County Exec: “Be Smart” As Long Island Nears Reopening

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone asked residents to be smart as Long Island begins to reopen.

Long Island remains on track to enter phase one of reopening its economy on Wednesday, May 27, as long as the number of contact tracers is reached as expected, and deaths continue to decline, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Sunday.

An additional 12 people died from the novel coronavirus in Suffolk County in the last 24 hours, County Executive Steve Bellone said during his daily briefing on Sunday. “What I would say to the people of our county is continue to be smart,” he said.

However, the county executive was dismayed to see a gathering of people inside a Long Island bar, a clear violation, he said, of the executive orders during the COVID-19 pandemic. Videos and photos that showed people inside Dublin Deck in Patchogue, some eating and drinking, went viral on Saturday.

“The owners have come out and apologized for that,” Bellone said, adding that their excuse was that patrons getting food to-go were invited in out of the rain and things got out of hand.

“It will not happen again,” Bellone said. “I will tell you that what you saw in those videos is unacceptable and not smart.”

Suffolk County police were on hand until people cleared out, and police have been following up to make sure there are no other violations. No summons was issued, but the county executive said that action will be taken if there is another instance of non-compliance.

“We are going to have a summer here. Families and kids are going to enjoy our beaches this year,” he said. “We just have to stay smart and strong.”

Flags Were Placed

Bellone said he was confident that the county residents, overall, would be cooperative as Long Island begins to reopen.

“People in this county are amazing, amazing people — truly,” he said. “We saw that this weekend. We saw that with people, by the hundreds, coming out in just a matter of a few days to answer a call to place flags at the graves of our veterans at cemeteries this weekend.”

Volunteers placed flags at the headstones of veterans in private cemeteries on Saturday, as part of a county effort, but the 25-year tradition of groups placing flags at national cemeteries on Long Island ahead of Memorial Day did not happen thanks to a decision by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Still, Bellone went to Calverton National Cemetery, which was open for individuals to visit. He said he took the hundreds of leftover flags from the thousands that were donated to the county for placement at private cemeteries to Calverton on Sunday morning. A friend, Miguel Moreno, a volunteer with the Civil Air Patrol on Long Island who he happened to run into at a gas station on his way, joined him. The pair spent two hours, he said, placing flags at the headstones of veterans, including at the gravesite of Moreno’s aunt, an Army nurse who served during the Korean War.

“We honored as many of our American heroes as we could,” Bellone said, adding that there were many flags already placed. “Clearly, we were not the only ones who did that.”

More Openings

Speaking from Jones Beach in Wantagh during his daily press briefing on Sunday, Cuomo announced that veterinarian practices will be allowed to open on Long Island, starting May 26.

Campgrounds and recreational vehicle parks will be also allowed to reopen statewide on May 25. Suffolk had already announced its county campgrounds were reopening on June 1.

On Sunday, Bellone said county residents can also purchase green key cards, which give them access to county parks, and outer beach permits in-person at several county parks this week. On the East End, the locations are Indian Island County Park in Riverhead and Sears Bellows County Park in Hampton Bays. They can also be purchased at Smith Point County Park in Shirley and Blydenburgh County Park in Hauppauge.

Cuomo also announced that New York professional sports leagues will be able to begin training camps in-state as long as they follow appropriate health protocols.

Disinfecting Trains

When Long Island enters into Phase 1 of reopening, the MTA will continue to take steps to protect those riding the Long Island Rail Road. Cuomo said that the MTA is cleaning and disinfecting trains and buses daily. Additional cars will be added to LIRR trains to allow for social distancing. The governor also reminded New Yorkers that wearing a mask or face covering is mandatory when riding public transportation.

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