Suffolk County has recorded its first two deaths from the coronavirus Covid-19, while the number of positive tests continues to climb and was at 74 as of early Monday.
A man in his 80s, who had been in isolation at St. Catherine’s Hospital in Smithtown, passed away, according to county officials. Another man, who was in his 90s and was in isolation at Huntington Hospital, also succumbed to the virus that has caused a pandemic throughout the world.
“It’s with great sadness” that Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) reported that the virus has taken the lives of the two people. “We offer our condolences and sympathies to the family who have lost loved ones and we will do everything we can to contain the spread of the virus,” he said on a conference call with reporters Monday, March 16.
One of the confirmed positive cases includes a member of Bellone’s senior staff, Peter Scully, a Deputy Suffolk County executive. While Scully is “doing well,” he remains at home in isolation, where he continues to work as part of the team responding to the virus that has given him a sore throat and chills, according to Bellone.
Several members of Bellone’s team are under mandatory quarantine because they have had direct contact with Scully, which includes spending more than 10 minutes within six feet of him. That list includes Gregson Pigott, who is the commissioner of the county’s Department of Health Services.
Although he was not in direct contact with Scully, Bellone has been directing the response to the virus from his home office.
“The guidance we put out is important for everyone to follow, including top levels of the government,” Bellone said. “Leadership by example is important and it is important for people to know you can follow this guidance but continue to do the things you need to do.”
Bellone expressed some concerns about children gathering to spend time together, particularly with the approach of the warmer spring weather.
“We want to send a message out to parents and the community that it is important that while kids are home, it’s not a time for mass gathering,” Bellone said. “Parents need to be following social distancing guidelines for kids.”
Indeed, school children in Nassau and Suffolk County have been out of school starting Monday for at least two weeks.
Northwell Health, meanwhile, announced that it is postponing elective surgeries. The new guidelines don’t apply to emergency surgeries. Elective surgeries, endoscopies and other invasive procedures in the outpatient setting will continue when doctors determine that they are clinically necessary. If the medical staff decides these surgeries are not essential, they will be postponed or cancel them to minimize exposure to Covid-19 for patients and staff. Northwell is also asking its practitioners to reschedule non-essential visits unless medical necessary within the next four weeks. Planned imaging procedures including Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or MRIs, Computed Tomography (CTs) and ultrasound will not be canceled. Patients confirmed for imaging will be contacted prior to their visits to identify those people who might be at higher risk from the virus.
Comptroller John Kennedy is preparing for the possibility of closing the Hauppauge and Riverhead offices. The Comptroller indicated that he may need to close these offices or restrict the work from home. Even if that occurs, however, the Comptroller has worked with financial institutions to ensure that the government continues to function and funds remain available. Kennedy ensured that PayMySuffolkTaxes.com has been working for almost a year, which will allow residents to pay delinquent property taxes online. He also launched a self-service tool, SuffolkSelfService.com to allow vendors to make status payments and notify appropriate personnel.
Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) urged residents to report any price gouging for products such as hand sanitizers or household cleaning supplies. The phone number to call is 1-800-697-1220.
Suffolk Parks remain open and are operating on normal business hours. Organized events and youth group camping, however, have been suspended. Residents can call 311 to confirm if an event is still taking place.
Sheriff Errol Toulon, Jr. has suspended all visits with inmates at Suffolk County Correctional Facilities starting on March 17th. Attorneys may continue to see their clients. While there are no current cases of the virus at the facilities, Toulon indicated he made this decision to control the spread of the illness. Toulon also suggested that most office bureaus are available by phone or website and urged people who do not need to visit the office to make contact from home.