SUFFOLK COUNTY, NY — Despite many advocating for a statewide reopening on May 15 when the New York PAUSE directive expires, both Gov. Andrew Cuomo and County Executive Steve Bellone said Monday that it appears unlikely that Long Island will be among the areas included in the first phase.
On Monday, Bellone said on May 15, he thinks it’s likely that Phase 1 will include openings upstate and that “we would come at some point behind that, given the differences in cases. Our goal is to be ready about what plans are being implemented…We have to get this right.”
Cuomo outlined plans for reopening on Monday and said the goal is to “follow the facts” and look at the metrics, including the percentage and rate of hospitalizations, the diagnostic testing rate, and an aggressive testing and contract tracing program. If the rate of transmission get to 1.1 again, there would be another outbreak, he said.
On May 15, the plan is to open in phases, with businesses such as construction and manufacturing opening first in areas where the criteria for reopening have been met. “Those core factors will determine when a region can open,” Cuomo said. “It’s not going to happen statewide.”
In order to reopen, regions must have at least a 14 day decline in total hospitalizations and deaths on a three day rolling average; cannot have more than 15 new cases or five new deaths on a three day rolling average; must have fewer than two new COVID-19 patients per 100,000 residents; and must have a hospital capacity of 70 percent hospital and ICU beds. Testing and contract tracing is also critical, he said; to open, a region must have a capacity of 30 tests for every 1,000 residents, as well as a baseline of 30 contact tracers for every 100,000 residents and additional tracers based on the number of projected cases in that region, Cuomo said.
Cuomo showed a slide indicating which areas had met the criteria and Long Island, where Nassau and Suffolk Counties are considered one region, fell short in all categories except two — the 14-day decline in hospitalizations or under 15 new hospitalizations in three day average; and also the 30 residents per 1,000 tested monthly, with a seven-day average of new tests per day.
Long Island still was in the “red” margins for 14 day declines in deaths or fewer than five deaths in a three day average; new hospitalizations (under two per 100,000 residents with a three-day rolling average); and the number of hospital and ICU beds available. Cuomo has said hospitals must be at 70 percent to allow for a 30 percent margin in case of a surge in new cases. According to the chart, Long Island currently stands at 28 percent for hospital beds and 26 percent for ICU beds.
If a region reopens, Cuomo said, and the transmission rate spikes back up to 1.1, the state will “stop and close the valve right away.”
He said that different regions in the state are in very different situations. “If upstate has to be waiting for downstate to open they will be waiting for a long time,” Cuomo said.
Businesses that will be allowed to open first are those that are most essential and pose the lowest risk, with construction, manufacturing, and some retail with curbside pickup in the first phase and arts, entertainment, schools and recreation in the final stage, Cuomo said.
Also, Cuomo said, businesses have to have plans for how to keep employees and customers safe, including how to maintain social distancing and other protocols.
Slight uptick in hospitalizations
Over the weekend, Suffolk County, which had been on a downward trend with hospitalizations for a number of days, saw a small increase of four people hospitalized in the past 24 hours, with a total of 817. The question was whether that uptick would mean it would set the county back and if the “14-day clock” would have to be reset, Bellone said.
Cuomo clarified Monday that the number is a three-day rolling average so all eyes will be on the numbers this week to see if the downward trend in hospitalizations once again is seen, Bellone said.
The number of patients in ICU beds decreased Monday by 7; there are currently 317 in ICU beds in Suffolk County.
As for hospital capacity, Bellone said while the county is close to that number, it does not account for elective surgeries that need to be brought back in; hospitalizations will need to continue to decrease so the county can meet that 70 percent capacity standard while still allowing for elective surgeries and other procedures.
As of Monday, hospital capacity countywide stood at 3,207, with 863 beds available, or about 73 percent; there are currently 651 ICU beds, with 192 available, or around 70 percent.
Suffolk County, Bellone said, has done about 45,000 tests so far and has been working with the Bloomberg School of Health to step up the contact tracing program. There are positions available for contract tracing, he said.
17 new deaths reported
As of Monday, there are a total of 37,681 confirmed coronavirus cases countywide. Monday’s number reflects an increase of 563 over 24 hours, Bellone said.
He added that the number now includes antibody testing: So far, 2,019 antibody tests are included in the total.
When asked whether the increase in positive tests was due to the newly included antibody test numbers or from initial diagnostic testing, Bellone said those clarifications still need to be made.
While a total number of 33 patients went home over 24 hours, 17 new deaths were reported, bringing the grim toll to 1,273.
The number of patients released, Bellone said, is lower than it has been; that number, plus the increase in hospitalizations, needs to be watched, he said, to see if they were anomalies.
“Both of those numbers were, for me, moving in the wrong direction,” Bellone said. “You want the number of people leaving the hospital to be much higher and the number hospitalized to be much lower.”
New hot spot food distribution
Food will soon be distributed to the needy at both the Wyandanch and Brentwood sites, with a third location, the Huntington Station site, being added. Anyone with food insecurity should call 311 for help, Bellone said.
Suffolk Forward Main Street Initiative outlined
The county is working with Stony Brook University’s College of Business on the Suffolk Forward Main Street Initiative. Five integrated programs to help small businesses will include a gift card platform; a Suffolk Forward job board; a small business technology enhancement program; Suffolk Forward “pandemic shift” workshops offering peer support; and a Suffolk Forward virtual expert network.
May the “4th” be with you
May 4 is also International Firefighters Day and to honor local heroes, the Lee Dennison building in Hauppauge will be illuminated in red Monday night, Bellone said.
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