As a part of a drive-in movie series, Smith Point County Beach will show the movie “Jaws” on June 20, 45 years after the Steven Spielberg-directed film terrified theater goers throughout a country a year removed from a gas crisis that appears tame by comparison to the confluence of today’s challenges.
“Hopefully that will be an experience people will enjoy with their families,” County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said on his daily conference call with reporters. “Hopefully, they will enjoy it in a safe way.”
Suffolk County is approaching the end of its first full week in Phase One of an economic reopening, even as emotions run high in the county, the country and the world after the killing of George Floyd by a now-fired Minneapolis police officer who is now facing murder charges.
Group gatherings, even peaceful protests, themselves pose a health risk to attendees as researchers continue to try to develop a vaccine for a virus that threatens the health and lives of residents, particularly those with underlying medical conditions.
“We are always going to be concerned with people coming together in large gatherings, where they are not practicing social distancing,” Bellone said. “We want people to protest and express their First Amendment rights, but we want to do it safely.”
The county executive again thanked the community for peaceful expressions throughout the efforts to restart the economy and as protests in urban areas have, at times, led to violent confrontations with police and to rioting and looting.
Bellone said the Suffolk County Police Department is taking the approach that the officers are a part of the community and are not just in place to restrict or police others.
“When people are out there protesting because they have a message they want to get across, ‘We are there to make sure they are safe,’” Bellone said.
While officials remain concerned about the possibility of larger gatherings leading to resurgence of the virus after hard-won gains during the deadly month of April, they are also willing to change their guidance if such gatherings don’t lead to an increase in infections or put a strain on the recovering health care system.
The county can look at these gatherings and see how they affect public health, Bellone said. “We can take something away from that,” he said.
Still, the county executive said he urges residents not to become too cavalier about following rules that have led to an improvement in the overall health of the county, albeit at the cost of a slowed economy and an increase in unemployment.
“After being cooped up for so long” with all the devastation from the effort to flatten the curve and save people’s lives, residents need to think about “how to prevent sliding back in any way,” Bellone urged. “If people continue to be smart and exercise caution, we can reopen our economy safely. We need the public to continue to be smart.”
The number of new positive tests for COVID-19 was 62, bringing the total to 39,705. That doesn’t include the 14,138 people who have tested positive for the antibody.
The number of people in the hospital with the virus, a figure no one in the health care system over the course of the year is likely to ever take for granted, declined by 16 to 253.
The number of people in the Intensive Care Unit also declined seven to 67.
The percentage of hospital beds and ICU beds with COVID-19 patients, meanwhile, was at 62 and 63, respectively, which are well below the original target of 70 percent or lower.
Another 25 people were discharged from the hospital over the last day.
The number of people who died from complications related to COVID-19 climbed by five to 1,906.