With Suffolk County expected to hit the final two metrics to enter Phase 1 of an economic reopening, businesses including construction, manufacturing and curb side retail, will open tomorrow.
One of the final seven metrics the county needed to reach was the hiring and training of contact tracers, who can help follow the link between positive testing among residents and the people those with the virus interacted with while they were infectious.
The county is training 1,368 employees in contact tracing, and will have more than enough contact tracers, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said, which will allow officials to call in additional people, even if it’s for a short time, to handle any sudden increase in positive tests.
“Everybody is anxious to get this going,” Bellone (D) said on his daily conference call with reporters. The county needs to “get the economy reopened again.”
The county executive described the contact tracing work as a “Herculean task,” which will require buy in from residents.
Bellone planned to speak with community-based organizations to make a point to address the issue of supporting contact tracers and encouraging residents who test positive to understand the public health role these people are playing in preventing the spread of the virus. The county executive said he has had conversations with businesses as well about supporting the contact tracing effort.
Bellone will be asking other community leaders to “reach out to their network to spread that word even further,” he said. “We are putting that ask to them, to reach out to their networks to spread the word about contact tracing for people to cooperate.”
In some homes, where isolation or quarantine may not be possible after a positive COVID-19 test, Bellone said the county planned to provide separate housing where those infected with the virus could recover until they are no longer infectious.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said these counties that are starting to reopen need to keep on top of any kind of COVID-19 resurgence.
“I said to the county executives, watch the numbers, when you see a cluster of cases, jump on it,” Cuomo said. “Those regional control groups have to be disciplined.”
With some retail businesses opening for curbside as a part of Phase 1 reopening on Long Island tomorrow, the police and county officials are supportive of creative ways to use what might be limited curb space for shoppers.
“We will work with the Police Department and their partners and enforcement teams to coordinate” on efforts to restart businesses, he said. “People understand, in an unprecedented situation, [that the county is] trying to give businesses that need to reopen the ability to do that. To the extent we can assist businesses doing curb side retail in creative ways, we would be supportive of that.”
While Bellone awaits word from Cuomo on his request for an executive order supporting a 45-day suspension of temporary property tax relief, he did receive word from the governor’s office that pushes the tax collection back 21 days.
“That takes the pressure off any immediate issues,” Bellone said. Residents to not need to sign a form attesting to the hardship created by the pandemic to receive that 21-day extension.
As for the viral numbers, an additional 126 people tested positive in the last day for the virus.
The number of people in the hospitalized declined by 8 to 335 as of May 24 The number of people in Intensive Care Units fell by five to 106.
Hospital beds are at 64 percent capacity, with 59 percent capacity in the ICU.
Over the last day, an additional 20 people left the hospital after a battle with the coronavirus.
At the same time, 11 people died from complications related to the virus, raising the total killed in Suffolk County to 1,851.
In terms of the next phase of reopening, which could start as late as June 10, Bellone said Governor Cuomo has spoken about the possibility of a shorter duration between phases.
“Nothing is set in stone,” Bellone said. “Everything about this is new.”
The county will continually monitor the metrics and will look for any changes or spikes in those numbers.