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Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone

Current models show Tropical Storm Isaias will hit Long Island with the strongest winds of the storm. Photo from National Hurricane Center

As Tropical Storm Isaias climbs from the southeast coast towards Long Island, county officials are deploying resources in the event of any damage from the wind and rain and encouraging residents to track the storm and, if necessary, avoid travel tomorrow.

The worst of the storm, which could have winds of 39 miles per hour to 55 miles per hour, with gusts of up to 65 miles per hour, may hit the island in the afternoon through the evening. Most of the county could get between two inches and three inches of rain, with one to two inches on the east end.

“When you consider the amount of rain we’re talking about, if we get hit with those numbers, that is a serious event,” County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said in a press conference today.

Bellone urged residents to secure loose objects or bring them inside on Monday to prevent any damage.

Residents who lose power can text OUT to PSE&G at 773454. Residents can also report an outage online, assuming they have the ability to connect online, through PSEGLINY.com, or they can call (800) 490-0075.

The storm surge could bring as much as 10 to 15 feet of breaking surf on Tuesday afternoon. The vulnerable shoreline could also have two to three feet of flooding with the high tide on Tuesday between 9 p.m. and midnight.

Suffolk County is prepared to handle evacuations, although Bellone said such actions aren’t expected.

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) suggested in an email that customers remain in their homes while PSE&G crews are working nearby. If residents need to speak with representatives of the utility, PSE&G urged residents to practice social distancing and remain at least six feet away.

Hahn also suggested that residents keep their cell phones and tablets charged so they have a full battery. Lowering screen brightness and shutting down applications preserves battery life.

Bellone urged people to stay away from flooded streets. Cars that get trapped or that stall in flooded waters drain resources from the county, requiring rescue for the occupants of the vehicle.

The Emergency Operations Center, which has been active for months in the midst of the pandemic, is up and running and will have increased hours. The staffing at the center includes members of Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services, the Suffolk County Police Department, the Sheriff’s office, the Department of Public Works, the Red Cross, Long Island Railroad, the State Police and PSE&G.

The SCPD has deployed humvees to each of their precincts to prepare them for the storm. The Department of Public Works has also pre-deployed a number of resources, such as 62 chain saws, 13 full saw, 22 10-wheeled dump tracks, 35 debris clearance crews, among other machines and crews.

“All of that diverse equipment is pre-deployed and prepared to go in case we need to clear roads, address flooding or help evacuate individuals,” Bellone said.

Bellone urged residents to sign up for the Suffolk County code red emergency notification system, which provides customized messages to residents. People can sign up through the we site suffolkcountyny.gov/department/fres. The code red sign up is on the right side in blue.

Bellone urged residents to monitor the media for updates and to track the progress of the storm. Even if this storm doesn’t bring considerable damage, it may provide a dry run for what could be an active hurricane season, which will occur in the midst of the county’s ongoing efforts to recover from the pandemic caused by COVID-19.

This fall, in particular, could present numerous contemporaneous challenges, with the COVID threat, possible flu outbreaks, and the start of an uncertain school year.

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At a time when budgets will be extremely tight amid the gradual economic recovery caused by the virus-induced economic shutdown, investing in organizations that help people deal with mental health problems and substance abuse now could save considerably more money later.

That’s the argument Family and Children’s Association Chief Executive Officer Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds makes, particularly as Suffolk and Nassau County Executives Steve Bellone (D) and Laura Curran (D) urge more federal aid for Long Islanders.

“When you have untreated mental health and substance abuse disorders, the county will pay for that one way or the other,” Reynolds said in an interview. “The question is: do you want to pay for it upfront or on the back end,” with the loss of life from drug overdoses.

Jeffrey Reynolds, the CEO of the Family and Children’s Association. Photo from FCA website

Throughout Long Island, Reynolds, who had previously been the Executive Director of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, said the emphasis on basic needs among families has increased, particularly as the number of unemployed in the area has approached 200,000.

Many of the unemployed are “involved in low wage jobs to begin with” and are living “at the margins,” so there is a need for food, rental assistance, and housing, he said. The basic needs have increased significantly.

The transition to telehealth has been effective for those with mild or moderate challenges and, in some ways, is even easier than walking into a church basement or going to a center. The first step, which is often the hardest in entering any kind of treatment program, involves fewer logistical challenges and allows people to remain anonymous.

At the same time, however, some of these virtual efforts are problematic for those who are dealing with a significant level of impairment.

People who have a more acute mental health condition are “less likely to engage via telehealth” and the same holds true for people with severe substance abuse, Reynolds said. “A virtual session is not the same as seeing them in person and groups are not the same as they were before.”

FCA has seen an increased demand for services for people who were anxious or depressed. Fear or a lack of control brought on by the virus is bringing some of these symptoms to the surface.

“Across the board, we are seeing an increased demand for services,” Reynolds said. “There is now space in which we’re not seeing that request.”

The virus has made health care disparities more visible. The numbers of illnesses and fatalities in Brentwood, for example, are 12 times higher than in Garden City. That relates to preexisting conditions like obesity and diabetes, but also to the crowded living conditions in Brentwood.

The combination of the business closings such as gyms, restaurants, movie theaters, and other enterprises creates anxiety and impacts family structure and family functioning, Reynolds said.

Long Island has had to cope with previous recessions and downturns from disasters like Superstorm Sandy, but this is “even deeper. I imagine we’re going to see the ripple effects for a decade to come.”

Reynolds is concerned about people returning to their normal lives at some point, without addressing underlying problems in the communities or with other families.

Still, Reynolds feels fortunate to work for an organization that has existed and helped communities and neighborhoods for 135 years. That means the group was around during the Spanish Flu in 1918 and 1919.

“What keeps me going is that we’re always had to do more with less,” Reynolds said. “We found hope in people’s lives where it seems like there isn’t.”

Indeed, the group not only survived the Spanish Flu, but also made it through both World Wars, the Great Depression, 9/11, and numerous natural disasters.

Additionally, on the positive side, the FCA can provide services in a much timelier way. People who call with a drug or alcohol problem can get some help within ten minutes. The current environment provides the equivalent of “treatment on demand,” Reynolds said.

The FCA head urged people to get involved, which could mean volunteering time at a school, offering help to a local charity or checking on an elderly neighbor.

He urged people to dedicate some of the time they spend on social media to helping others.

Reynolds has spoken with numerous people who have alcohol dependency. When they finally get treatment, some of them have said, “If it was that bad, why didn’t anybody say something to me?”

He urged friends and family to care for each other, asking about weight loss or prolonged sleep. He suggested having conversations that go beneath the surface.

Children and families benefit from structure, especially in a challenging environment. Reynolds suggested a regular evening meal time and a consistent time and place for homework.

Ultimately, as the head of a 135-year old organization, Reynolds said people need to believe that “you can get through this,” he said. “Even if it feels like the world is ending, it’s not.”

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After returning from speaking with the Long Island’s bipartisan congressional delegation in Washington, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) again reiterated just how imperative it is that Congress sends relief to local governments desperately in need.

Bellone’s plea also comes off the back of horrific financial reports, including that the U.S. gross domesticproduct has suffered a 32.9 percent shrinkage in the second quarter of 2020. The deadline for the additional $600 added on to unemployment will run out by the end of this week. While a House of Representatives bill would restore that, among other pandemic benefits, the Senate has proposed a replacement $200 on top of unemployment checks. Senate Republicans have not yet proposed a comprehensive plan to update coronavirus relief, which includes money toward local governments hard hit by the pandemic.

Suffolk has already frozen salaries for management, embargoed funds from various departments and utilized resources from the tax stabilization reserve fund, which has resulted in $100 million in mitigation. The county executive said they are looking at other things they can do to cut costs at a local and state level.

The county executive said without such federal relief, Suffolk will need to start slashing several departments that many needy depend on and would result in higher taxes on already overburdened Long Islanders who have suffered months of job losses and belt tightening.

And as school districts release plans this week for reopening in the fall, many are still unsure if they will receive the state aid promised to them in this year’s New York State budget. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has said state aid may need to be cut at a point toward the end of this year if they do not receive any federal disaster relief.

“Schools putting their plans in place, and they’re doing that in an environment if they don’t know they’ll have the funding to do everything they need to do for our kids,” Bellone said.  “We need [Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConell (R)] to step forward and agree to a comprehensive plan here, give us the resources we need to get through this storm.”

Though the county files a budget in mid-September, Bellone said they can’t wait until then to get relief.

“Schools are weeks away from opening, we need a comprehensive package that faces all the challenges we face right now,” he said.

The pandemic has also created a crisis beyond the over 2,000 people dead from the virus in Suffolk County. Bellone said the number of suicide hotline calls are up 100 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels. COVID-19 has meant a huge increase in demand for food-service based programs, such as Meals on Wheels which has seen a 60 percent increase in demand, according to the county exec.

The potential for another wave of COVID is still on the table, Bellone said, saying that Suffolk feels like it is “in the eye of the storm,” whereas the rest of the country has seen severe spikes in the number of coronavirus cases. If a second wave does hit the county, it could result in

“We’ve been hit as hard as you can get hit and still be standing,” Bellone said. “We know swirling all around us the storm is raging.”

Bellone said Suffolk will need to be communicating with school districts as “[COVID-19] cases inevitably happen in our schools.”

Viral Numbers

Suffolk County is currently looking at 43,170 positive cases overall, and in the last 24 hours the county has seen 86 new positive cases.. This is out of 6,247 tests conducted, putting the county at a 1.4 positive test rate. The positive test rate has fluctuated around 1 percent for the past few weeks.

19,127 people have tested positive for antibodies, meaning they had the virus.

Hospitalizations have hovered around the mid to low 40s over the past week, and over the past day it dipped to 38. Bellone said it was the first time since March that new hospitalizations were in the 30s.

Meanwhile, five more people have occupied ICU beds over the past day to a total of 15 in Suffolk. With 3,020 beds in Suffolk andwith 772 currently available, it makes Suffolk’s capacity at 74 percent. As far as ICU beds, the county has 395, with 147 available, meaning a 53 percent capacity.

Over the past four days, Suffolk has experienced no deaths related to COVID-19.

Bellone said while the percentage capacity of available beds is higher than the state’s goal of 70 percent, he is not worried as the number has fluctuated as more people have willingly entered the hospital for non-COVID related injuries or ailments.

The southern pine beetle has been spotted in the Rocky Point Pine Barrens Preserve. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) and the county Legislature agreed to withdraw a resolution that would have diverted money from the land preservation program over a three-year period to help to close the county’s budget gap. 

SBU’s Christopher Gobler, with Dick Amper, discusses alarming trends for LI’s water bodies at a Sept. 25, 2018 press conference. Photo by Kyle Barr

The ballot measure called for increasing the percentage of sales tax that is allocated to the Suffolk County Taxpayers Trust Fund and decreasing the percentage of sales tax that is allocated for the Suffolk County Environmental Programs Trust Fund. Bellone withdrew the bill an hour or so before the Legislature was set to vote on it in a July 28 special meeting.

Richard Amper, executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, said that the decision was a good result for the people of Suffolk County. 

“It took him [Bellone] a long time to reach a simple conclusion,” he said. “It would have killed a program that has been around for over 30 years. It is a commitment to water quality and land preservation.”

In the past month, the county executive has criticized Amper during calls with press for what he said was a misrepresentation of what the bill would do, and that Suffolk County would need to cover budget gaps due to the pandemic or suffer dire consequences. 

The decision comes after the Legislature last week voted 14-3 to approve another ballot measure that would transfer excess funds from the county’s sewer stabilization reserve fund to the general fund in an effort to budget deficits from the coronavirus pandemic. That referendum will come in front of voters Nov. 3.

Amper said he felt the Bellone administration was so concerned with the possibility both propositions could be lost when residents voted on them in November that the administration chose to stick with one instead of being “left with nothing.” 

Bellone confirmed this assessment in a statement. 

“We have come to an agreement to withdraw this resolution in order to focus our efforts on ensuring the passage of the ballot referendum regarding the Assessment Stabilization Reserve Fund,” he said. “I am also pleased that several key players within the environmental advocacy community have indicated that they will not jeopardize the approval of this pending ballot measure and instead leave it in the hands of the voters.”

Environmental groups were concerned that taking away funds from the drinking water protection program would cause more harm than good. The program was established through a public referendum back in 1987.

Under the program, revenues from a 0.25% sales tax are divided between sewers land preservation, property tax stabilization and water quality funds. 

“This is one of the most important environmental programs in Suffolk County,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “[Water quality] is not a partisan issue, everyone needs clean water and they benefit from this program.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. File photo by Alex Petroski

Still, the loss of this potential referendum leaves Suffolk County in potentially dire straits. A report of both Nassau and Suffolk finances released in early July said Long Island lost 270,000 jobs during the peak of the pandemic. Total job losses could eclipse 375,000 compared to pre-COVID levels. County leaders have constantly petitioned people to reach out to federal representatives to beg for budgetary relief.

The subsequent withdrawal and earlier ballot approval on the sewer fund is the latest instance of the county attempting to divert money from environmental protection funds. 

Back in 2011, the county borrowed $29.4 million from the sewer fund in order to balance the budget under former County Executive Steve Levy. The Pine Barrens Society sued the county, and won. The move was deemed illegal by the state appeals court in 2012 because the county failed to get voter approval. 

The county appealed that decision and lost again. The Appellate Division in Brooklyn ordered the county repay the funds last year.

Amper said the county is using the environmental programs as its piggy bank and sees voters as a way to “legally” take funds away. 

“The county doesn’t manage its fiscal affairs very well, they’re billions of dollars in debt,” he said. “The public put that money aside for a reason.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. File photo by Alex Petroski

During a press conference July 28 at the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) and Nassau County Executive Laura Curran (D) made the case for what’s at stake for Long Island the day before heading to Washington to urge the congressional delegation to provide financial support for the area.

In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, which claimed the lives of close to 2,000 Suffolk County residents, Bellone and Curran urged the federal government to appreciate what was at stake as residents continued to deal with the mental health consequences of a deadly virus, job losses, and ongoing fear and uncertainty.

Indeed, the 64-year-old LICADD has had a 20 percent uptick in calls as people grapple with mental health problems and anxiety, Steve Chassman, the executive director of LICADD said.

“Many people have crossed an imaginary line, where the 6 p.m. drink became the 2 p.m. drink,” Chassman said in an interview. For some, that has even developed into an “11 a.m. drink.”

Data from police have shown the number of opioid overdoses, both nonfatal and fatal, have increased dramatically since the start of the pandemic, rolling back almost two years of decreases.

At the press conference, Bellone and Curran said they believe the long road to recovery ahead for Long Islanders requires the ongoing support of services like LICADD and the Hempstead-based Family & Children’s Association.

Bellone said he and Curran were heading to Washington to make it clear “we’re talking about people’s lives and families in crisis.” These type of services, including public safety, public health, social services and mental health, are “even more important today” and will be critical as “we seek to recover from this over the next several years.”

Long Island has been battling an opioid crisis that has wreaked havoc throughout the region. The pandemic has increased the risks from opioids, among other drugs, even as Nassau and Suffolk are “still dealing with the direct impacts.”

Jeffrey Reynolds, the president and CEO of Family & Children’s Association, suggested that it “makes no sense to help save someone’s life from COVID-19 only to have them die from a fatal overdose or suicide.”

He called the current challenges among Long Island’s “darkest hour,” which is “exactly what we are seeing on the ground.”

Reynolds noted that social isolation has strained the mental health of individuals and families. In the last two weeks, Reynolds has seen three overdoses, including one of his former staff members.

Reynolds urged Washington to recognize the need for mental health services is just as critical as the need to protect people from viral infection.

“Nobody in Washington or in Albany, from either side of the aisle, would dare say, for the second, third or fourth wave of COVID that we don’t have enough money” for personal protective equipment. “This is the same. Untreated social anxiety and mental health conditions rank right up there and need our full attention.”

In an interview, Chassman added that residents have also self-medicated through other outlets, including gambling, online spending, emotional eating and sexually acting out.

“These are unhealthy coping mechanisms for fear, anxiety and stress,” Chassman said.

Reynolds offered support to the county executives as they head to Washington.

Turning to Bellone and Curran, Reynolds said, “You have our voice and our good wishes as you go forward” to make sure “these vital services” remain available to Long Islanders.

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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. 

 

From left: Nassau County Executive Laura Curran (D), Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) and former Congressman Steve Israel. Photo from Bellone’s office

During the initial months of the pandemic, Long Island lost jobs at a faster rate than New York City, New York state or anywhere else in the nation, according to a new report from Nassau and Suffolk counties with city-based consulting firm HR&A Advisors.

Long Islanders suffered the twin blows of the public health impact, and economic destruction. Long Island lost 270,000 jobs, or 21.9 percent of non-farm payroll employment, compared with a rate of 20.1 percent for New York City.

“This pandemic has caused hundreds of thousands of Long Islanders to lose their jobs, shuttered businesses and turned our local economy upside down,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said in a statement. He and Nassau County Executive Laura Curran (D) held a press conference in Melville July 9 where they cited this report, which “makes clear that federal aid from Congress is necessary if our region is going to rebound and recover from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression,” Bellone added.

The impact was particularly brutal for people with low-paying jobs, lower levels of education and among the Hispanic population.

The worst, however, is not over, as total job losses on Long Island are expected to reach 375,000 compared to pre-COVID levels. Net job losses are expected to continue through 2021 as well, albeit at a slower pace.

More than two out of three jobs lost were in sectors that pay less than the regional average annual wage of $61,600.

The area that lost the highest number of jobs, across Suffolk and Nassau, was hospitality, which shed 82,000 jobs. Health care and social assistance lost 59,000 jobs and retail lost 52,000.

The job decline in hospitality was especially problematic for Hispanic workers, who are disproportionately represented in those businesses. Hispanic workers represent 27 percent of the hospitality field, while they are a smaller 17 percent of the overall Long Island workforce.

Although workers with a high school diploma or below constitute 62 percent of the workforce, they represented 73 percent of the viral-related job losses, reflecting the disparate effect of the virus.

The overall effect of these job losses will result in a decline of $21 billion in earnings for Long Island workers and $61 billion in economic activity throughout the area.

The report suggested that economic recovery would occur in several waves, with some industries showing an increase in jobs much more rapidly than others. Finance and insurance, management of companies and enterprises, professional and technical services, government and information jobs will likely see 95 percent of jobs return within six months, by the first quarter of next year.

The second wave includes jobs in real estate, retail, administrative and waste services, agriculture, construction and utilities, education, health care and social assistance, manufacturing, wholesale trade and other services. Within a full year, 85 percent of those jobs will return.

The third wave will take the longest and will bring back the fewest jobs. Accommodation and food services, transportation and warehousing, and arts, entertainment and recreation will take two years to restore 75 percent of the jobs on Long Island that predated COVID-19.

Half of all businesses in Suffolk County closed temporarily during the virus. An estimated 1 percent of those businesses closed permanently.

One-third of industrial businesses on Long Island are at risk of closing.

The report also projects that earning and spending losses may be even higher in 2021 from a slow recovery within some sectors and from expiring unemployment benefits.

Along with the two county executives, the report urged the federal government to pass the HEROES Act, which provides $375 billion in budgetary relief for local governments. The act passed the House, but the Senate has yet to address it.

The report urged an extension of benefits for workers and businesses and an increase in federal infrastructure funds. The report also sought federal relief for small businesses, while supporting new business development and helping businesses recover. Finally, it seeks assistance for states and counties for workforce development, job training and equity initiatives.

Police Set New Guidelines for Protests

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With Suffolk County entering Phase 4 of a planned reopening, County Executive Steve Bellone (D) provided his final daily media update on the county’s response to the virus. The County Executive had conducted 122 such updates, as residents suffered personal and economic losses that extend far beyond the daily numbers and statistics.

“We reached the final stage of reopening” today, Bellone said. The county has gone “up the mountain and made it down the other side. In the process, we’ve seen terrible tragedy and acts of extraordinary heroism.”

Entering Phase 4 marks a “new stage” in this unprecedented event,” Bellone added.

Even as the county executive is pleased that the county has moved to Phase 4, in which people can gather outdoors in groups of 50 instead of 25 and some businesses that had remained closed can reopen, he is still aware of the additional work necessary to open other enterprises that remained closed, such as gyms, bowling alleys, catering facilities and movie theaters.

Gyms have presented plans for reducing risk, such as individual workout sessions and class-based reservations that would allow contact tracing to reduce risk, Bellone said.

Asked about reopening schools, which will affect so many families and teachers across the county, Bellone said he thinks schools “need to reopen. That needs to be done safely.”

He suggested that putting together those plans was complicated, but that it shouldn’t be a divisive or political issue.

“We know it is good for kids to be in school,” Bellone said. “We can not have a whole generation of kids that are falling behind. We know the devastating impact that would have.”

The county executive called on the federal government to provide relief to schools to prevent them from having to cut areas that he deemed critical, such as arts, music, sports and staff. Reopening schools will require additional expenses, as schools will not be able to operate normally.

“Right now, schools are worried about paying for the basics,” Bellone said. A federal government that didn’t provide disaster assistance would be “absolutely unconscionable.”

Viral Numbers

The number of people who tested positive for the coronavirus was 69, which represents a 1.7 percent positive rate for new tests. While that percentage is higher than the recent average, which is closer to 1.1 percent, Bellone said he doesn’t put too much stock in any one day’s data.

The total number of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 is 41,799.

The number of people who have tested positive for the antibody but who didn’t have symptoms of the disease is 20,104.

The number of people in the hospital declined by seven to 50, which is “an amazing number considering where we’ve been.”

The number in the Intensive Care Units is nine.

Overall hospital bed occupancy was at 68 percent, while ICU bed occupancy was at 59 percent.

Six people were discharged from the hospital in the last day.

The viral death toll held steady at a revised 1,984, as no residents died from complications related to the coronavirus.

To prepare for a possible second wave of the virus, the county developed a contact tracing program and has worked through procurement to stockpile some personal protective equipment.

Police Rules for Protests

The Suffolk County Police Department put several new rules in place in connection with any future protests.

For starters, demonstrators need to contact the SCPD at least 24 hours in advance to indicate the route they plan to take. They can call (631) 852-6110 between 8 a.m. and 11 p.m. from Monday through Friday.

Protests are prohibited from congregating in the street and disrupting the flow of traffic. Police said people who don’t comply with this rule are subject to enforcement action.

Demonstrators cannot block vehicular or pedestrian traffic and may not enter private property without consent.

Demonstrators may also not walk in the traffic lanes of a roadway when prohibited.

Finally, people who are older than two years old who can tolerate a face mask medically is required to wear one in situations where maintaining six feet of social distancing is not possible.

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Suffolk County will enter Phase 4 tomorrow of its economic reopening with the tail wind of strong public health numbers.

The new phase “means that certain low-risk outdoor and indoor activity will begin to open up,” County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said in his daily conference call with reporters. Some arts, entertainment, media and sports will restart.

Residents are permitted to gather in groups of 50, up from the 25 from the previous phase. Houses of worship, meanwhile, can go to 33 percent capacity.

The Long Island Aquarium, the Maritime Museum, and the Children’s Zoo, among others, are all reopening.

“I encourage people to call directly to make sure that the places are open,” Bellone advised. Some of these facilities might have specific restrictions and may have limited hours.

In the last 24 hours, 45 people tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing the total to 41,730. With 4,226 people tested, the percentage of positive tests was about 1.1 percent.

At the same time, 20,003 have tested positive for the antibody to the virus, indicating that their bodies fought off COVID-19 without a positive test.

Hospitalizations fell six to 57, which is the first time since March that the number of residents who were in the hospital with coronavirus symptoms was below 60. At the same time, the number of people in the Intensive Care Unit was 14, which is a decline of two.

An additional nine people were discharged from the hospital and are continuing their recovery at home.

Hospital bed occupancy was at 64 percent, with ICU bed capacity at 60 percent.

One person died in the last day from complications related to the virus, bringing the total to 1,985.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. File photo by Alex Petroski

Even as Suffolk County prepares for the final phase of its economic reopening this Wednesday, people came to Fire Island during Fourth of July celebrations, where they reportedly violated social distancing and face covering rules.

After all the work to reduce the spread of the virus in Suffolk County and the economic and personal sacrifices designed to save lives, County Executive Steve Bellone (D) was disheartened by images of people on Fire Island and in Montauk who ignored public health rules.

Bringing groups of people within six feet of each other without wearing face coverings is “just dumb,” Bellone said. “It doesn’t make sense. The way that we will undo all of the progress that we have made is to simply stop using common sense.”Such flouting of rules designed to protect the public “is unacceptable” and will result in enforcement actions, Bellone said.

Future incidents in which people don’t follow health guidelines can result in tickets from the police department. The tickets are a Class B Felony.

Bellone urged residents to remain safe so that the county can consider reopening schools and so businesses that have been able to survive the earlier shutdown can continue to rebuild.

The Suffolk County Police Department received 1,160 firework-related calls from Friday through Sunday.

Viral Numbers

The number of people who tested positive for COVID-19 was 43, which represents a 1.1 percent positive rate among the 3,812 people tested.

The total number of people who have tested positive for the virus was 41,685. The number of people who have had a positive antibody test, who have not had symptoms of the disease but whose bodies have developed antibodies, is 19,978.

Hospitalizations declined by three to 63, while the number of people in the Intensive Care Units was 16, which is also down by three.

Hospital bed use was at 64 percent. The occupancy of ICU beds was at 56 percent.

Over the last day, 13 people were discharged from Suffolk County hospitals.

One person died from complications related to COVID-19. The total number of deaths for Suffolk County increased to 1,984.