As testing for the coronavirus COVID-19 increases in Suffolk County and throughout the country, so too does the number of confirmed cases. As of Wednesday, Suffolk County had 152 confirmed cases, with three fatalities.
“We were behind the eight ball on testing for a while now,” County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said on a conference call with other members of the National Association of Counties and the press. “Those numbers are going to continue to jump. All of these efforts about trying to contain that.”
There are 17 positive tests in Brookhaven, 43 in Huntington, 23 in Islip, and 3 in Smithtown. People who would like to get tested can call 888 364 3065. Residents won’t automatically receive a test if they show up. They need to go to a doctor or have a telephone reference for a possible test. Bellone expects the requirements for testing to loosen up in the coming days.
To protect police officers, Bellone urged residents to file some reports online. Residents can file lost property, criminal mischief, non-criminal property damage, and minor motor vehicle damage, among other issues, through the web site http://www.suffolkpd.org.
The county executive also reminded residents who are experiencing a mental health emergency can reach out to the Dash Center in Hauppauge, which is the first crisis stabilization center on Long Island.
This week, Bellone’s office continued to take numerous steps to inform the public and protect first responders. He encouraged residents to sign up for Smart911, to provide emergency responders with critical medical information. Residents can sign up through the website www.smart911.com.
Residents can also sign up for text message updates on their mobile devices if they text CovidSuffolk to 67283. Over 10,000 people signed up for the texting service on the first day, the county executive said.
Apart from ongoing concerns about the spread of the virus, residents are confronting an economy that has ground to a halt, as people maintain social distancing and businesses from movie theaters to bowling alleys to dry cleaners all closed.
The government “knows the impact to businesses will be devastating,” Bellone said on the call.
The county executive has put together a business response plan and is working to collect data from local businesses. He also advised he continues to work with a business response team, which the Department of Economic Development and Planning and the Suffolk County Department of Labor are leading.
Bellone said the business group was in the “discovery phase” of the plan, as the Department of Labor takes the lead on collecting data from businesses to find out “what’s happening on the ground with their work force.”
He encouraged businesses to reach out through 311 to provide information about the impacts of the virus.
Bellone said he was working on supply chain issues for personal protection equipment for health care workers. He is also hopeful that Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) will find ways to work with the Army Corps of Engineers to expand hospital bed capacity to meet the anticipated surge in demand.
As of now, Suffolk County has 2,300 hospital beds, of which 391 are currently available. There are 242 Intensive Care Unit beds, of which 68 are available.
George Latimer, the Westchester County executive, also shared his experiences and his expectations for the progression of the virus on the National Association of Counties call.
Westchester’s cases, which surged to 308, said the county is “where many places will be,” with its number of infections and its efforts to contain the spread of the virus.
Latimer wasn’t optimistic about the potential to reopen schools in his county any time soon.
“I doubt we’ll see academic [efforts] back before the end of June,” Latimer said. “That will cause all sorts of disruptions.”
Latimer said he is concerned about beds and ventilators and that his district has asked retired nurses and doctors if they would return to service.
County executives from other areas also expressed concerns about numerous other challenges, including helping the homeless population, safeguarding people in prisons, protecting first responders and health care workers, and managing their counties’ finances while tax revenue plummets and costs skyrocket.