County executive reports slight dip in new hospitalizations today

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone reported the lowest increase in hospitalizations yet during the coronavirus crisis. Just 10 patients were admitted to local hospitals within the last day, he said during his daily briefing Thursday.

“That is a good sign,” he said. “We’ll see if that continues, but one day’s data does not tell us anything of great significance. We are looking for patterns and trends.”

As cases reached 18,803, the county executive also reported an additional 39 deaths overnight, bringing the total to 362 — a statistic he described as “horrific.”

“I never ever imagined we’d be in a position where we’d be reporting this number of fatalities and doing so on a daily basis,” he said.

Each of those 362 lives, he said, should serve as a reminder that this public health crisis is far from over. “We are not at the apex. We are still in the thick of this,” the county executive said, adding that there is a public obligation and responsibility to continue to stay home, socially distance when out in public and wear a face covering if you’re outside.

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The hardest group to communicate with about the importance of social distancing, Mr. Bellone said, is young people. “[They] have a sense they are invulnerable and they’re not impacted. That’s not the case,” he said. “This virus hits anybody at any age.”

After consulting with school superintendents yesterday, Mr. Bellone said students are being urged to share what activities they’re safely doing at home on social media, and tag Suffolk County, to get the message out amongst their peers.

An emerging concern is warmer weather and the urge people cooped up in their houses may have to get outside. “What we do not want to see happen is cases start to go down, and then because people feel that we’re turning the corner or that we’re in a better position that it’ll spike back up,” Mr. Bellone said.

Here’s what else the county executive spoke about Thursday:

• A free mobile testing site will open at the county center in Riverside tomorrow, as part of a plan to introduce testing in “hot spot” communities across Suffolk County that are among the counties with the highest Latino populations. Testing sites also include Huntington Station and Brentwood, officials said. Mr. Bellone acknowledged that it has been “difficult to communicate” with Latino community members, but officials are aiming to connect them with resources and help them follow guidance to quarantine at home and speak with family members to do the same. The initiative will also prevent hospital emergency rooms from becoming overloaded.

• Hospital gowns are the next much-needed supply in terms of personal protective equipment. The county received a delivery of 25,000 Thursday and a team is working to procure more, Mr. Bellone said. “The burn rate on gowns is absolutely incredible. They go through supplies very quickly, so we need to replenish those,” he said.

• Mr. Bellone said crime numbers continue to drop in Suffolk County amid the COVID-19 outbreak. He addressed the fear that criminals may take advantage of the health crisis, referencing comments made by someone taken into custody for multiple commercial burglaries yesterday who told police he thought they’d get away since he believed police were preoccupied with coronavirus.

Yesterday, Suffolk police arrested a St. James man for multiple attempted arsons in the Riverhead area.

“Make no mistake,” the county executive said. “They are out there continuing to do their job. Any criminals out there that think this is a time to get away with crimes are sadly mistaken.”

• The county executive expressed gratitude to upstate Onondaga County, which is sending a crew of more than 20 nurses and respiratory therapists from SUNY/Upstate Medical University to Stony Brook to help treat coronavirus patients. All across the county, Mr. Bellone said he’s seeing acts of generosity.

“[We’re] grateful that these nurses … are willing to go into the medical equivalent of a war zone. It’s incredible. We’re thankful that there are people like this,” he said, adding that “Suffolk County will be there for [Onondaga County].”