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New York State

Danford’s was cited for violations by the New York State Liquor Authority July 4. Meanwhile, bars say current restrictions could suck any business they could have during reopening. Photo by Kyle Barr

Over the past weekend, 84 restaurants and bars in downstate New York were cited with violations to COVID-19 guidelines by the State Liquor Authority. A total of 10 establishments on western Long Island and New York City had liquor licenses removed. 

Bench Warmers Tavern & Grill in Mount Sinai has an outdoor deck, to the left of the artwork, built specifically to help comply with state orders. Owner of the sports bar Jim Dunn said nobody uses it because of the heat. Photo by Kyle Barr

Though Monday Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Long Island and New York City are stepping up their enforcement, it’s a new point in the continuing contention between bars and New York State over social distancing restrictions. While other states across the country see record spikes,the governor has mentioned the possibility of scaling back reopening of bars and pubs, though owners say that would kill their businesses.

Documents released by the state reveal 16 of the 443 establishments which were cited for distancing violations from March to July 22 were in Suffolk County, though none were issued in this most recent round of investigations. Among those on the North Shore, only Danfords Hotel &, Marina in Port Jefferson and Pancho Villa’s in Huntington have previously been cited. This was out of 1,080 SLA investigations in New York, according to a release from the governor’s office. That office has not responded to requests for comment about the specifics of those citations, or about where the 84 new violations have come from this past weekend’s efforts.

“We are very proud of what New Yorkers did to flatten the curve of the virus, but we have to protect our progress because no one wants to do that again,” Cuomo said in a release July 24.

On Monday, the governor said there had been no summonses on businesses failing to follow coronavirus guidelines.

Earlier in July, Cuomo announced a so-called “Three Strikes and You’re Closed” initiative that means any business that receives three violations or shows an egregious disregard for the guidelines could be closed or have its license revoked. This weekend’s investigations of these establishments showed people not social distancing or wearing masks in a kind of “party-like” atmosphere, according to the governor’s office. During the pandemic, 40 establishments have had their liquor licenses revoked in total, as of July 27. Cuomo cited young people as the main reason these bars are packed and not conforming to distancing guidelines. 

“That’s not unique to New York — it’s a national problem — and even the president of the United States said young people shouldn’t go into packed bars,” Cuomo said.

Danfords was cited on the Fourth of July for failing to conform to distancing guidelines. A representative of The Crest Group, which owns Danfords, did not respond to requests for comment.

Pancho Villa’s was cited June 26. Restaurant owners could not be reached for comment.

The governor indicated last week that if we see more failure to social distance in bars, the state may roll back reopening regarding these establishments. 

It’s a hard line to follow, especially as New York hovers over a 1 percent regional infection rate. If that number increases past 5 percent, schools will not be able to reopen in the fall. Above 9 percent, the governor will start to roll back on the reopening process that counties across the state managed to make over the past two months.

But for bars and other restaurants that sell alcohol, it’s a roller coaster bringing them undue anxiety, even as they try to make guidelines.

Mount Sinai’s Bench Warmers Tavern & Grill co-owner Jim Dunn said it’s been tough to follow what has been, from the ground level, seemingly haphazard orders from New York State. Business has been hard, he said, even after reopening. He’s gone from 10 tables in the dining area to four and from 12 barstools to six along the bar with only three bar tables. He built a deck patio that now has five tables on it, but with the recent heat wave, very few customers have dared sit outside and eat.

Though he said he’s been doing everything to comply with state regulations, the constant changes have been disruptive. The worst order for his restaurant, he said, has been the requirement that people must order food if they are to order drinks. 

“A guy who’s a contractor can’t just come in and have a beer after work, because he has to have a beer with dinner,” Dunn said. “They’re trying to put the restaurant business out of business — every week there’s a different thing with this governor.”

Mount Sinai sophomore Joseph Spallina powers his way out of the back field against the Wildcats in the D-IV county finals at Stony Brook Nov. 24, 2019. Bill Landon photo

With school districts still to receive new guidance from the state on what education will look like in September, the New York State Public High School Athletic Association has come out early to say the fall sports sports season will start late, and they are cancelling all championships for the 2020 season.

“As the state considers reopening, it is unrealistic to believe athletic seasons can start on Aug. 24 as originally scheduled,” said Paul Harrica, NYSPHSAA president in a release. “The priority will continue to be on the educational process and a return to learning in the safest way possible.”

The start of sports will be delayed until Sept. 21. The cancelling of the championships means seasons will go on as normal and not finish with the regional and state championship. The NYSPHSAA normally hosts 32 championship events across the state each year.

Fall sports normally include boys and girls cross country, football, field hockey, boys and girls volleyball, girls tennis and boys and girls soccer.

Though acknowledging that the COVID-19 pandemic could cause further interruption to fall sports, NYSPHSAA came out with a condensed season plan that includes:

Season I (Winter Sports) Dates: Jan. 4 through March 13; 10 Weeks 

Note: tentative dates sports: basketball (girls and boys), bowling (girls and boys), gymnastics, ice hockey (girls and boys), indoor track and field (girls and boys), skiing (girls and boys), swimming (boys), wrestling and competitive cheer.  

Because of high risk nature of wrestling and competitive cheer, sports may have to be moved to Season II or season III. 

Season II (Fall Sports) Dates: March 1 through May 8; 10 Weeks 

Note: tentative dates sports: football, cross country (girls and boys), field hockey, soccer (girls and boys), swimming (girls), volleyball (girls and boys) and unified bowling. 

Note: Weather will have an impact upon outdoor sports in some parts of the state in March and potentially early April. Girls Tennis moved to Season III. 

Season III (Spring Sports) Dates: April 5 through Jun. 12; 10 Weeks 

Note: tentative dates sports: baseball, softball, golf (girls and boys), lacrosse (girls and boys), tennis (girls and boys), outdoor track and field (girls and boys) and unified basketball.

 

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On his daily update with reporters July 14, an exacerbated-sounding Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone had a rather simple message: “Wear a mask, wear a face covering, there’s too much at stake for you not to.”

This comes on the heels of new virus data for Suffolk County, which says the positive test rate broke 2 percent today as the number of new positive tests rose by 102 to a total of 42,214 in Suffolk County. The number even beats the positive test rate for New York City, which is sitting at 1.4 percent as of reporting. The overall New York State positive rate is 1.5 percent.

“This is the first time the number of new positives has risen since May 31,” Bellone said. “The numbers are moving in the wrong direction.”

While the number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 remained relatively the same at 41, along with 14 people in ICU beds, the county executive said the number of increasing cases is due to young people, especially those 30 years or younger. Since June 24, 42 percent of positive cases have come from this age group, Bellone said. 

This news also comes on the heels of a release from Gov. Andrew Cuomo who cited a Fourth of July weekend party in Holtsville as an example of how new infections are being spread. While the governor’s office put the number at 35 percent testing positive, the county put the number at 4, meaning 22 percent of partygoers were confirmed with the virus. The county did not issue any citations for the party as the number of people was under the 25 required limit for gatherings. The county executive said police did not respond to this particular gathering in Holtsville, and he did not reveal

“It’s an example of why it’s critically important that we remain vigilant,” Bellone said. “If you attended a Fourth of July gathering, you should be extremely sensitive to how you’re feeling, and when in doubt go get tested.”

Bellone added they have been doing contract tracing for events tracing back to the Fourth of July weekend, but did not have other examples of other gatherings where people have tested positive. If the county has to, Bellone said police will step up enforcement about gatherings. 

“If that number climbs to 5 percent we’re not going to be able to reopen our schools, and that will be terrible for kids and parents,” he said.

The county executive said 10 lifeguards employed by Suffolk County have been confirmed with COVID-19, but officials said they were not confirmed with the virus from being on the beach during the holiday, and more likely were infected during gatherings with fellow lifeguards. All 10 are now in quarantine.

On the positive end, however, Tuesday also marked a third day in a row where no new people have died due to complications with COVID-19.

On the state side, Cuomo added another four states to the list of places people must quarantine after coming in to include Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin. 

 

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Local businesses will now have more time to apply for Paycheck Protection Program loans as the aforementioned program has been extended until Aug. 8. 

President Donald Trump (R) signed a bill into law July 4 that ensures the loan program’s  application deadline will run for another five weeks. The bill’s passage allows the U.S. Small Business Administration to resume approving PPP applications, as the agency previously stopped processing forms on June 30. At that date, the SBA had approved nearly 4.9 loans with total funds over $520 billion.

In New York state, close to 324,000 PPP loans had been made, totaling $38.3 billion, according to SBA data. Despite that, the SBA had approximately $130 billion in unallocated funds when it momentarily shut down.

“The surprise for us and a lot of regional bankers is that there is still so much money that remains in the program,” said Bernie Ryba, regional director of the Small Business Development Center at Stony Brook University. “We had seen a huge surge of applications coming in before, but it has stayed flat the past few weeks. It’s been a complete reserve.”

Due to the changes the administration made to the program back in June, businesses that are seeking to qualify for loan forgiveness now have 24 weeks instead of the previous eight weeks to spend PPP funds. The portion of the loan that must be spent on payroll has been reduced from 75 to 60 percent. Businesses won’t be penalized if employees who have been offered their jobs, including same pay and hours, don’t return. 

The SBDC regional director said, with the updated terms, businesses who didn’t choose to apply initially could now decide to do so now.  

“The terms are better, that’s a real positive,” he said. “Some of the companies we’ve been working with said they felt constrained during the original eight-week period. It is a welcomed change.”

Ryba said in some cases he has heard of local and regional banks reaching out to businesses who still haven’t applied for the program. 

“It’s puzzling to them, like, ‘Why aren’t more of these businesses taking advantage of these terms?’” he said. 

The federal program loans up to $10 million with an interest rate of 1 percent and a five-year term. Ryba expects to see a mini-surge in application submissions as the Aug. 8 deadline gets closer. 

“There are some businesses who might think they can skate through this and don’t need to apply,” he said. “As the deadline looms they might change their minds.” 

In addition to Trump’s extension this past holiday weekend, a group of U.S. senators from the Senate Banking Committee tabled a bill that gives automatic forgiveness to businesses. 

Sens. Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey), Kevin Cramer (R-North Dakota), Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona), introduced the Paycheck Protection Small Business Forgiveness Act, which would forgive PPP loans of $150,000 or less if the borrower submits a one-page attestation form to their lender.

According to the group, approximately 85 percent of PPP loans would be eligible for this simplified loan forgiveness process. The cost of applying for forgiveness for a PPP loan of this size is $2,000 for the small business and $500 for the lender. The senators say the bipartisan legislation could save small businesses $7.4 billion and banks nearly $2 billion.

With the updated terms, the application to have PPP loan forgiveness has been simplified. Ryba said the application requires fewer calculations and documentation. It has helped quell some of the concerns owners have had. Small businesses have until Dec. 31 to file their forgiveness applications. 

“The process has been simplified, but there still continues to be a lack of clarity of how to treat certain expenses,” he said. “We hope that gets cleared up, we are trying to stay informed as possible and give our clients the best guidance.”

Nursing homes have become a hotbed of discussion over the large percentage of their residents who have died from COVID-19 while in New York facilities. Stock photo

When the initial COVID-19 surge occurred in New York State, nursing homes were the site of rampant infections and deaths. According to a New York State Department of Health report released earlier this week, the infection was spread by community transmission and asymptomatic staff members. 

The agency aimed to study the impact of the state’s March directive that nursing homes could not refuse admission or readmission to patients because of a confirmed or suspected coronavirus infection. The directive was meant to free up space in overcrowded hospitals as the pandemic intensified.

The number of nursing home staff reporting COVID-19 symptoms peaked March 16, 23 days prior to the peak of nursing home fatalities, which occurred April 8. 

“It is likely that thousands of employees who were infected in mid-March transmitted the virus unknowingly — through no fault of their own — while working, which then led to resident infection,” the report states. 

Critics of the directive argue that it allowed infected patients to return or come into these facilities and in turn spread the virus to other individuals. The findings of the study show 

37,500 workers — one in four of 158,000 nursing home workers — were infected with COVID-19 between March and early June. 

A number of elected officials took issue with the guidance given to nursing homes by the state. U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1) disputed claims that the state was simply following the federal government’s guidance. He said the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal regulator for nursing homes, had previously issued guidance stating that not only should nursing homes only accept patients for which they can care for, but that nursing homes should focus on “prompt detection, triage and isolation of potentially infectious residents.” 

Zeldin also called on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and CMS to launch an investigation into New York State’s adherence to appropriate health and safety guidelines within nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

In a statement following the release of the NYSDOH report, Zeldin reiterated his stance. 

“An internal review by the State of New York is OK for them to initiate, but this is not a situation where the state is going to be able to objectively investigate itself,” he said. “These facilities should not have been required to accept patients who were diagnosed at the time with coronavirus, especially if they did not have the ability to protect the rest of their vulnerable population. It was also a fatal policy to prevent nursing homes from administering coronavirus tests to patients returning from hospitalization. Our seniors and their families deserve answers, and an independent investigation is clearly necessary.”

A statewide nursing home survey conducted by NYSDOH shows that between March 25 and May 8, a total of 6,326 COVID-19 hospital patients were admitted into 310 nursing homes. Of those facilities 252 already had either confirmed or suspected positive patients, confirmed or presumed fatalities or infected workers, prior to admission of someone with the coronavirus. 

Stephen Hanse, president and CEO of the New York State Health Facilities Association said at the onset of the pandemic, nursing homes and assisted living facilities were not the top priority. Bolstering hospital resources and ramping up hospital bed capacity were. 

“Policymakers now know that the men and women residing in nursing homes and assisted living facilities are the most at risk of infection from the COVID-19 virus,” Hanse said in a statement. “Consequently, it is essential that nursing homes and assisted living providers receive the full support and assistance from elected officials and policymakers to ensure they have the necessary resources to defeat this virus and safeguard their residents and staff.”

Elwood Superintendent Ken Bossert. File photo by Elana Glowatz

Earlier on in the still-ongoing pandemic, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) spoke of his intentions to remake the lagging parts of society. In early May, the governor announced a new committee to “reimagine” education in New York state. He tapped the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to serve as just one of several “experts and stakeholders” for the initiative and named numerous people throughout the state to serve on the committee.

But since that was announced May 8, little has been heard from the committee. Among its 19 members, two are from Long Island, including Martin Palermo, a chemistry teacher at William Floyd High School who was designated a Master Teacher by New York State in 2016, and Jackie Duodu-Burbridge, of Copiague, who was described as a parent in a state release, but also ran unsuccessfully on the Working Families Party ticket for the Suffolk County 15th District seat vacated by former Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville).

Palermo, who is currently working on a doctorate of chemical education at Stony Brook University, was unable to respond to requests for comment by press time about what kinds of discussions were going on in the committee. Duodu-Burbridge could not be reached for comment.

How involved is the Gates foundation? It’s hard to tell, but the organization did tell the Washington Post in a statement it is recommending experts and contributing its own insights into how technology can enhance learning.

For some school district officials, these calls instead brought forth shivers of memories from a little less than a decade ago, with the advent of standardized testing and Common Core where teachers’ evaluations depended on how well their students scored. The Gates foundation played a major part in crafting that initiative.

Some district officials worried it would be an attempt to make distance learning more standard going forward, even when the pandemic has died down. Cuomo since clarified the position that distance or online learning could “never replace in-person learning with a teacher,” yet school officials have remained skeptical for a number of reasons, with many still feeling the governor is emphasizing replacing in-person learning.  

Ken Bossert, the superintendent of the Elwood school district, a former head of the Port Jefferson School District and past president of the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association, said he did not believe there is any need to reimagine education. 

“A lot of educators heard that and winced a little bit because there is this false perception that what we were doing pre-pandemic wasn’t in the best interest of students,” he said. “I don’t think school districts need to be reimagined, I think they need to be revised — I think there is always room for improvement.”

Comsewogue school district has a long history of actively decrying Common Core and New York State’s attempts at standardized testing. Former Superintendent Joe Rella, who passed earlier this year, was a major opponent of the 2012 implementation of Common Core, writing a letter to New York State against its implementation in 2013. He was at the forefront of a rally hosted later that year which gathered support from thousands of residents.

The district later implemented problem-based learning initiatives as a response to those earlier state standardizations, and has been accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Elementary and Secondary Schools.

Comsewogue Superintendent Jennifer Quinn said the district is still waiting to see what comes out of the committee, especially since there has been little news since it was created. 

“Each district has different populations, I don’t know if it will be one size fits all,” Quinn said. “I would like to see support for helping us with lower class sizes. All these social-distancing technologies, it’s very expensive. If we were going to come back to school, it’s very difficult to keep young kids apart.” 

She added that the focus the committee has on online, technology-based learning and shared classrooms over the internet presents itself a huge, new problem. The pandemic has only exacerbated inequalities among some communities and districts on Long Island. Some districts have access to computers or Chromebook laptops they simply hand out to students. Others don’t have anything like that. Not to mention there is a wide disparity between households that have multiple devices that can access the internet and those that have few or none.

School districts are already internally trying to find ways to promote more technology in and out of the classroom, especially since the question of how schools will come back in the fall is still to be decided. Mount Sinai school board president, Robert Sweeney, has been on the board for the past nine years. He said the district has in the past dealt with issues over Common Core with creating its own agencies, books and instructions in-house when the state wasn’t offering much in the way of aid for teachers on the new material.

The district will be using a successful allocation under the Smart Schools Bond Act to bolster their internal networks, potentially increasing the school’s online options.

“How much technology can we get into the hands of our students, what can we do with classroom-based technology, what can we do with technology to our students at home?” Sweeney said. “Let’s take it out of these difficult times and put it into the new normal.” 

Bossert was recently named to the New York State Education Department’s Regional Reopening Schools Task Force. He said a subcommittee of that group is specifically looking at tackling that lack of access to technology. 

But in the end, he said such a reimagining committee should not be handled by the governor’s office.

“The governor should empower the state Education Department to work with the 700 school districts of the state,” Bossert said. “I’m not sure it should be a function of the governor’s office.”

The new front entrance of the emergency room. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

As the number of people who need hospitalization from COVID-19 decreases, Suffolk County health care facilities will be able to engage in hospital procedures that may have been put off for weeks or months.

Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) said today that Suffolk and Westchester Counties were eligible to resume elective surgeries and ambulatory care.

County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said the county was waiting for an executive order from the governor to resume those procedures, which he expected soon.

“This is another indication of opening up and getting back to more normal” activities, which includes the announcement yesterday that South Hampton and Cupsogue beaches would be opening for Memorial Day weekend, Bellone said on his daily call with reporters.

Elective surgeries are “another step forward in this transition away from a pause and to a management of public health concerns,” Bellone said.

The county executive said the surgeries would be helpful for the hospitals, as they return to other procedures and practices beyond caring for COVID-19 patients, while they would provide necessary treatment for people who need these operations.

The number of hospitalizations from COVID-19 decreased by 15 over the last 24 hours, dropping to 539. The number of people in the Intensive Care Units, meanwhile, rose by one to 186.

ICU beds were at 68 percent capacity, while overall hospital beds were right at the targeted 70 percent for reopening.

In the last day, 40 people left the hospital, which is “a very good number,” Bellone said. “We wish all those who have come from the hospital a continued speedy recovery.”

The number of people who have died from complications related to the virus increased by 24 to 1,733.

A Thursday rally in Commack calling for the state to reopen the economy led to multiple protesters acting in an agressive fashion toward Kevin Vesey from News 12, walking toward him with megaphones as he tried to keep a distance from the people who took off their masks to shout at him. That video shortly went viral.

President Donald Trump (R) tweeted about the incident Friday and Saturday, reciting chants from the group of protesters writing “FAKE NEWS IS NOT ESSENTIAL!” in all caps, and calling the protesters “great people.”

Bellone did not mention the president but instead expressed his support for journalists.

“I will make sure and the Suffolk County Police Department will make sure that everyone who is attending a rally like this, which includes members of the media, are protected,” Bellone said.

Separately, Bellone heard back from Veterans Affairs that residents would not be able to place flags at the graves of veterans at Calverton National Cemetery and Long Island National Cemetery. Bellone plans to send another letter, urging that VA Secretary Robert Wilkie reconsider, allowing the county to honor these servicemen and women during Memorial Day.

Town of Brookhaven's Cedar Beach. Photo by Kyle Barr

As summer approaches, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) is forming a working group to balance between public health precautions and summer recreational activities.

Bellone named Deputy County Executive Peter Scully as the chairman of a working group that will include town supervisors, village mayors in the east and west end of Suffolk and representatives from Fire Island.

The group will “work to develop guidelines and recommendations on reopening of municipal facilities,” Bellone said on his daily conference call with reporters. “We know it’s going to get more difficult as the summer approaches [amid] a strong desire to get back to a sense of normalcy.”

The county executive cautioned that Suffolk would not return to life as it was, as residents will live in a “different environment with different rules,” which will likely include the further deployment of face coverings, which can and have reduce the cost in terms of the number of lives lost to the disease.

“When you ask about whether you should continue those guidelines, think about how many people have died,” Bellone said. Indeed, that number climbed another 34 in the last day to 859.

The county, however, continues to share positive news, as the number of people entering hospitals with COVID-19 is lower than the number who are discharged, which reduces the strain on the health care system.

Another 90 people left hospitals and returned home over the last day. The number of people in the hospital fell by 30 to 1,411 people.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced today a regional group that will explore ways to reopen downstate New York. He also said New York would be working with surrounding states to plan reopening, with an emphasis not only on going back to the same place but improving on what came before.

“Let’s use this crisis, this situation, this time to actually learn the lessons … lets reimagine what we want society to be,” Cuomo said.

That downstate group will include representatives from Cuomo’s offices, Bellone’s offices, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), Nassau County Executive Laura Curran (D) and Westchester County Executive George Latimer (D).

On the economic front, Bellone sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to gain acess to the municipal liquidity facility, which could provide property tax relief to residents in Suffolk County.

“We are very hopeful we will gain access” to the ability of the county to do short term borrowing that would allow the county to provide tax relief for residents, Bellone said.

The county distributed 16,000 pieces of personal protective equipment yesterday, which included N95 masks, ear loops masks, goggles, and isolation gowns. Today, the county is distributing some equipment to east end migrant farm workers, who are a “key part of our economy and we want to make sure we are helping them to reduce the spread of the virus,” Bellone said.

The county executive also highlighted Nature’s Bounty, which donated 1,000 N95 masks last week, which the county has given to first responders and health care workers.

Finally, Bellone said the county continued to monitor a storm that might hit the island with heavy rains and high winds. He said the county would be watching the weather closely through the day and might need to close the hotspot testing sites that opened in the last few weeks if the storm posed a threat to those efforts.

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin. Flie photo by Alex Petroski

Thousands of masks have come to Suffolk County over the past two days courtesy of the White House, both from purchases and donations.

After U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1) put out a tweet asking for help for Suffolk County, where the number of positive diagnosis for COVID-19 continues to climb above 10,000, a member of the President Donald Trump (R) family connected with County Executive Steve Bellone (D). The county executive, who had run out of his supplies of personal protective equipment, purchased 150,000 surgical masks.

On Sunday night,  Trump announced that he would ship 200,000 coveted n95 masks to Suffolk County, which came from a federal procurement collection, said Zeldin.

“For the n95 masks to come in without a charge helps all of those local entities laying out a lot of cash at the moment,” Zeldin said.

Zeldin is continuing to reach out to other resources around the country, hoping to secure hospital gowns, among other equipment. Indeed, Zeldin spoke earlier today with the Ambassador to Iceland, who is “working the phones to see if he can help the county procure gowns.”

The 1st district representative said he believes the timing of his tweet seeking assistance for Suffolk County “connected with Americans who may not even live in New York, but who were feeling the spirit as fellow Americans to do whatever they can.”

As for ventilators, Zeldin indicated that the White House is likely to respond to any requests for additional equipment with a question about the location and use of the 4,000 ventilators the federal government already sent.

“It appears [the ventilators from the federal stock pile] haven’t been deployed yet,” Zeldin said. “If you went back to the White House right now and said, ‘I need another ventilator,’ it would be a fair question to be asked back, ‘Where are the ventilators that we sent you?’”

Zeldin said he understands the plan at the state level to increase the number of ventilators as the state prepares for any sudden increase in demand, adding he wouldn’t expect the state to provide a map of where every ventilator is located,  but he does believe an accounting of the life saving equipment would help the White House respond to any further requests.

Zeldin said putting together the location of ventilators in Suffolk County is, “something that [Bellone’s] office is working proactively on to identify. It appears that they know where every ventilator is in the county. They were working to obtain additional information beyond that and hopefully will yield some additional intelligence that helps in the process.”

Despite Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) again today sharing he is optimistic New York could be hitting the apex of the virus, the number of cases on Long Island continue to grow as testing continues.

As of this morning, Bellone said the number of positive tests in Suffolk County for the virus had climbed to 13,487, which is an increase of over 1,000.

“We’re seeing a big increase in the number of people testing positive,” Bellone said.

The hospitalization rate, however, increased at a much slower pace than it had prior to Sunday as well. The number of people in the hospital with the virus stands at 1,463, which is up 26 patients, with 546 residents in the Intensive Care Unit, an increase of six patients.

“For the second day in a row, we’ve had a modest increase in the number of hospitalizations,” Bellone said “That is a good sign.”

Another positive piece of news, Bellone said, is that 63 people have left the hospital who had Covid-19.

These encouraging signs mean that the social distancing and New York Pause, which Cuomo extended until April 29, are working.

They do not, however, indicate that “we take our foot off the pedal,” Bellone said. “The worst thing is to see positive news and decide we can start adjusting our life back to normal. Then, we would see a rise in cases again and, instead of a plateau, we would go back up. We do not want to see that happen.”

As of today, Suffolk County had 710 hospital beds available, including 65 ICU beds.

The number of people who have died with coronavirus continues to rise. Bellone reported an additional 24 people who have died from complications related to coronavirus, which brings the total to 199. He expects those numbers may be under reported and the county may have crossed above 200 deaths.

Bellone continued to urge people who have recovered from a confirmed case of Covid-19 to donate blood plasma, which is rich in virus-fighting antibodies, to the Red Cross, to the New York Blood Center or to the Mount Sinai health system, which are available online at NYBloodCenter.org or MountSinai.org.

The Suffolk County Police Department continues to respond to calls about residents who are not complying with social distancing the New York Pause. Yesterday, the police department had 24 calls, of which three were non compliant. Once the officers spoke to those who were not compliant, they immediately changed their behavior and the officers didn’t have to issue any tickets.

Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said some of those who were not complying with the ongoing social distancing rules have been in the hard-to-reach immigrant community. The police department is going out with signage and fliers. This morning,  Hart participated in a radio show with La Fiesta “to make sure we’re communicating.” The police department has also reached out to community leaders to ask for their help.

To reach younger people who may not be complying, the police department has also used social media. Over the weekend,  Hart partnered with school superintendents to do a robocall to ask families to follow the current public health mandates.

As of this morning, 56 sworn officers and six civilians had contracted COVID-19.

Image from CDC

A total of 93 confirmed coronavirus patients have been released from hospitals in Suffolk as County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said they have been cleared to go home. Meanwhile, however, Suffolk is trying to meet the hard task of staying ahead in the number of beds available before the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients reaches its apex. 

Bellone said there are 648 hospital beds and 43 Intensive Care Unit beds available, and Gregson Pigott, Suffolk County’s health commissioner, said those were spread out among hospitals, though even still he admitted, “that’s not a lot of beds.”

As counties all across New York fight to stay ahead of the number of patients, all have seen a significant lack of personal protective equipment, including gloves, masks and gowns. Ventilators, which can be lifesaving to critically ill patients, have also been in extreme short supply. Stony Brook University Hospital, for instance, has been looking to detail plans and designs that could put two patients on a single ventilator at a time. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday morning he would be signing an executive order allowing the National Guard to go to facilities that are not currently using equipment like ventilators and bring them to places that need them.

“I understand they don’t want to give up their ventilators … the theory is if the government gets them they will never get that back, I understand that, but I don’t have an option,” Cuomo said. 

In that same press conference, the governor named several locations as COVID-19 “hotspots,” which included Stony Brook University Hospital. 

Cuomo added the city could start running out of ventilators by next week.

While Suffolk County has exhausted “all” its PPE equipment for health care facilities and has hosted equipment donation drives, Bellone said they have increasingly called on companies who were interested to retool any kind of production for purpose of making medical equipment. The first of these companies, Hauppauge-based 71 Visuals, a sign making company, has retooled its facility to making face shields for health care workers. So far the county has purchased 25,000 of said face shields. 

“When we can have local manufacturers, we can purchase which can be utilized in this fight to save lives,” Bellone said.

The county executive has called on any other company who is considering retooling their operations to reach out to them, saying those businesses will be worked with and compensated for their efforts.

The number of deaths due to the coronavirus continues to rise. There are now 10,149 confirmed cases, according to the county’s data tracking website. This past day saw nine new deaths, bringing the total fatalities in Suffolk to 93. 

Yesterday, The New York Times reported the navy ship USNS Comfort, which is docked inside New York Harbor, is not accepting coronavirus patients, instead being used as a place for overflow, non-COVID related patients. The vast majority of its 1,000 beds are currently unused, especially since non-coronavirus related sickness and injuries has severely decreased thanks to current stay-at-home orders.

Bellone criticized the fact the ship was not being used to field the flood of new daily coronavirus patients.

“Patients need to go where there is space available to help save lives,” Bellone said.