Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Wednesday, April 29, that some hospitals, primarily in upstate New York, where there is not as big a fear of a COVID-19 surge, will be allowed to resume conducting elective surgeries.
Hospitals in Suffolk and Nassau counties, as well as New York City, are not on the list, though hospitalizations related to the coronavirus have continued to decline.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said in his afternoon call with members of the press that if the downward trajectory continues the county will meet the 14-day marker, a benchmark guidance from the White House and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for reopening the economy, in five days. The last spike in hospitalizations was April 20, and the numbers have declined for nine straight days
“I’m cautiously optimistic we will hit the 14-day number within the week,” Bellone said.
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran announced Wednesday her county had met the first phase of requirements toward reopening.
Bellone said 1047 people are hospitalized with COVID-19, 35 less than yesterday — although there was a slight uptick in hospitalizations statewide. The number of patients in the intensive care unit also declined by 35, with a total of 369 people in intensive care unit beds.
Still, the number of deaths in Suffolk continues to climb. A total of 1155 people have died as a result of the virus as of Wednesday, an increase of 24 in 24 hours.
He also said the county is on track to reopening the economy based on other markers the governor set forth in his 12-step plan, including that hospitals and ICUs not exceed 70 percent capacity to allow for a 30 percent buffer in case of a sudden increase. In Suffolk, there are 874 beds available, putting hospitals at 74 percent capacity. There are 230 ICU beds available, meaning intensive care units in Suffolk are at 69 percent capacity.
“A little further down and we’re good to go there,” Bellone said.
“We’re making progress, that’s for sure, but we’re not out of the woods yet,” Cuomo said in a early Wednesday press conference.
He said the state is cautious about reopening, citing “a second wave” of 900 new COVID-19 cases in Singapore and an increase in the rate of infection in Germany after measures were relaxed just days earlier.
“That’s troubling,” Cuomo said. “It shows you how fast the infection rate can increase if you don’t do it right on the reopening.”
The continued ramp-up in testing will help drive a plan to lift or dial down New York’s PAUSE stay-at-home order. Last week, the state announced a goal to double its average daily testing, and about 30,000 tests are now being done per day.
In Southampton Village, a seventh county testing site will open on Thursday, weather permitting. Hot-spot testing sites have been successful, Bellone said, with 3000 people being tested so far. Of the 1741 tests that have been returned, 818 came back with a positive test result.
Bellone said officials from the town, county, and state continue to work every day on a plan. A working group is focused on a coordinated cross-county approach to figure out “what will beaches and pools look like this summer,” he said. “It’s going to be a different kind of summer.”
The county executive will host a virtual town hall meeting to discuss the unique issues veterans are facing during the pandemic on Thursday at 5:30 PM. The Facebook Live session will be co-hosted by U.S. Congressman Lee Zeldin, a veteran himself, and Super Bowl champion Gary Brown, a Long Island native who played for the Green Bay Packers and has worked to provide assistance for veterans. Veterans will be able to ask questions during the live stream by visiting www.facebook.com/stevebellone.
County officials hope to hear from more homeowners impacted by the COVID-19 crisis through its mortgage relief survey. So far, 175 people who are having difficulty making their mortgage payments have filled out the survey, which can be found on the county’s website.
Those who cannot fill out the survey online can dial 311 for assistance. Operators at 311 can also put homeowners in touch with not-for-profit housing counseling agencies.
“They will be an advocate for you,” Bellone said.