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Suffolk County

Slurp Ramen in Port Jefferson has set up a unique means of serving customers, with a large screen in between workers and patrons. Photo by Kyle Barr

Local business owners are looking at an uncertain future due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis here on Long Island.

Due to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) executive order that shut down nonessential businesses last Saturday in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus, entrepreneurs and others are worried if they will be able to survive the financial blow. With bills due at the beginning of the month and with no new income coming in, many are calling on the state and the federal government for help.

Indu Kaur, the director of operations of The Meadow Club, looks at blueprints of new the building in Port Jefferson Station. Photo by Kyle Barr

On Tuesday, Congress and the President Donald Trump (R) administration finally reached a $2 trillion agreement to assist people during the ongoing crisis. The new bill includes one-time direct payments to residents of $1,200 per adult making up to $75,000 a year or $2,400 to a married couple making up to $150,000, with $500 payments per child. It also includes a $367 billion program for small businesses to keep making payroll while workers are forced to stay home. Meanwhile, for larger industries the bill includes $500 billion for guaranteed, subsidized loans to bail them out as revenue has severely dropped.

Still, the question remains of how small local businesses will remain intact or even be able to open their doors again as the crisis ebbs.

Indu Kaur, director of operations of The Meadow Club in Port Jefferson Station, said, “This is a burden my father and I are trying to figure out, just like everyone else,”

A family of restaurateurs who recently took over The Harbor Grill had plans to open their third restaurant this month. In addition, The Meadow Club was set to reopen after being closed due to a fire in 2018. Kaur said the ongoing health crisis has put both openings on hold.

In the meantime, she said, The Curry Club in East Setauket is taking take-out and delivery orders.

“We had to lay off our staff,” she said. “There are still things like rent, insurance and utility bills that we have to worry about.”

When asked about the recent virus rescue bil from the federal government, Kaur said “it was great news and a good first step. “Many of us are suffering financially right now.”

She also said she is hopefully that Suffolk County can eventually do something similar to help business owners.

Currently, the U.S. Small Business Administration is offering economic injury disaster loans to affected businesses. Funds come directly from the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the maximum unsecured loan amount is $25,000.

Kaur said she doesn’t think that is a viable option for her and other business owners.

“I’m not sure we can take out one more loan on what we already have,” she said. “For others there might be no other option.”

Last week, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) announced the launch of the Business Recovery Unit, a component of the county’s Business Response Plan, to address concerns and questions that businesses have amid the coronavirus outbreak. Businesses are asked to complete a comprehensive survey on the county’s website (www.suffolkcountyny.gov).

In a conference call March 23, Bellone said that, with several hundred surveys completed, over 4,000 workers were indicated as laid off or furloughed.

“We keep getting calls and the numbers are going up; we are getting calls from workers who are self-employed who are in the same boat,” Bellone said.

In the new federal relief package, furloughed workers will have their salaries replaced for four months, getting whatever amount the state provides in unemployment plus a $600 add-on per week. Gig workers such as Uber drivers are included in that as well.

“There are still things like rent, insurance and utility bills that we have to worry about.”

Indu Kaur

In an effort to help business owners, New York State Republicans sent Cuomo a COVID-19 action plan that includes extending the payments of monthly sales tax by 90 days, making available no-interest loans immediately to entities that face a dramatic decrease in business and eliminating penalties for late payments of business and property taxes, among other things.

Similarly, over 17,600  people signed a Change.org petition titled Save Small Business Before It’s Too Late. It also called on the city, state and federal governments to take the necessary steps to save local businesses.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our communities, creating jobs, generating tax revenue and providing valuable services,” said New York City Councilman Mark Gjonaj (D), who started the petition.

Lenore Paprocky, president of the Greater Middle Country Chamber of Commerce, said, while a lot of businesses are hurting, she is grateful how everyone is willing to come together and help fellow entrepreneurs.

“It’s difficult right now but we want to keep these businesses afloat,” she said.

The chamber has come up with a list of local businesses that are offering catering/takeout and automotive services.

Paprocky said they are trying to stay optimistic amid the ongoing shutdown, and she hopes elected officials can hash something out to help them.

“The future is uncertain, but we need to stay positive and work together to get through this,” the president of the chamber said.

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The numbers of people infected and affected by the coronavirus COVID-19 continues to climb.

This afternoon, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D), who himself was finally out of a two-week home quarantine, reported a climb of 753 in the number of people who have tested positive for the virus. The total number stands at 4,138 people, which is more than the entire country of Australia, according to a tracking site at Johns Hopkins University.

The virus also continues to affect the Suffolk County Police Department, with 23 officers testing positive.

Suffolk County health care providers continue to test more residents, as over 12,000 people have been screened. Of those, Stony Brook University’s mobile testing site has administered about 5,000 tests.

“Our major concern and focus has been on the vulnerable population,” Bellone said on his daily media call with reporters. Indeed, 16 percent of the positive tests were among people who were over 65 years old.

Hospitalizations also continued to climb. The number of people in hospitals throughout the county stood at 409, which includes 139 in the Intensive Care Unit.

For the 10th consecutive day, Bellone reported additional fatalities associated with the virus. Seven people died who had the virus, bringing the total to 37 for the county. Those who passed away were: a man in his 60’s who died in his home on March 24, a woman in her 90’s who died at Good Samaritan Hospital March 26, a man in his 70’s who died at Long Island Community Hospital on March 22, a man in his 50’s, who died at St. Catherine’s Hospital March 23, a man in his 60’s who died at Southampton Hospital yesterday, a woman in her 90’s who died at Eastern Long Island Hospital, and a man in his 90’s who died at Mather Hospital on March 26. Underlying medical conditions continue to contribute to most of the deaths.

The police have responded to 140 reports of violations of social distancing. In the last day, there were 28 new reports and the officers found that four of the businesses were non compliant. That includes a vape shop, a hair salon, and a house party.

“All of the individuals involved complied voluntarily when the police and county officers were there,” Bellone said.

The North Shore Rail Trail from Mount Sinai to Wading River has leveled the land where the path is expected to go. Photo by Kyle Barr

The North Shore Rail Trail, formerly known as the Rails to Trails Recreational Path, is an approximately 10-mile recreational path and is currently under construction on the former Long Island Rail Road right of way, owned by the Long Island Power Authority. The trail runs from Crystal Brook Hollow Road in Mount Sinai to Wading River Manor Road in Wading River and parallels Route 25A. 

The North Shore Rail Trail from Mount Sinai to Wading River has leveled the land where the path is expected to go. Photo by Kyle Barr

In a release, Suffolk County Leg. Sarah Anker’s (D-Mount Sinai) office said that Suffolk County Department of Public Works and DF Stone Contracting have removed the topsoil from west to east along the trail path and will continue to grade the area and lay down the subbase within the upcoming months. DPW anticipates that it will begin laying down asphalt from west to east after April 15, weather permitting. Shrubbery has been removed to clear a handicap-accessible path at the Town of Brookhaven Rose Caracappa Senior Center in Mount Sinai. The trail is estimated to be completed in the fall of 2021.

The project was first suggested over 50 years ago by local civic members and was reintroduced in 2001 by advocates of bicycle organizations, the Setauket-Port Jefferson Station Greenway Trail and some community residents. The path is being funded by federal and state grants totaling close to $10 million, with a $500,000 match from Suffolk County. Suffolk County entered into a licensing agreement with LIPA to utilize the right of way for the trail. The engineering group NV5 was chosen by DPW to plan and design the trail.

In 2019, DPW approved DF Stone Contracting to construct the trail, reducing the cost of construction by approximately $2 million through the request-for-proposal process. The release said the county will work with the Town of Brookhaven Highway Department and New York State Department of Transportation for trail signage and lighting installation at road intersections. Maintenance of the trail will involve a partnership with not-for-profit organizations and Suffolk County Department of Parks. Suffolk County police and SCDP will provide law enforcement oversight for the trail.

People looking for more information can contact Anker’s office at 631-854-1600.

Suffolk County Police commissioner Geraldine Hart alongside Steve Bellone. TBR News Media file photo

Without the usual fanfare, 60 cadets graduated from the police academy today and have become sworn members of the Suffolk County Police Department.

The officers, which include six people who are fluent in Spanish, will be a part of a group called Together Ensuring Compliance, or TEC, according to police officials. They will be “visible on the street” and will have increased foot patrols and will be in parks and shopping centers to ensure that businesses that are supposed to be closed, while making sure they educate the population about maintaining social distancing. Geraldine Hart, the Commissioner of the Suffolk County Police Department, made the announcement on County Executive Steve Bellone’s (D) daily call with reporters.

At the same time, Bellone announced the launch of the Suffolk Childcare Consortium, which is a free childcare program for first responders, medical professionals transit workers and, where space permits, other essential workers. The program will be open Monday to Friday, from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and enrollment for those battling the coronavirus outbreak will be on a first come, first served basis and will be limited based on space and staff.

Residents with questions about he consortium should call 311.

The new childcare program is available to the following districts:
  • Babylon School District — Babylon Elementary School
  • Commack School District — Sawmill Intermediate School
  • Connetquot School District – Cherokee Street Elementary School
  • Deer Park School District – John F. Kennedy Intermediate School  
  • Harborfields School Districts – Thomas J. Lahey Elementary School
  • Hauppauge School District — Pines Elementary School
  • Huntington School District — Jefferson Primary School
  • Lindenhurst School District — Albany Avenue Elementary School
  • Middle Country School District – Jericho Elementary School
  • Miller Place School District — Andrew Muller Primary School
  • Northport School District — Pulaski Road Elementary School
  • Sachem School District– Nokomis School Elementary School

To qualify for the program, children must be between pre-K and sixth grade. Students in the program can work on their school’s long distance learning requirements during the day. The program is run by SCOPE education services and will have trained childcare. The staff will check on the health of the children regularly. Anyone with a fever or who demonstrates any sign of illness will not be allowed in the program.

Parents can register their children through www.scopeonline.us.

Meanwhile, the numbers of cases of the virus, hospitalization for it, and fatalities associated with it continues to climb. There are 3,385 cases, which is up by 650 in the last 24 hours. As of this morning, there were also 331 hospitalizations of people with the virus, with 119 in the Intensive Care Unit.

For the ninth straight day, Bellone reported fatalities connected with the virus. Eight people, all of whom had underlying medical condition, passed away. Those who died were: a man in his 80’s at Stony Brook Hospital, a woman in her 80’s at Huntington Hospital, a woman in her 90’s at St. Catherine’s hospital, a man in his late 40’s at LIJ, a woman in her 80’s at Huntington Hospital, a woman in her 80’s at Huntington Hospital this morning, a man in his 60’s at Stony Brook University Hospital, and a woman in her 80’s at Good Samaritan Hospital.

The total number of people who have died from coronavirus related issues in the county is now 30.

Bellone shared his thoughts and prayers with the families.

“This drives home the point of why we have to do this, why all of us have an important role to play in helping to reduce that number,” Bellone said. “Our actions will determine how high that number goes.”

The county executive said the governor’s office, which requires the closure of non essential businesses, provided new guidance on construction work. He said non-essential construction must now cease. Everything except emergency construction, like bridges and transit and hospitals or that protects the health and safety, will stop.

Stony Brook Trauma Center staff member Colby Rowe and Wang Center Building Manager Scott LaMarsh accept donations for the COVID-19 Donation Center. Photo from SBU

Grateful for donations ranging from chapstick to gum to tissues and coveted personal protective equipment such as gloves, masks and goggles, Stony Brook University is asking for residents to donate iPads, which they plan to repurpose to provide more telehealth services to the community.

Stony Brook Trauma Center staff member Colby Rowe and Wang Center Building Manager Scott LaMarsh accept donations for the COVID-19 Donation Center. Photo from SBU

The university asked for donations starting on Sunday and has received a constant stream of email requests to deliver goods to help the medical staff that are offering vital comfort and care during the coronavirus crisis. Interested donors can contact Joan Dickinson, the Stony Brook University Community Relations Director at COVID19donations@stonybrookmedicine.edu or call (631) 219-0603.

Stony Brook is asking donors to clean the device, reset it and place it in a ziplock bag with a usable power chord.

Telehealth medical services will “reduce the need for personal protective equipment,” Dickinson said.

Dickinson has requested that interested donors make an appointment before bringing any items to support the busy medical community. Community members can make donations between 10 am and 1 pm.

“Even though we’re asking the public to respond, we are very diligent about social distancing and everyone’s safety,” Dickinson said.

For anyone who might get the urge to make a home cooked meal or bring in cookies made from scratch, Dickinson said the school appreciates the gesture but can’t accept any such personalized dishes, as they seek to protect staff. The school can is accepting pre-packaged food.

People who don’t have access to medical supplies or comfort items they can donate can send in video messages. Indeed, numerous community members have shared messages of thanks.

The variety of home-made donations has delighted and surprised Dickinson. People have sent in knitted stress balls and crocheted blankets, as well as hand-made masks.

“All the donations are evaluated by folks from environmental health and safety,” Dickinson said. A mask that’s “not surgical grade wouldn’t make it into an operating room, but there are other uses.”

The donation channel started because community leaders eager to help reached out to Dickinson, whose job in community relations has put her in touch with these groups over the years.

“We decided we better put a process in place so everybody stays safe and we know what’s coming in,” Dickinson said.

Donors can bring their contributions into the assigned building or can leave it in the parking lot if they want to minimize contact or don’t want to enter a building.

When Dickinson logs off each night, she comes back to her computer the next morning to find over 100 requests for donation times in her email.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” she said.

The Three Village Civic Association and numerous Facebook groups have reached out to her on a regular basis to see what else she might need.

Dickinson said one of the many people who reached out to her expressed her appreciation for how Stony Brook reacted when she had an issue with the university. The resident was frustrated with equipment on campus that was causing a humming noise in her house.

“We were able to modify how much sound came out” of the equipment, Dickinson said. As the university manages through a crisis that strains their staff and resources, the resident said she wanted to return the favor.

The resident told Dickinson, “you were so helpful to me. Now, we want to help you,” Dickinson said.

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The need for hospital beds to manage the ongoing coronavirus crisis continues to build each day. Earlier today, County Executive Steve Bellone (D) reported 103 people were in the Intensive Care Unit with the Covid-19 virus, which is more than double the number in the ICU in the last two days.

“We know hospitals are working on innovative solutions,” Bellone said on a daily conference call with reporters. “Those will continue to happen as we seek to get equipment and supplies to fight the virus.”

At the same time, more people are seeking food assistance, as the number of people applying to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program reached 222 yesterday, which is up from an average of about 75 before the pandemic reached the county.

Bellone said he has heard mixed information from financial institutions as they have responded to businesses that are in various levels of distress amid New York Pause, which closed non essential businesses and slowed the economy.

The county exec said his office will be speaking with representatives from the financial services industry, adding, “we will be working to align what is being done with respect to business loans and mortgages, fines and penalties.”

Across the county, the number of positive tests for the virus is up to 2,735, as over 9,600 people have received tests. Stony Brook Hospital’s mobile site has conducted about 4,000 of those tests.

Including the ICU patients, the number of people hospitalized with the respiratory virus stands at 287.

For the 8th straight day, the number of deaths also climbed. Two people passed away with complications related to the virus. A man in his late 80’s died at Southampton Hospital yesterday and a man in his late 80’s died at Eastern Long Island Hospital on Monday. The total number of deaths connected to the virus in Suffolk County stands at 22.

With an expected surge in the numbers of people infected and the demands on the health care system expected to increase dramatically in the next two to three weeks, Bellone urged the public to follow social distancing and isolate themselves as much as they can.

Bellone himself has been in quarantine for almost two weeks, as he was in contact with Pete Scully, a Deputy Suffolk County executive who tested positive for the virus. Bellone’s quarantine ends Sunday.

For parents and their school-age children, Bellone believed that the date when schools would reopen would likely be after April 1.

“The expectation people should have is that that is going to be extended,” Bellone said. The increase in positive tests, hospital and ICU bed use, and the ongoing rise in virus-related mortalities are all “indications that we are in the thick of this. This wouldn’t be a time when you would be reopening schools.”

Meanwhile, the Suffolk County Police Department has had 46 checks to date of businesses that might be violating the social isolation order or that were non-essential and remained open. The police officers have found that six of the businesses were non-compliant.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has feuded with the federal government about getting resources to New York during the coronavirus pandemic. File photo by Erika Karp

The coronavirus pandemic is going to get much worse in New York State and in Suffolk County in the next few weeks.

That’s the message from Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) and County Executive Steve Bellone (D), who describe efforts to increase hospital beds, change EMS policies, and collect personal protective equipment to help health care workers and first responders.

The state created a viral pandemic triage protocol. By taking a patient’s temperature and screening for a sore throat or cough, EMS personnel will determine whether a patient needs to go to the hospital.

“If a patient doesn’t qualify to be transferred to the hospital, the on-site emergency responder will provide a hand-out with a list of what you need to do and whom to contact should the symptoms worsen,” Bellone said on a daily conference call with reporters.

The new policy shouldn’t create alarm for residents, Bellone said, but merely reflects the current state of the pandemic.

Indeed, on the same day Cuomo created this new EMS protocol, he indicated the need for hospital beds for the state was even greater than anticipated just 24 hours earlier. The number of hospital beds in the state, currently stands around 53,000, with 2,626 beds currently in Suffolk County. Based on the current trajectory of infections and hospitalizations, the number of beds necessary for residents of the Empire State will be closer to 140,000 at its peak, which means that hospitals will need to more than double the number of beds in a short time.

What  Cuomo had requested by doubling the number of beds was a “Herculean effort,” which may not be adequate to the anticipated need, Bellone said.

“The surge may be happening much earlier than anticipated,” Bellone added. “It is a reminder of what we need to do.”

To prepare the health care community and first responders for that increase, Bellone has been urging people to donate personal protective equipment. Two days after his office started collecting the gear in Yaphank, Bellone has received 284,000 pieces of equipment, which includes five van loads from Eastern Suffolk BOCES. Over the next 24 hours, Bellone’s office is working to create additional donation sites on the Western and Eastern ends of Suffolk County.

As testing for the coronavirus Covid-19 increases, so, too, do the number of positive cases. As of this morning, 1,880 residents had the virus among 7,000 who were tested. The number of people in Intensive Care Unit beds has increased to 50 from 38 yesterday.

For the sixth day in a row, Bellone’s office announced additional COVID-19 related deaths, as four people passed away with the virus, all of whom also had underlying medical conditions. A woman in her 80’s died at Mather Hospital on March 19, a man in his 60’s died at Huntington Hospital on March 20, a woman in her 80’s died at Huntington Hospital on March 22 and a woman in her 70’s died at Southside Hospital yesterday.

Bellone extended his condolences to the families. The death toll for the virus in Suffolk County is now 17.

Meanwhile, Stony Brook Hospital is expected to receive 25 ventilators, although the delivery date is undetermined at this time.

Bellone said Amneal Pharmaceuticals, which manufacturers an anti-malarial treatment that the state is testing as a potential treatment for coronavirus called hydroxychloroquine, has donated two million pills to the state.

“We are grateful that a local company is helping to contribute to this effort,” Bellone said. Amneal, which is headquartered in Bridgewater, New Jersey, has a factory in Yaphank.

During the pause in activities in New York that  Cuomo created and that started yesterday, landscapers can continue to perform necessary maintenance functions. Bellone said he was still awaiting clarity from the governor’s office about construction jobs.

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In the first day of soliciting donations of Personal Protective Equipment to help health care workers and first responders, County Executive Steve Bellone was pleased with the outpouring of support from the community.

“Today we have seen, in the spirit of cooperation, an outpouring of generosity of people who come together in a time of crisis,” Bellone said on his daily media call with reporters.

Residents and business leaders brought 40,000 gloves of various sizes, 3,000 N95 masks, 1,500 gowns and over 3,000 ear loop masks to the Suffolk County Fire Academy in Yaphank. Bellone is seeking donations from 10 am to 2 pm during the weekdays.

Given the shortage of masks, some people have started sewing homemade masks.

Gregson Pigott, the commissioner of the county Department of Health Services, cautioned people about their effectiveness.

“That’s not advised,” Pigott said on a conference call. The masks need to be “properly tested and certified.”

Stony Brook has started to make face shields with 3-D printers, which hospital personnel has reviewed and determined to be medically compliant. The team that designed these shields, call iCREATE, made some parts of the shield replaceable so health care professionals could change them out.

Today also marked the first day of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s (D) order to pause, as he asked all non-essential businesses to close to reduce the spread of the coronavirus Covid-19. Suffolk County received some clarity from the governor’s office about whether landscapers would be able to continue their work. Landscapers can continue to work for maintenance and the control of pests. These workers, however, cannot do any ornamental planning and are restricted to mowing lawns and protecting the public against health risks that might occur if they didn’t do their jobs.

Meanwhile, the number of people with coronavirus continues to climb, with 1,458 people testing positive. Among those with the virus, 116 are in the hospital, with 38 in the Intensive Care Unit. The County suffered another coronavirus-related fatality, as a woman in her 80’s passed away at St. Catherine’s Hospital. The death toll in Suffolk County stands at 13.

Bellone said he is working with town supervisors and mayors to encourage residents to follow the governor’s order. As with other parts of the country, Suffolk County is working to encourage younger people to maintain social distancing.

Younger people may feel “they are not vulnerable to the virus,” Bellone said. “They [need to understand] that they can not only contract it, but they can also contract it and can transmit it to others around them. They pose a danger to vulnerable populations.”

The county executive added New York Mets pitcher Steve Matz, who is a graduate of Ward Melville High School in Setauket, has been putting out the message.

At the same time, Bellone has been gathering information about the impact of the virus on businesses. Over, 4,000 furloughed or laid off employees have reached out to the County Executive’s office through 311.

These are “some of our more vulnerable employees,” Bellone said. His office is reaching out to the employers, so they can connect with their staff so they “don’t fade into the background.”

In his daily press conference, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) urged the Donald Trump (R) administration to invoke the Defense Production Act, which would allow them to order manufacturers to increase production of much-needed PPE items. The president has signed an executive order invoking the act, but has yet to make a single order. Cuomo said those companies would be “paid handsomely” for the effort, but that it was needed more than ever.

The governor also said he was signing an executive order mandating hospitals around New York State to increase the number of available beds by at least 50 percent, with the goal being to reach a turnaround of 100 percent. Stony Brook University is also the planned site of an additional hospital pavilion to add extra beds to the area, though Bellone said details on that are still being worked out.

At the urging of his wife, Bellone himself contacted the mobile unit at Stony Brook Hospital to seek a coronavirus test. He was exposed to the virus from meetings with one of his deputy chiefs, Peter Scully, who tested positive last week.

Bellone called the mobile unit number, waited half an hour on the phone to speak with a medical professional, and is awaiting a call back for an appointment.

Bellone plans to have a Facebook live town hall on his page tonight at 6:30 pm to provide an update to residents.

“There continues to be a lot of anxiety,” Bellone said. “our lives have been turned upside down.”

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Hospitals in New York State have to develop plans to expand capacity by 50 percent within the next few weeks, and then, down the road, 100 percent, as the number of coronavirus cases increases.

Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) today announced a State Department of Health Emergency Order requiring the expansion to prepare for the expected rising medical need.

“We’re going to continue to work with the state and with hospitals to do everything we can to help them meet that mandate,” Steve Bellone (D), the Suffolk County Executive, said on a daily conference call with reporters.

Bellone reiterated Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) expectation that the effort to contain the virus is likely a long-term commitment, which could be anywhere from two to eight months or more.

“We know we are engaged in this fight for the foreseeable future,” Bellone said.

Bellone also announced that Suffolk County Transit is implementing policies that are similar to the ones the MTA has created. Riders will no longer have the option of using cash for their payments. They should use Suffolk FastFare, which is a mobile app. The app is available for use on all Suffolk County buses. Riders can use smart phones to purchase tickets.

Starting on Monday, Suffolk County Transit will also do rear door boarding on fixed bus route service and will need to leave the first few rows of the bus empty to create a safe distance between drivers and riders, Bellone said.

“We are continuing to operate critical transportation infrastructure,” Bellone added.

Meanwhile, the number of positive tests in Suffolk County climbed to 1,034, according to the State Department of Health. As of earlier today, there were 89 people hospitalized because of the virus, with 28 people currently in the Intensive Care Unit.

The virus has contributed to the deaths of three more Suffolk County residents, increasing the number of virus-related fatalities in the county to 12. A man in his 80’s died in his home March 18, a man in his 60’s, who was also in a car accident, died at Stony Brook University Hospital March 14, and a man in his 50’s died at Southside Hospital. The man in his 50’s, who had other health issues, is the youngest Suffolk County resident felled thus far by COVID-19.

The Stony Brook University mobile testing site has conducted over 2,000 tests. Bellone cautioned people not to just show up because they wouldn’t receive a test. They need to receive a referral from a doctor or from a source through telemedicine.

Hospitals in Suffolk County currently have beds available, with 644 vacant beds out of 2,626 and 86 beds available out of 275 in intensive care.

As for Cuomo’s order to close businesses that are considered non-essential by 8 p.m. tonight, Bellone said his office was continuing to speak with state officials to determine which industries would be deemed essential.

Landscaping, for example, is “essential in the sense that we are in the growing season,” Bellone said. “We know that there can be public health costs associated with landscaping that is getting out of control.”

The dry cleaning business as well could be an essential service, especially because these establishments are cleaning uniforms for first responders.

Bellone said continued to meet with representatives from the food industry, who indicated that the supply chains remain open. The shortages on shelves are coming from people who are hoarding items, rather than from a reduction in the production of food, toilet paper, or other consumer staples.

“We confirmed with the industry today,” Bellone said. “They are going to continue to bring in those supplies as quickly as they can. [Food supplies] will be coming next week and the week after that. It is not stopping or shutting down.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone has called on residents to donate PPE for health care workers and first responders. File photo by Kyle Barr
As the number of people infected and hospitalized by the coronavirus Covid-19 rises, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) is asking the community to donate personal protective equipment to ensure the safety of first responders and health care workers.

“We are launching a supply drive for personal protective equipment,” Bellone said on a conference call with reporters. “This is an opportunity for all of us to come together to support the men and women who are on the front lines to keep us safe to contain the spread of the virus.”

Bellone is seeking N95 masks, ear loop masks, gloves, and gowns from individuals or businesses. As Governor Andrew Cuomo’s (D) order to shut down barber shops, nail salons and other personal care services takes effect, some of the businesses may have equipment that could save the lives of those people who are helping others afflicted with the virus.

“We are going to be making a direct appeal to those industries,” Bellone said. “We will be doing direct outreach to them so we can ask them to support this effort.”

Starting on Monday, individuals and businesses can bring the supplies from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to the Suffolk County Fire Academy in Yaphank, located at 102 East Avenue.

Bellone expressed appreciation that Cuomo said this morning that Long Island would receive 500,000 masks, but indicated that the need in the coming weeks and months would likely exceed that supply.

“We need to do more,” Bellone said.

Starting on Monday, the Suffolk County Police Department, meanwhile, will require residents to report all non-emergency incidents online or by phone. These include harassing communications, lost property, criminal mischief and vandalism, minor traffic incidents, identity theft, among other non emergency reports.

“The last thing we can afford to do is take the people on the front lines off the battlefield,” Bellone said.

Bellone praised the efforts of schools to provide grab and go meals for students. He thanked Island Harvest and Long Island Cares for their ongoing efforts to meet this growing need.

The number of infected residents has climbed to 662. That includes 55 people who are receiving treatment in the hospital, with 14 of those in Intensive Care Units.

The virus has killed two additional residents. A woman in her 80’s passed away at Huntington Hospital, while another woman in her late 80’s died at Peconic Landing. A total of nine residents have died from the pandemic.

Officials expect the number of infected individuals will continue to climb, especially after the Stony Brook University Hospital mobile testing site started administering tests this week. At this point, the mobile unit has tested over 1,500 people.

Suffolk County Chief of Police Stuart Cameron reiterated the necessity of keeping up social distancing to contain the spread of the virus. He suggested that people aware of someone violating restrictions should call 631-852-COPS. He is aware of 26 such reports, with only one instance of a violation when officers arrived. Officers will attempt to seek compliance first.

“My experience, talking to younger folks, is that they don’t seem to be concerned about this because of reports that they won’t be seriously ill,” Cameron said on the call. “They need to be told that they can affect someone who is vulnerable and that [the person who gets the virus] could die.”

Cameron suggested that officers would start engaging in non-traditional law enforcement roles to protect the public amid this ongoing crisis.

Cuomo, meanwhile, urged seniors to follow Matilda’s law, which is named for his mother. This law provides protection for New Yorkers who are 70 and older and for people with compromised immune systems and those with underlying illnesses. He urged that group to remain indoors unless they are exercising on their own outside, pre-screen visitors by taking their temperature, not to visit houses with multiple people, wear a mask when others are near, ask others to wear masks in their presence, maintain social distancing of six feet and avoid public transportation when possible.