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Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone

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With phase one of an economic restart in its second day, leaders in Suffolk County are considering ways to enable restaurants that provide outdoor seating to open soon.

Outdoor dining is “an activity that we believe can be done safely,” County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said on his daily conference call with reporters. “We are hopeful that this is one of the areas we could see accelerated.”

Bellone said he would provide an order to grant automatic county approval to restaurants to expand their seating into creative outdoor spaces, which could include sidewalks, in the back of a restaurant, or in tents.

“There will be no delay in that process,” the county executive said.

While Bellone didn’t provide a specific time table, he added that “you could see certain activities that are moved up and outdoor dining is clearly one of those with the right protocols in place.”

As for the numbers related to COVID-19, an additional 101 residents tested positive for the virus, bringing the total to 39,359 people. That doesn’t include the 12,956 people who have tested positive for the antibody.

The number of people hospitalized with the coronavirus has declined by four to 301. The number of people in ICU beds declined by two to 92. These numbers are through May 26.

Over the last day, 12 people left the hospital.

In that same period, 10 people died from complications related to COVID-19. The virus has now played a role in the deaths of 1,871 Suffolk County residents.

The County Executive’s office distributed another 39,000 pieces of personal protective equipment over the last day.

On Friday, the courts on Long Island will reopen, with judges and their staff returning. The courts will have safety measures in place.

Bellone shared his shock at the video he has seen of the death in Minneapolis of George Floyd, who died after he told police officers he couldn’t breathe when he was on the ground and one of them put a knee to his neck during an arrest. Four police officers were fired in connection with Floyd’s death. Calling the video “horrific,” Bellone said he is “hopeful that we are going to see justice as quickly as possible.”

SBU Viral Research

Meanwhile, Stony Brook University announced researchers from all different schools on campus have started over 180 COVID-19 studies since the pandemic reached Long Island in March. Scientists are exploring the impacts of the virus from numerous perspectives and across the university.

Researchers are conducting 52 clinical trials on prevention, treatment and care of patients.

In the Renaissance School of Medicine, scientists have started 75 studies across 20 departments. These include exploring the benefit of convalescent plasma, using dry heat to disinfect N95 masks, using Artificial Intelligence to detect the virus and predict outcomes, determining physician health, and many others.

In the College of Arts and Sciences in the School of Medicine, one group of researchers are focusing on exchanging lipids in the viral coat, while another is examining COVID-19 proteins in plants for scaled-up production of antigens.

In the College of Arts and Sciences, over half of the 40 studies are in the Department of Psychology and are exploring the impact of isolation on well-being. Another study is looking at trainee experiences with online teaching and learning.

Scientists in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the School of Medicine are conducting 10 studies. One investigates the use of Artificial Intelligence to help with drug discovery of antiviral candidates, the effects of the virus on clotting, and the development of informatics solutions for viral imaging.

Six studies are progressing in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences on decision support for cancer treatment, tracking levels of community distress, vaccine designs for unknown targets and a diagnostic tool for rapid COVID-19 infection detection.

In the School of Social Welfare, scientists are determining the impact of social distancing on mental health and substance abuse, the impact of isolation on older adults during the COVID-19 crisis, the impact of the crisis on first-generation college students, and an examination of family violence.

The School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences is tracking disease prevalence in New York State communities by monitoring novel coronavirus in sewage.

The College of Business is looking at the impact of the socioeconomic status in the context of virus-related decisions.

The School of Nursing is exploring the effect of the pandemic on student nurses, while the school of Health Technology and Management is studying the impact of the virus on occupational participation and life satisfaction.

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With Suffolk County expected to hit the final two metrics to enter Phase 1 of an economic reopening, businesses including construction, manufacturing and curb side retail, will open tomorrow.

One of the final seven metrics the county needed to reach was the hiring and training of contact tracers, who can help follow the link between positive testing among residents and the people those with the virus interacted with while they were infectious.

The county is training 1,368 employees in contact tracing, and will have more than enough contact tracers, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said, which will allow officials to call in additional people, even if it’s for a short time, to handle any sudden increase in positive tests.

“Everybody is anxious to get this going,” Bellone (D) said on his daily conference call with reporters. The county needs to “get the economy reopened again.”

The county executive described the contact tracing work as a “Herculean task,” which will require buy in from residents.

Bellone planned to speak with community-based organizations to make a point to address the issue of supporting contact tracers and encouraging residents who test positive to understand the public health role these people are playing in preventing the spread of the virus. The county executive said he has had conversations with businesses as well about supporting the contact tracing effort.

Bellone will be asking other community leaders to “reach out to their network to spread that word even further,” he said. “We are putting that ask to them, to reach out to their networks to spread the word about contact tracing for people to cooperate.”

In some homes, where isolation or quarantine may not be possible after a positive COVID-19 test, Bellone said the county planned to provide separate housing where those infected with the virus could recover until they are no longer infectious.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said these counties that are starting to reopen need to keep on top of any kind of COVID-19 resurgence.

“I said to the county executives, watch the numbers, when you see a cluster of cases, jump on it,” Cuomo said. “Those regional control groups have to be disciplined.”

With some retail businesses opening for curbside as a part of Phase 1 reopening on Long Island tomorrow, the police and county officials are supportive of creative ways to use what might be limited curb space for shoppers.

“We will work with the Police Department and their partners and enforcement teams to coordinate” on efforts to restart businesses, he said. “People understand, in an unprecedented situation, [that the county is] trying to give businesses that need to reopen the ability to do that. To the extent we can assist businesses doing curb side retail in creative ways, we would be supportive of that.”

While Bellone awaits word from Cuomo on his request for an executive order supporting a 45-day suspension of temporary property tax relief, he did receive word from the governor’s office that pushes the tax collection back 21 days.

“That takes the pressure off any immediate issues,” Bellone said. Residents to not need to sign a form attesting to the hardship created by the pandemic to receive that 21-day extension.

As for the viral numbers, an additional 126 people tested positive in the last day for the virus.

The number of people in the hospitalized declined by 8 to 335 as of May 24 The number of people in Intensive Care Units fell by five to 106.

Hospital beds are at 64 percent capacity, with 59 percent capacity in the ICU.

Over the last day, an additional 20 people left the hospital after a battle with the coronavirus.

At the same time, 11 people died from complications related to the virus, raising the total killed in Suffolk County to 1,851.

In terms of the next phase of reopening, which could start as late as June 10, Bellone said Governor Cuomo has spoken about the possibility of a shorter duration between phases.

“Nothing is set in stone,” Bellone said. “Everything about this is new.”

The county will continually monitor the metrics and will look for any changes or spikes in those numbers.

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Reacting to a stirring front page of the New York Times that included the names of people felled by COVID-19 the day before Memorial Day, County Executive Steve Bellone (D) took stock of all the county has lost, and protected.

The New York Times is a “reminder, when you look at it, of the fact that these are not just statistics we are reporting every day,” Bellone said on his daily call with reporters. The losses families, friends and caretakers have felt these losses keenly each day, causing an untold impact on the county, the state and the country.

Amid all the death and loss, Bellone said he takes comfort in the way Long Islanders have abided by social distancing and face covering restrictions, which has kept the unimaginably high death toll in the county — which increased another 12 to 1,834 over the last day — from being even higher.

“Thousands of people are alive today because of the extraordinary efforts” of everyone from first responders to business owners who have closed up their shops to reduce the spread of the virus.

Bellone urged residents to “continue to be smart.”

Bellone cited an incident in Patchogue at Dublin Deck on Friday night that included numerous videos of people crowding around a bar in clear violation of social distancing rules.

The owners of Dublin Deck have apologized on their Facebook page, saying said they had invited people in because of the rain. They acknowledged they were wrong and that it will not happen again.

“What we saw in those videos is unacceptable and not smart,” Bellone said. “Police are aware of that and will continue to follow up.”

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart explained that the owners were vocal and apologetic and that 85 precent of the patrons had cleared out by the time the police arrived. An officer stayed at the location until everybody had cleared and responded at other times to make sure it was in compliance.

Dublin Deck posted an apology to its social media site and indicated “there are no excuses when it comes to public safety.”

As for the viral figures in the county, the number of people who tested positive in the county in the last day were 162, bringing the total to 38,964. That figure excludes the 12,272 who tested positive on an antibody test.

Meanwhile, the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 fell by 35 through May 22 to 374. That is the first time since Marcy 27 that total hospitalizations were below 400.

The number of people in Intensive Care Unit beds declined by six to 119.

With 3,031 total hospital beds, the number of available beds was 1,041, which keeps the county on track to start opening on Wednesday. Similarly, with 230 ICU beds available from a total of 595, the number of beds occupied with COVID-19 patients is below the 70 percent maximum.

Over the last day, 45 people have been discharged from the hospital.

The county executive said four sites would be reopening for residents to purchase green key cards. The cost of the cards is $30 and they are valid for three years. The sites are at the east booth at Smith Point Park, at Indian Island County Park in Riverheads, at Blydenburgh County Park in Smithtown and at Sears Bellows County Park at Hampton Bays.

Bellone urged residents to practice social distancing at these sites and to wear face coverings.

Planes from the 106 National Guard Rescue Wing flew over St. Charles and other local hopsitals May 16. Another flyover from the Bayport Aerodrome Society is planned for Memorial Day. Photo by Brendan Duffy

After 66 days stuck in New York Pause, Long Island is expecting to start phase one of its economic reopening on Wednesday.

“If we continue on this track, and we believe that we will, we are looking to reopen Long Island” on Wednesday, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said on his daily conference call with reporters. “That is great news.”

Phase One includes construction, agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, retail (which is limited to curbside or in-store pick up or drop off), manufacturing and wholesale trade.

Bellone urged residents to continue to wear face coverings when they are indoors or when they are around other people and can’t maintain a reliable six feet of social distancing. He also acknowledged that the reopening of the camping reservation web site did not go as planned last night, when it reopened at 7 p.m.

The site crashed amid a high demand which was built up by the long layoff from recreational and leisure activities.

Bellone expects to get the site up and running this week and indicated he would provide plenty of notice for when it is reopening so that people can book their reservations for periods starting after July 15.

This morning, Bellone joined residents at Babylon cemetery, who came out to place thousands of flags at the graves of veterans across the county.

Volunteers placed flags at the graves of former service men and women, thanking veterans across the generations and centuries who are all “part of this great American story that gives us and has given us our freedom,” Bellone said.

As for the COVID-19 update, the number of residents who tested positive for the virus in the last 24 hours was 130, which brings the total to 38,802. That doesn’t include the over 12,000 who have tested positive for antibodies to the virus.

As of May 21, the number of hospitalizations from the virus declined by 16 to 409, while the number of people in the Intensive Care Unit declined by six to 125.

Bed capacity fell below 70 percent usage, with 993 beds available out of a total of 3,035 and 212 ICU beds available out of a total of 547.

Over the last day, 43 people left the hospital. An additional eight residents from the county died from complications related to COVID-19, which raises the terrible death toll to the virus to 1,822.

To honor the veterans and health care heroes, the Bayport Aerodrome Society, which is the last remaining public grass airfield on Long Island, will do a flyover with eight World War II era planes on Memorial Day.

Starting at noon on Monday in Brookhaven, the planes will fly over Long Island Community Hospital, Mather, St. Charles, Stony Brook, St. Catherine’s, Huntington Hospital, and Good Samaritan. The planes will end their flight over South Side Hospital in Bayshore.

Three of the pilots are veterans.

St. James Memorial Day celebration 2018. File photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

After a Memorial Day weekend when beaches will be open under new social distancing rules, Suffolk County is on track to reopen the economy starting next week.

Camp grounds will reopen starting on June 1. Starting tonight, residents can make reservations to visit those camp grounds starting on July 15, which is “a positive sign of the progress we’ve made,” County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said on his daily conference call with reporters.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said today that Long Island was on track to potentially reopen. What that requires is additional contract tracers, which Suffolk and Nassau officials said they were currently working on acquiring, and a 14-day total decline in deaths. The latter is likely the most tentative, and will surely depend on no spikes in numbers in the coming week.

The governor announced he would allow construction staging on Long Island, in anticipation for phase 1 of reopening, which would allow construction companies to start up again.

Bellone said people often think of Memorial Day weekend as the start of the summer season. This year, as the county and state look to loosen restrictions caused by COVID-19, summer will “serve as the unofficial transition to reopening our economy,” Bellone said.

Bellone encouraged residents to participate this weekend in the first of the Suffolk County Veterans runs. Interested participants in the virtual race, which is free but accepts donations to support veterans, can sign up at suffolkveteransrunseries.com.

The Suffolk County Police Department reiterated its plan to enforce social distancing and wearing face masks over the Memorial Day weekend. The SCPD anticipates crowds in downtown areas and said its Together Enforcing Compliance (or TEC) Team would be on foot in downtown areas and parks. Marine Bureau officers also expect more boaters on the water than usual after the end of New York Pause and planned to adjust their staffing levels and patrols accordingly.

Bellone raised the white flag in his ongoing effort to honor veterans who are buried at Calverton National Cemetery and Long Island National Cemetery. After putting together a proposal about how the county could plant flags safely at the cemeteries, Bellone received several rejections, interrupting an annual tradition that began in 1995.

The county executive still plans to plant flags for deceased service men and women at 15 non-national cemeteries tomorrow.

Bellone provided the daily update to the viral numbers.

An additional 119 people tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of residents who tested positive to 38,672. That does not include the 12,013 people who tested positive through the antibody test, which indicates they had the virus at some point.

The number of hospitalizations from the virus decreased by 28 to 425 through May 20. The number of people in the Intensive Care Unit increased by two to 131, also through May 20, which is the most recent 24 hour period for which the county had data.

With 882 beds available from a total of 3,009, the occupancy is just over 70 percent, which is the target for reopening. The number of available ICU beds is 193 out of a total of 547, which means ICU occupancy is at 65 percent.

In the last day, the number of people who died from complications related to the coronavirus increased by 12, bringing the total who died to 1,814.

Separately, the county executive office distributed an additional 30,000 pieces of personal protective equipment.

Bellone said 16 sites at CVS drive-through locations would provide self-administered COVID-19 tests. Residents will drive to the drug stores and will receive instructions with the kit. Someone from CVS will observe the process to ensure it is done correctly. Residents will get results within three days.

The county had six pediatric cases in the hospital as of May 20, which does not necessraily mean they have the rare inflammatory condition the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been tracking.

Gregson Pigott, the Commissioner of the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, said the inflammatory condition caused by COVID-19 was still “very rare.”

Photo by Rita J. Egan 2018

Frustrated by a Veterans Affairs office that has denied his repeated requests to conduct flag planting at Suffolk County’s two national cemeteries over Memorial Day weekend, County Executive Steve Bellone (D) is asking President Donald Trump (R) to get involved.

“I’m asking for his support once again on an incredibly important issue in this moment,” Bellone said on his daily conference call with reporters.

Bellone thanked U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY-1) and Trump for their help in securing personal protective equipment for the county and for helping to ensure that the county can tap into the municipal liquidity fund, which will allow the county to provide temporary property tax relief until July 15.

Without help from the president, Bellone said he is “afraid that a tradition that goes back a quarter of a century will end this Memorial Day weekend.”

Even if the county can’t place flags at Calverton National Cemetery and Long Island National Cemetery, Bellone and the county plan to place flags at 15 cemeteries. The County Executive is still looking for volunteers, who can sign up through his facebook page at facebook.com/SteveBellone. He is also looking for a donation of 3,500 8×12 inch or 12 x 18 inch flags in good condition.

Separately, the county executive indicated that Suffolk County residents shouldn’t expect fireworks displays in July to celebrate Independence Day.

“We know reopening our economy safely and being able to sustain that is directly connected to keeping our curve flat,” Bellone said. “Opening back up to mass gatherings” which would include July 4th fireworks “would undermine our goals.”

Viral Numbers

Hospitalizations continue to decline. The number of people in Intensive Care Units has declined by 29 through May 19 to 129, which is the “largest decline the county has seen” in a while, Bellone said.

The number of people who are hospitalized was 453, which is a decline from two days earlier, when the number was 497.

In the past day, 53 people have come home from the hospital.

The number of deaths due to complications from COVID-19 rose by 11 to 1,802.

The number of people who tested positive for the virus increased by 142 over the last day, rising to 38,553. That doesn’t include the 11,461 people who have tested positive for antibodies to the virus.

Stony Brook Update

Stony Brook is cutting back the hours of its drive-through testing site in the South P lot. It will be open from 8 a..m until 6 p.m. on Monday through Saturday and from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday. Residents must make appointments in advance through the New York State Department of Health Hotline, at 888-364-3065 or at coronavirus.health.nygov/covid-19-testing. The site will not accept walk ins.

Finally, America’s Got Talent Golden Buzzer and Apollo Theater Competition Grand Prize Winner Christian Guardino will perform tonight at 8 p.m. at the entrance to Stony Brook Children’s Hospital.

The performance is for hospital personnel only.

The musical tribute will include a light show.

West Meadow Beach at low tide. Photo by Beverly C. Tyler

Brookhaven Town is opening four major beaches for Memorial Day weekend for residents only. The town is reducing parking by 50 percent to ensure social distancing.

The beaches the town is opening are: Davis Park, on Fire Island; Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai; Corey Beach in Blue Point and West Meadow Beach in Stony Brook.

These beaches will open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The town will lock all parking lots at 6:30 p.m.

While residents can bring umbrellas and blankets, they must wear face masks or coverings in areas outside of the water or general beach area.

Lifeguards will be on duty and residents are allowed to enter the water, but they may not swim.

The town will provide restroom facilities that will be cleaned and sanitized every hour by staff.

After Memorial Day weekend, the beaches will have no public restroom facilities or lifeguards on duty during weekdays.

Residents can purchase Resident Parking Stickers from the Town of Brookhaven Parks Department through BrookhavenNY.gov/Stickers. For more information, call 631-451-8696.

Resident parking stickers are required to park in the beach parking lots.

Lifeguards, park employees and town code enforcement will monitor the distance between families.

Viral Numbers

Separately, hospitalizations from COVID-19 continue to fall, dropping by eight to 497, which is the first time the number has been below 500 since the end of March.

The number of people in Intensive Care Unit beds also declined, dropping five to 164.

In the meantime, 30 people have left the hospital in the last 24 hours.

After a drop in deaths on Monday, the number increased again in the next day, with 18 people dying from complications related to the virus, bringing the total in Suffolk County to 1,772.

The number of people who tested positive for the virus increased by 103 to 38,297, which excludes the 10,345 people who have tested positive for the antibody without having a previous test.

In the antibody tested administered by Northwell Health for first responders, about 9.7 percent of those tested have come back positive, which is an increase over the earlier figure when tested first started. At this point, about 2,900 test results have come back for first responders.

County Executive Steve Bellone (D) continues to urge the Veteran’s Administration to allow volunteers to place flags at the two national cemeteries located on Long Island.

Today, Bellone sent a certified plan in place for flag placement that indicates exactly how the county, which is reopening its beaches, can honor the veterans buried on Long Island.

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 has been reopened for the purpose of passive recreation. Photo by Kyle Barr

Even before Suffolk County officially clears all the hurdles for a phased economic reopening, the county is planning to open Smith Point and Cuspsogue beaches over Memorial Day weekend.

County Executive Steve Bellone (D) suggested that keeping children home during the holiday weekend and the unofficial start to summer would be unrealistic, especially after all the limits placed on them to contain the spread of COVID-19.

While the beaches would be open, the visit to some of Long Island’s more inviting summer destinations won’t be the same as it is in any other year, as physical games, such as football and basketball, are limited.

Guests who visit the beaches will need to wear masks when they can’t maintain social distancing with other families or groups visiting the beach.

The bathrooms will be open and will have hand sanitizer. Attendants will also monitor the restrooms to ensure they remain sanitized.

Residents “won’t be playing contact sports,” Bellone said on his daily conference call with reporters, but they can go in the water.

It’s in the wake of more bad news for Long Islanders hoping Suffolk would be able to clear the hurdles necessary to open in a short time frame. Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) extended the New York Pause stay-at-home order until May 28, excluding the five of 10 upstate regions already set to start the reopening process.

Downstate, including Nassau and Suffolk Counties, have not met the seven criteria in order to open. Long Island is being counted as one region for the purposes of reopening, and New York State’s dashboard shows LI has still only met four of seven criteria. Long Island still requires a 14-day decline in hospital deaths, a supreme decrease in new hospitalizations and hundreds of new contact tracers.

As for the update on figures for the county, Bellone reported 175 new positive tests for the virus, bringing the total, without antibody tests, to 37,719.

Through Wednesday, the most recent period for which Bellone has data, the number of hospitalizations fell 21 to 554 which is “still a high number,” albeit one the county hasn’t seen for six or seven weeks.

The number of people in Intensive Care Unit beds increased by two to 185.

The county was below the 70 percent target for bed capacity, with 69% of hospital beds and 65% of ICU beds in use with patients who are battling COVID-19.

In the last day, 44 more people returned home from the hospital to continue their recoveries.

The number of people who have died from the virus increased by 12, bringing the total to 1,709.

Karen Tsai, class of 2017, reviewing donations with another volunteer from DonatePPE.org. Photo from Stony Brook Medecine

Perhaps no figure is as indicative of the strain on the health care system as the number of residents battling the pandemic in the Intensive Care Unit. A month ago, that number was close to 550.

Kevin Tsai, class of 2019, carries donations of PPE.

Through Tuesday, the most recent period for which data is available, the number of people in the ICU dropped by 31 to 183.

“That’s the first time in a long time that [the number] is below 200,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said on his daily conference call with reporters.

At the same time, the rolling three-day average of the number of new hospitalizations was below the threshold needed, 30, to reopen the economy for a second straight day through Tuesday.

“That’s very good news,” Bellone said. “We are meeting that for at least two days now. We are hopeful that the trend will continue.”

After an increase of 10 in the number of people hospitalized because of COVID-19 on Monday, the number fell by the same amount on Tuesday, bringing total hospitalizations to 575.

The hospital capacity for beds overall and for ICU beds is tracking close to 70 percent, which is the target figure to reopen the economy.

As for testing, the number of positive tests increased by 239 over the last day, which is considerably lower than the average over the last few weeks. The number of people tested during that period was 3,229 for a positive testing rate of 7.4%.

COVID-19 continues to take the lives of Suffolk County residents. Over the last day, 17 people have died, driving the total number of coronavirus-related deaths to 1,697. To put that number in perspective, the number of deaths in the county is 60 people below the total enrollment at Ward Melville High School.

Bellone offered his thoughts and prayers to those who are grieving these losses.

As he has for several weeks amid discussions about reopening the economy, the county executive reiterated his desire to see the county reopen in such a way that it doesn’t need to shut down later in the summer or in the fall, amid a potential second wave of the virus.

Having a strong testing regime in place and an aggressive contact tracing plan is “going to allow you to identify quickly” any potential areas of transmission of the virus, Bellone said. These measures, which include 450 contact tracers, will put the county in a position to close a business or specific type of activity in as “targeted a way as possible,” he said. “That’s a much better scenario than seeing infections spike and not having a sense of where they are coming from.”

One of the lessons from other parts of the world that have reopened and then had to close businesses again has been that these measures will hopefully keep Suffolk County from sliding back after it is ready to open.

Separately, Bellone’s office delivered 45,000 personal protective equipment to nursing homes and adult care centers in the last day, bringing the total PPE to 4.7 million pieces since the crisis began.

SB Medical Graduates Pitch In PPE

Meanwhile, two Stony Brook Medical School graduates, siblings Karen Tsai, who graduated in 2017, and her younger brother Kevin, who graduated in 2019, created an organization called DonatePPE.org, which has contributed over 1.2 million pieces of personal protective equipment to areas including New York City, the Bay area, Southern California, New Orleans, Atlanta, Chicago and Boston.

Karen helped launch DonatePPE and created a volunteer team, which included her brother. The team has 30 people which includes web developers and health care workers. Kevin helps run the website and is writing articles about donations and collaborations with PPE producers and sponsors. He also offers insights from his anesthesiology perspective.

The group also worked with illustrator Guy Gilchrist, who worked with Jim Henson on the Muppets television show, to post downloadable coloring pages, sketches and comic strips. DonatePPE launched on March 19. In the first two weeks, the site donated 100,000 articles of PPE, which included the coveted N95 masks, surgical masks, face shields, gowns, shoe coverings and goggles.