Smith Point County Park this Saturday at 8:30 p.m. for a free showing of “Jaws” on the 45th anniversary of the classic horror film.

Interested residents can reserve a spot at suffolkcountyny.gov/driveinmovies. Space is limited and tickets are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

As for the numbers, the number of new infections was 46, which is about a 1 percent positive rate among those tested. The total number of people who have had a positive COVID-19 test has reached 40,738.

The number of people hospitalized with the virus declined by six to 121, while the number of people in the Intensive Care Unit remained the same, at 38.

Meanwhile, an additional two people died from complications related to COVID-19. The total number of people in Suffolk County who have died from the virus is 1,957.

The number of people who have left the hospital in the last 24 hours was eight.

Since the start of Phase Two last Wednesday, the Suffolk County Police Department has received 122 complaints and found four violations of social distancing or face covering violations. The police did not issue any tickets.

The number of sworn officers who have tested positive for the virus is 88, which is an increase of one over the last six weeks. At this point, six officers are still out sick with the virus.