In a milestone indicative of how deadly and prolonged the toll of the virus has been, Suffolk County reported the first day without a death from COVID-19 since March 16.
“I’m finally able to say that no one in Suffolk County in the last 24 hours has died from COVID-19,” County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said on his daily conference call with reporters. “That’s a great place to be.”
While Bellone said the county, which entered Phase Two of its reopening Wednesday, June 10, still has a ways to go before it controls the spread of a virus that has claimed the lives of 1,945 people in the county, the day without a death from the pandemic is a “milestone.”
With many other states, including Texas and North Carolina, are experiencing a surge in the number of people diagnosed with the virus and being admitted to hospitals for their care, Suffolk County continues to experience a decline in the number of residents testing positive.
Indeed, in the last day, despite protests over the death of Minneapolis resident George Floyd at the hands of a former police officer charged with murder, the number of people who tested positive in the county only increased by 47, raising the total to 40,559.
Bellone attributed the current condition on Long Island to the pain, uncertainty and suffering that rocked Long Island, which was the epicenter of the pandemic in the country.
“Because of the experience we’ve gone through, overwhelmingly, people are taking precautions,” Bellone said. “They are still listening to the guidance. Even at protests, even at demonstrations, I have seen people wearing face coverings.”
Suffolk County also has an advanced testing and contact tracing system that is making a difference as the area reopens.
Meanwhile, earlier today, Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) signed an executive order requiring local police agencies to develop a plan that reinvents and modernizes police strategies and programs in their community based on community input. Each police agency’s plan must include procedures and practices that extend beyond the use of force by April 1, 2021.
The police forces have to engage the public in the process, present a plan for comments, and share that plan with a local legislative body. If the government doesn’t certify the plan, the police may not be eligible to receive future state funding.
Bellone said he “looks forward to working with the state” on community police policies. The county executive said he is proud of the work the Suffolk County Police Department has done with anti-bias training.
The SCPD has “developed leading edge initiatives.”
Cuomo also signed a bill passed by the state senate earlier this week repealing 50-a, a statue in civil law that prevented people from accessing records of police and other civil servants like firefighters. Advocates said this will allow more transparency, especially regarding police misconduct. Police unions and senate republicans said this would puts cops in more danger, despite proponents saying people cannot gain access to cops’ personal information.
Bellone reemphasized a point he has made in recent days amid the backlash against unjust and unfair policing polices, suggesting that the police are “part of the community, they aren’t coming into the community” from the outside.
Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said she met this morning at 11 a.m. with the President of the Guardians, which is an internal fraternal organization representing black officers. She meets with the Guardians on a monthly basis.
Officers in the Guardian “know they have accessibility to leadership,” Hart said. “Those conversations lead to suggestions.”
The discussion this morning was more informal and was part of an open conversation and dialog.
As for the impact of COVID-19 in the county, the numbers continue to show a hard-fought recovery from the deadly virus.
Hospitalizations in the 24 hours ending on June 10 declined by 17 to 134. The number of residents in the Intensive Care Unit also declined by four to 41.
“These are all great numbers,” Bellone said.
An additional 16 people were discharged from hospitals in the county.
The bed capacity remained below important levels. Residents with COVID-19 represented 66 percent of the overall beds, and below 60 percent of the ICU beds, which are below the 70 percent guidance offered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The county handed out 17,000 pieces of personal protective equipment over the last day.
Finally, the county worked with Island Harvest to distribute food through a program called Nourish New York today.
The effort, which was at the Westfield South Shore Mall in Bay Shore, planned to distribute 100,000 pounds of food, including cheese, milk, yogurt, fresh fruit and vegetables and ground beef.