Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said a sense of normalcy returned on Wednesday when Phase 2 of the reopening after the COVID-19 shutdown began on Long Island.
“To be able to do normal things was a terrific feeling for people,” he said of being able to get a haircut, go shopping in a store, or sit down for a meal with friends or family outdoors at restaurants. “You could really feel it. It was palpable — the energy and the excitement people had,” he said.
He spent the day going around the county and speaking with different leaders — even stopping for an ice cream cone at Snowflake in Riverhead — on a day where a significant amount of economic activity resumed.
It “marks a turning point for us in this recovery and the overall crisis.”
Of course, there is much more reopening to do. Bellone and other county and Long Island officials are looking into other types of activity that can be accelerated before Phase 3. In the next phase, expected in two weeks, allows indoor restaurants and food services to reopen and for personal care services — such as waxing and facial care — to resume.
Youth sports in a group setting is one activity that Bellone and Nassau County Executive Laura Curran believe should be allowed to resume sooner rather than later. They have put in a request with the state to reconsider, just as Bellone did with outdoor graduation ceremonies and outdoor dining.
“Youth sports are critical,” Bellone said, noting that it is healthier than children sitting inside the house and playing video games. Plus, when it comes to the coronavirus, “The outdoor environment is the safest environment you can be in.”
Bellone said there are already conversations with state officials about allowing some “non-touch museums” and cultural institutions to open their doors, even though they were “lumped into Phase 4,” when mass gatherings will be permitted again. “These are very large spaces in many cases, with capacity limits in place, we believe many of those could be reopened safely,” he said.
Meanwhile, global public health experts working with the state have cleared Central New York, Finger Lakes, Mohawk Valley, North Country, and Southern Tier regions to enter Phase 3 on Friday. Business guidance for Phase 3 is available .
Governor Andrew Cuomo also announced that the state is allowing localities to open public pools and playgrounds at their discretion, beginning Thursday.
“We’ve had the most informed, science-based reopening in the country and as we continue our phased reopening the numbers continue to go down,” Governor Cuomo said. “There is now one number to watch closely and that is the daily testing number because it is a snapshot of the day before and will tell us if the infection rate is going up in any given location. We’ve been doing everything right up until now, but we have to stay smart and keep following all the necessary precautions to keep getting those numbers down.”
But he had a word of caution: “I know businesses are anxious to open, everybody’s anxious get the economy going. Please follow the guidelines and do what is permissible to do. . . . Restaurant’s outdoor capacity that doesn’t mean anyone inside. So, people call and we get complaints. The rules are clear . . . This is very serious. Short-term gain isn’t worth long-term pain.”
Cuomo said there have been an additional 736 additional COVID-19 cases — 48 of which are in Suffolk County. The statewide total is 380,892 confirmed cases.