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County Executive Steve Bellone

We get it. The only time most of us think about Suffolk County buses is when we’re stuck behind them on the oft-congested Long Island roads.

But despite how many Long Islanders complain about the traffic, those who use Suffolk County buses every week have it that much worse, as the county has announced the potential loss of 19 bus routes all across the Island affecting about 2,500 riders. A loss of routes impacts the most vulnerable people, namely the poor, elderly or handicapped folks.

This is a real crisis, and it does not seem like everyone is on the same page about just what that means. The S62 bus is the only thing that can take somebody east and west in the Rocky Point area without having to call for an expensive cab. The north/south line of the S54, which many retail and service industry workers use to get to their jobs, is on the chopping block as well.

Some lines have very few daily riders, but even if one of those people won’t be able to get to their job, to the supermarket or even to visit friends and family, it will be a loss for the greater community.

This comes a week after county officials said they will need to cut two whole Suffolk County police classes, which means 200 new recruits not being put out on the streets.

County Executive Steve Bellone’s (D) now weekly press conferences portending doom if the federal government doesn’t come through with funds for state and local municipalities are a kind of theater, yes, but they are also perhaps the only way for the county executive to make his point beyond sitting in the president’s lap and telling “Santa Trump” all the things he wants for Christmas, before the county hits the point where a budget goes through, and so do the cuts.

And that makes some local elective’s response to Bellone’s talk that much more exasperating. Republicans in the county Legislature contend the current financial woes are all the executive’s doing, and that since he already received over $280 million in federal aid, we should not be hitting up the federal government for more. That would be fine, if Suffolk wasn’t going to see at least an $800 million deficit going into next year

Beyond judging just how badly the current executive has handled Suffolk’s finances, the argument falls flat when every municipality from Montauk to Orange County, every village, town and county have all said they need federal funds as well. The congressional delegation, including both Democrats and Republicans, has at least been outspoken about the need for federal funds, but the fact is the top dogs for both parties have failed to drop the animosity and create an aid package for the municipalities nationwide who need it.

It seems like the executive and minority party in the Legislature are not on the same page — as if they ever really are — but there needs to be one, and only one, message on this issue, not a cacophony of back chatter. As important as the past state of Suffolk County finances was before the pandemic, and still is after the fact, the only way that any of these local municipalities can get to the position where those arguments are valid is if we’re all on a stable financial footing.

Because we believe Bellone when he says there won’t be a single line in the budget that hasn’t been impacted by the pandemic. The loss of police classes and bus routes might be the most physical and politically stimulating examples, but one should shudder to think what other municipal services, not even county but town as well, might be getting axed in their 2021 budgets.

We are thankful that Legislature Republicans have been keeping on top of Suffolk’s financial well-being, beyond partisan politics we know it’s necessary, but now is not the time for disunity, not when the water is slowly rising and is at our necks.

Our voices need to be one, at least in this strange moment of time. We are beating back COVID-19, at least for now. Congress should not be as hard as that was if we stick together.

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When Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) announced the 30-member police reform task force last Wednesday, Sept. 9, there was not much in the way of fanfare for what should be a big moment for the general police reform movement.

Like the sound of a flat trumpet announcing the arrival of the king, it did not create any kinds of sensation other than pursed lips and a general groan from the community at large.

The news has left people on both entrenched sides of the police debate uncomfortable. One side probably thinks it is a dangerous waste of time, the other believes it to be an attempt at lip service, one piloted by the same people advocates accused of sustaining bad practices within departments.

The muted and sometimes hostile response to the new task force is likely due to how long it took the county to actually release its own plans. It has been over three months since Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) released his first executive order mandating that the government actually looks into this. Police reform advocates have hounded his heels since then but the county exec stood mum. Perhaps he, like others, was confused by what the county should have been doing to prepare for what is likely seen as another unfunded mandate from New York State.

But this is bigger than that, or at least, it should be. Bellone and other police officials should have been upfront about what they were going to do and how they would do it. At least then they wouldn’t have been in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation as they are now. Especially because without a plan, Cuomo has promised municipalities’ police departments could lose state funding.

Suffolk County police officials throughout the entirety of the police debate have touted recent advancements in anti-bias training and department reform that was happening even before Minneapolis man George Floyd was killed at the hands of police.

And to say there haven’t been significant efforts would be a disservice to the several notable people within the police department who have strived to increase inclusivity and enact change for the better. Most times, however, it’s better to let the people themselves tell you if that change has been enough, rather than just sitting in the echo chamber that is bureaucracy.

The 30-person task force is effectively evenly split between Suffolk County officials/police reps and other religious, racial and community groups. This disparate set of characters plans to hold eight meetings, one for each precinct plus the East End, then using another large survey the county has announced alongside the task force, craft some sort of policy plan.

The Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association will of course advocate for no changes to police budgets or personnel. Their leadership has been staunch supporters of Blue Lives Matter rallies and have routinely decried any and all Black Lives Matter protests, even though in the county the vast majority have been peaceful and civil. That’s not to say police don’t have the right to speak up for themselves. We know just how much work goes into serving a community as an officer — from the holidays not spent with families to the danger they put themselves in every day. But we need to listen to communities, especially the large communities of color, for whether they feel police actually treat them the way many of us on the North Shore feel we are positively reflected.

We at TBR News Media think there should be a minority report, or potentially multiple minority reports, to go along with whatever result gets crafted before the governor’s April 2021 deadline. That way we can see what was left on the cutting room floor and, more importantly, how either police reps or reform advocates feel things should be done if they had their way.

It’s time to stop thinking of this task force as an afterthought and move toward some consensus that leads to real change.

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While Suffolk County remains well below the level of positive tests for the country as a whole and for states like Florida and Texas, the percentage of positive tests in the area has crept higher than it’s been in recent weeks.

Among 4,517 tests, 84 people tested positive for the coronavirus, which is a 1.9% positive test rate, The positive tests have been tracking closer to 1 percent for the last several days.

“If you attended a party last weekend on July 4 or a larger gathering, be sensitive to how you are feeling,” County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said on his almost daily conference call with reporters. “You may want to reconsider visiting friends and family who are vulnerable.”

Given the large number of tests throughout the country, the wait time to get results has increased to five to 10 days, Bellone said.

Additionally, Saheda Iftikhar, the Deputy Commissioner for Department of Health Services, said the time between exposure and a positive test is usually at least 48 hours. That means a person attending a gathering on a Sunday when he or she might have been exposed to someone with the virus should wait until Wednesday before taking a test, to avoid a likely false negative.

The 84 positive results from the July 12 data likely came from tests administered days or even a week earlier, which means that these tests could indicate any increase due to gatherings around Independence Day.

To be sure, Bellone said he doesn’t put too much stock in any one day’s numbers. Nonetheless, he said the county will remain vigilant about monitoring the infection rate over the next few days.

“Be smart,” Bellone urged. “If you attend a gathering in which social distancing or the guidelines may not be strictly adhered to, be very conscious of any symptoms you may have,” Bellone said.

Bellone also urged people to be responsive to calls from the Department of Health, as contact tracers gather confidential information designed to contain any possible spread of the virus.

The other numbers for residents were encouraging.

The number of residents in the hospital was 40, which is a decline from 54 on Friday. The number of people in Intensive Care Unit beds was 14, which is up from 10 from Friday.

Hospital bed occupancy was at 70 percent, while ICU occupancy was at 61 percent.

Hospitals discharged 13 people who had suffered with symptoms related to the virus.

For the last 48 hours, the number of fatalities has been zero. The total number of people who have died from complications related to the coronavirus is 1,993.

Bellone highlighted a financial report from New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, titled “Under Pressure.” The report indicated that, statewide, local sales tax collections declined by 24 percent in April and 32 percent in May.

“Local governments are only beginning to feel the impacts of COVID-19 on their revenue,” Bellone said. Reductions in state aid are still possible, which puts counties cities and less wealthy school districts in an “especially tenuous position.”

Local governments will need to take drastic measures to fill enormous budget gaps. That includes Suffolk County, which may have a deficit as large as $839 million this year.

Separately, as school districts try to figure out how to balance between in-person and remote learning, Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) issued guidelines today designed to provide specific targets.

Schools in districts that have reached Phase 4 of the reopening, which includes Suffolk County and where the infection rate is below 5 percent, can reopen. When the positive testing percentage on a rolling 7-day basis exceeds 9 percent should close, Cuomo advised.

School districts will make their decisions about opening between Aug. 1 and Aug. 7.

The governor also announced a new requirement that people traveling into New York from 19 states with rising rates like Florida, California, Kansas, Louisiana and Texas will have to give the state contact information before leaving the airport. Those who fail to do this will receive a summons and face a $2,000 fine

First Presbyterian Church of Smithtown. Photo by Tom Caruso

Churches, mosques and synagogues can reopen as Suffolk County enters Phase Two of its reopening this Wednesday, albeit with only 25 percent capacity.

Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) announced that these houses of worship could admit community members and that religious leaders were responsible for ensuring compliance with the public health guidelines designed to limit the spread of COVID-19.

“It’s an important time for our faith-based communities to be opened back up,” County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said on his daily conference call with reporters. “Our faith-based communities are ready to this. They understand what needs to be done.”

Separately, as protests continue on Long Island and throughout the world after the killing of Minneapolis resident George Floyd at the hands of a former police officer, who has been charged with his murder, public officials are engaging in ongoing conversations with community leaders bout ways to create greater equity and opportunity for everyone.

“There are areas for us to make progress,” Bellone said. “There is more work to be done.”

Bellone suggested the police department can look to make itself more diverse so that it “reflects in terms of its diversity the communities it serves across the county. That’s a priority for us.”

Bellone said conversations about equal opportunities occurred before the killing of Floyd and are moving into a “new phase” amid the protests and demonstrations.

Viral Numbers

The number of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 rose by 39 to 40,239 over the last day.

The number of residents in the hospital due to the pandemic declined by 13 to 200, while the number of people in Intensive Care Unit beds declined by one to 53 through June 4th.

An additional 24 people left the hospital over the last day.

The number of people who died due to complications related to COVID-19 in the last day was five, bringing the total to 1,923.

Amazing Olive in Port Jefferson village is just one of many businesses which has turned to online orders as nonessential shops have been closed. Photo by Kyle Barr

After the pandemic caused New York state and Long Island to shutter businesses for months, Long Island moved within two days of entering phase one of reopening.

Hospitalizations continued to fall, with the number of beds occupied with COVID-19 patients dropping 31 to 343 in the period ending on May 23rd, the most recent date for which the county had figures. The number of people in Intensive Care Units battling the virus also declined, by eight to 111.

In the last day, an additional 18 new cases of residents with COVID-19 have required hospitalization.

At the same time, 38 people have left the hospital in the last day, continuing their recovery at home.

An additional six people died in the last day from complications related to the virus, raising the total in Suffolk County to 1,840.

Patients with COVID represented 64 percent of total hospital bed occupancy and 61 percent of ICU bed use, well below the 70 percent required for reopening.

“We are looking forward to hitting that first phase this Wednesday,” County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said on his daily conference call with reporters.

So far, the attendance at the newly opened beaches has been light due to the weather during the three-day weekend.

“We are determined to make sure families and kids will enjoy a summer, even in the midst of this global pandemic,” Bellone said. “We believe we can do this safely.”

Bellone was also pleased that the area was able to hold a Memorial Day ceremony at the American Legion Post in Patchogue. The ceremony, which didn’t include the typical parades and moments to honor the service men and women who died for their country, was streamed live on FaceBook.

Bellone was especially eager to recognize the fallen service men and women this year, on the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II.

“It was a pleasure to be there with all my colleagues, democrats and republicans,” Bellone said which included Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY-1), who, is a U.S. Army Veteran and also spoke at Calverton National Cemetery. “It is a time for all of us to be reminded of the fact that what unites us is so much more important than petty disagreements.”

Bellone added that, “we are all Americans and we are all in this together.”

Separately, as the county and Long Island prepare to enter Phase One of a reopening plan, officials cautioned residents to continue to practice social distancing and to wear masks when they can’t remain at least six feet away from others.

Suffolk County Police Chief Stuart Cameron said he was in his office today, on Memorial Day, to continue to prepare enforcement plans for the area.

“I’m not certain how people are going to react,” Cameron said on the call with reporters. “I hope they are going to react with good judgment. We are prepared to act if necessary.”

Cameron added that the police department has been successful in educating people and asking for their compliance. He said officers have been able to convince residents and business owners to continue to follow guidelines that protect public health.

“If necessary, we will move to an enforcement phase,” Cameron said. The SCPD has issued summonses to a few businesses and to individuals.

John Kennedy Jr. (R) and Steve Bellone (D). File Photos

A Suffolk County working group, led by County Executive Steve Bellone (D), has requested an executive order from Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to provide a 45-day extension to property tax payments through July 15 for homeowners suffering financially during the pandemic.

Taxpayers who have lost at least 25% of their income or businesses with less than a million dollars in net income that have lost at least half of their net income can fill out a form that attests to their hardship to receive the extension.

The property tax relief, which the group has been discussing for several weeks, will help families that have not received their unemployment checks yet or small businesses who are waiting to receive PPP loans from the federal government, Bellone said on a conference call with reporters.

This provides “more time while the economy is shut down,” said Bellone. The county executive said he hopes to hear back from the governor’s office by next week.

Working with Comptroller John Kennedy Jr. (R), Bellone and other members of the working group extended the Municipal Liquidity Fund to Suffolk County, which didn’t initially qualify to access these short term funds under the original terms of the Cares Act. Access to these funds has made it possible for the property tax relief efforts to proceed, enabling county and other levels of government to provide residents with the ability to delay their property tax payments without penalties or fees.

Bellone thanked numerous political collaborators at every level of government and from both sides of the political aisle. He expressed appreciation to Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY-1) and Senator Charles Schumer (D) for helping the county borrow money without interrupting necessary services or creating financial hardship for residents.

“Nobody loves paying property taxes [but] it’s how we run government and how we can have things like the Suffolk County Health Department and police services,” while fire departments and schools also receive their funding through these taxes, Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman (R) said on the call.

Schneiderman said the 45 days of relief without interest or penalties “goes a long way to helping those individuals” and that the process of receiving that delay is “fair and easy through a simple attestation.”

Separately, the number of people who tested positive for the virus fell below 100 over the last 24 hours, with 84 positive tests bringing the total number to 38,411. That figure excludes the 10,790 people who have tested positive through the antibody test.

Suffolk County, however, continues to lose residents to the pandemic. In the last day, 19 people have died. At this point, 1,791 residents have died from complications related to COVID-19.

Over the last day, 20 people have left the hospital after battling with the virus. Bellone appreciated that Anthony Greco, a retired New York City police officer and a trustee of the board of the Wantagh Union Free School District, left Mt. Sinai South Nassau Hospital today after battling the virus for 60 days.

“We could not be more excited and thrilled that Anthony is going home today after this long battle with this deadly virus,” Bellone said.

Lock Your Cars and Take Your Keys

Meanwhile, stolen motor vehicle thefts increased 21.3% through the middle of May and thefts from motor vehicles increased by 30% in that same time compared with 2019, according to the Suffolk County Police Department.

Victims not only left their cars unlocked, but left key fobs in sight, making it incredibly easy to open a car, start the engine and drive away.

The SCPD reminded residents to lock their parked cars amid the spate of thefts.

“The increase in thefts of and from vehicles is a direct result of owners not taking the extra step to ensure their cars are secured,” Geraldine Hart, the Suffolk County Police Commissioner said in a statement.

With a reduction of 77 hospitalizations in the last 24 hours from COVID-19, hospitalizations have dropped over 40 percent from their peak on April 10.

Indeed, the number of people in the hospital because of the coronavirus has dropped to 970, which is close to the number who were in Suffolk County hospitals at the start of April.

The end of the month of April “couldn’t be more different than when we started,” County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said on his daily conference call with reporters. “When we started [April], we had no idea whether that surge that we were talking about for so long would overwhelm” the health care system.

Bellone credited health care heroes with saving people’s lives and holding the line against the surge of people who developed symptoms from the disease.

The county is ending this month “in a far better place than we began,” Bellone added.

Even as hospitalizations have declined, however, residents are continuing to test positive for the virus, as the number of new positive tests increased by 723 to 34,802.

Ever since the county created hotspot testing, the numbers from those seven sites, which now includes Southampton, have been increasing. The county has tested 2,459 people and has positive results on 881 of the 1,868 tests for which results are known.

The number of people with coronavirus in Intensive Care Unit beds also fell by 25 to 344.

Bed capacity is approaching 70 percent, which is the target rate to reopen the economy.

Bellone is also optimistic that the county will continue to move towards the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s target of 14 straight days of declining hospitalizations from the virus. Once the county reaches that level, it can consider reopening the economy.

In the last 24 hours, 114 residents have left the hospital.

Deaths due to complications from the coronavirus continue to climb. The number of people who died in the last day from the virus was 22, bringing the total to 1,177 people.

Bellone said he doesn’t think there’s a resident of Suffolk County who hasn’t been impacted or know someone who lost a family member, friend or loved one to the disease. The county executive mourned the loss of Terri Freda, who worked in the Medical Examiner’s Office. Freda, who was a spokeswoman for the Suffolk County Medical Examiner’s office in 1997 after the crash of TWA Flight 800, and her husband both lost their battle with the virus.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Terri’s family,” Bellone said.

The county will begin testing law enforcement this Monday and will administer 500 tests at Suffolk County Police Academy. Officers can register starting tomorrow.

Separately, Stony Brook University is urging residents with medical needs unrelated to COVID-19 to reach out to their doctors. People who are having cardiac issues or strokes need rapid-response medical attention, the hospital said.

In a press release, Stony Brook indicated that it has taken numerous steps to protect patients and minimize exposure to COVID-19, including: preventing crowding; adopting CDC guidelines about social distancing and protective equipment; ensuring that staff, doctors and patients are wearing masks; sanitizing facilities; and screening patients the day before their visits. Patients with symptoms of the virus are going to offices designated for COVID-19 care.

Members of Stony Brook's medical team throw fists in the air during todays flyover by the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds. Photo by Kyle Barr

After a public effort to gain access to short term funds, County Executive Steve Bellone (D) last night received word that the pleas had paid off.

Members of the non-invasive cardiology department at Stony Brook University Hospital. Photo by Kyle Barr

The Federal Reserve expanded the eligibility requirements in the federal CARES Act to counties that were below the previous threshold of two million residents to provide short term borrowing through a municipal liquidity fund.

“This is a huge short in the arm to our efforts to provide property tax relief to people who have been negatively impacted economically,” Bellone said on his daily conference call with reporters.

The funds will allow the county to access short term borrowing for up to 36 months and will relieve the financial burden that comes from the Suffolk County Tax Act, which prevents the county from receiving funds until the middle of the year. During periods when Suffolk collects typical tax revenue, when residents can enjoy local restaurants, movies, and concerts, the urgency to access funds at a reasonable rate isn’t as high.

“This gives the county the ability to do short-term borrowing to address the cash flow issues that are caused by revenue almost completely drying up because of the wholesale shutdown of certain parts of our economy,” Bellone said.

The County thanked numerous area politicians, including U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D) and U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY-1).

Schumer “walked the letter into [Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin’s] office and said, ‘We need to do this,’” Bellone said. “Zeldin lobbied [President Donald Trump (R)] and [Mnuchin] directly. He set up a call with Mnuchin and himself so I could make the case directly about why Suffolk County needs this and why this is so important.”

In the meantime, hospitalizations continue to decline, sustaining a trend that could lead to a measured and gradual reopening of the economy.

The number of hospitalizations declined by 15 to 1,082, with the number of residents in the Intensive Care Unit falling by four to 408.

These declines are getting close to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention recommendations for 14 days, which is the minimum for restarting and reopening the economy.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said today there has to be ground rules for such a reopening. Hospitals, he said, must be at no more than 70 percent capacity with a rate of transmission no higher than 1.1.

An additional 44 people left the hospital in the last day.

People are still dying from complications related to COVID-19 at a rate that is greater than one per hour, as 29 people died over the last day, bringing the total to 1,131.

In terms of hotspot areas, the six sites have now tested 2,124 people. The county has results for 1,584, with 757 of those confirmed positive. The rate of positive tests is 48 percent, which is still well above the rate of 38 percent for the rest of the county, but is below the initial testing rate of 53 percent.

The county plans to open a seventh testing site on Thursday in Southampton.

Working with Long Island Cares and Island Harvest, the county has also started providing food to people who come to select hotspot testing sites, starting with Brentwood. On Thursday, Wyandanch will also provide food distribution to those receiving a coronavirus test who also need food.

Bellone urged people who are having food security issues to contact 311. Operators will connect residents with agencies that can provide food.

Separately, campgrounds will be closed in line with state guidance through May 31, when the county will revisit the issue. Anyone who has a reservation between April 1 and May 31 will receive a refund.

“Stay tuned as we move forward in May,” Bellone urged those interested in the camp sites.

The Suffolk County Police Department continues to be “fortunate” with the overall rate of COVID-19 infection, as 86 sworn officers have tested positive, with 71 returning to work, Commissioner Geraldine Hart said on the call. Hart attributed the lower rate of infection to the procedures the police department followed early on once the infection reached the shores of Suffolk County.

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After police announced Monday, April 27 several incidents of tense armed standoffs between police and residents, County Executive Steve Bellone (D) cited increased levels of domestic violence and the need to combat it while people remain stuck at home.

Police said Mark Reyes, 51, allegedly entered the home of a female acquaintance Saturday, April 25, in Kings Park. Police said she received knife wounds during the incident where she was assaulted. After the woman escaped the next day, the man would eventually be arrested after a prolonged standoff between him and police.

Bellone said the ongoing crisis has created a “climate” for people in situations with domestic violence, “increasing the risks they are facing.”

The county executive said police has seen an uptick in domestic violence incidents of 3.5 percent from April 3 through 16. 

The current crisis, where more people are at home without any means of visiting other places or seeking help, has intensified the issue.

“Domestic violence is horrific and intolerable,” Bellone said, also citing numerous services people can use if they are in such a domestic situation. Because many in such situations cannot pick up the phone to call for help, they can reach New York State’s Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence by texting 844-997-2121 or visiting opdv.ny.gov. Bellone said people can also reach out to Suffolk through 311 to get a list of resources, or visit suffolkcountyny.gov/crime-hotline. Suffolk also has the Hauppauge-based DASH Center that offers crisis care for children and adults. They can be reached at 631-952-3333. 

“We know this climate is absolutely conducive to exacerbating mental health challenges that were there prior to the crisis unfolding – we want people to know those resources are available,” he said.

While the county executive said the vast majority of people have adhered to social distancing, there have been cases where people haven’t abided. Police said officers have done 870 checks of non-social distancing since New York Pause began, and they have found 76 violations. In addition, 86 officers have tested positive for COVID-19 and 70 are back at work. That’s up from 81 who tested positive April 17, according to police data.

Meanwhile, with questions about how New York State will be able to reopen, more testing and research has resulted in showing more people have been infected with COVID-19 than originally thought. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced today close to 15 percent of New Yorkers actually have the virus. Long Island specifically shows 14.4 percent of people have the virus, according to results from the state survey. 

This has only placed new importance on county and state-level testing initiatives. Bellone said there are plans to expand the number of hot spot testing sites within the county, but did not go over details of where those could be located. He also said there are plans to expand the operations of testing sites in spots Brentwood and Huntington Station, which have already seen a higher percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 compared to sites like Stony Brook University.

He said he supported such “diagnostic testing” initiatives such as Cuomo’s announced plans for testing kits being available at pharmacies. As both counties and states in the region work out the details for eventually gradually reopening the state, such tests and the data they receive from them will be invaluable. 

The county executive added after speaking with the Army Corps. of Engineers, the Gov. plans to keep the field hospital located at Stony Brook University in place for the time being. Worries that the virus could come back in a resurgence later in the year, the so-called “second wave,” is weighing heavy on officials’ minds.

The move from Sunday to Monday saw a general increase in the number of COVID-positive cases rise 464 to 33,286 in Suffolk. While Saturday saw a bump in the number of hospitalizations, this day’s numbers saw the overall declining trend continue with a decrease of 37 bringing the total down to 1,097. ICU beds have also opened up thanks to the discharges by 35, bringing the total number of people in ICU beds to 408. 

Hospital capacity is sitting at 3,369, while ICU beds are at 775. 953 hospital beds and 228 ICU beds are available. There have been 69 people who have left hospitals, recuperating enough to continue recovering at home.

With that, the number of deaths continues to rise, with 32 people dying in Suffolk from COVID-19, bringing the total deaths to 1,102.

With additional reporting by Daniel Dunaief

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The pace at which people are leaving hospitals in Suffolk County continues to be higher than the rate at which residents are entering, easing the burden on health care workers and on a system pushed close to capacity two weeks ago.

Over the last day, the number of people in hospitals from complications related to Covid-19 declined by 41 to 1,134.

“That’s still a very big number, but is much lower than its peak level,” County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said on his daily conference call with reporters.

The number of people who are using Intensive Care Unit beds fell by 10 to 443.

At the same time, 109 residents have been discharged from the hospital.

“We wish them a speedy, continued recovery,” Bellone said.

Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the initial preliminary plans for reopening the state. Phase 1, he said, would include opening it up for construction and manufacturing with “low risk.” Phase 2 would include a matrix of other nonessential businesses. There would be a two-week period in between each phase to monitor the effects. It would also be in coordination with surrounding states.

No large places that would facilitate gathering would open during that time of transition, the governor said. The first businesses to reopen would likely be upstate, which has seen much less impact than the downstate counties have seen.

Suffolk County delivered another 210,000 pieces of personal protective equipment yesterday. The county also received supplies from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which include 7,100 gloves, 800 face shields, 5,000 surgical masks, hundreds of protective suits, hand sanitizer, Clorox wipes and ice packs.

Bellone offered his thanks to Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY-1) on delivering personal protective equipment.

The county executive also highlighted the United Way Covid19 Fund, which provides support to people in need who have lost their jobs or have been furloughed. People interested in seeking support from the fund can go to UnitedWayLI.org.

Bellone highlighted the rescue efforts of Matthew Honce of East Patchogue, who pulled a Medford man who was treading water out of Bellport Bay on Saturday. The man had been treading water for 15 minutes when Honce pulled him out.

“I want to say a big thank you to a good samaritan, who is a great example of the kind of people we have in this county,” Bellone said. “What could have been a tragedy [wasn’t]” thanks to Honce and the Suffolk County Marine Bureau.