‘Staggering’ death toll as county, state report largest number of COVID-19 fatalities to date

Both Governor Andrew Cuomo and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone reported the highest number of fatalities from the coronavirus in a single day Tuesday as the state death toll reached 5,489.

There were 64 new deaths reported in Suffolk, according to Mr. Bellone. A total of 263 county residents have died from COVID-19.

“That is a staggering number,” he said of Tuesday’s deaths. “It is a stark reminder to us about what is happening in our hospitals and what our healthcare workers are facing.”

Mr. Bellone said Tuesday that the county is exploring an expansion at the medical examiner’s office by adding a refrigerated truck in the event that capacity is surpassed at the morgue.

Even as state officials study the apex on the horizon, the county executive said the latest numbers are an indicator that the county still has a long way to go in its battle with the virus. Not only did the number of deaths increase sharply, but there was also a rise in the number of positive tests and hospitalizations. A total of 15,553 county residents have been confirmed positive, with 1,517 currently occupying hospital beds.

“It is not mission accomplished,” Mr. Bellone said.

One positive number Tuesday was a drop in the number of patients in Suffolk County intensive care units from 546 Monday to 506 on Tuesday. A total of 73 patients were released from area hospitals, he added.

Mr. Bellone also said the county received 136 ventilators from Mr. Cuomo to be distributed to hospitals across the county.

The governor on Tuesday reported 731 new fatalities across New York. State data also showed that New York has lost its first child under 10 from COVID-19.

“I guess one could get numb to the numbers,” Mr. Cuomo said Tuesday, responding to a question about people becoming desensitized to the death toll. “But you have to remember every number there’s a human being behind that and a family … The hospital staff that goes through this they’re not getting numb. The families who lose loved ones aren’t getting numb.

“You can’t save everyone,” he continued. “This virus is very good at what it does and it kills vulnerable people.”

Here are some more takeaways from Tuesday’s briefings:

• Mr. Cuomo is calling the next phase of the state’s battle with COVID-19 “restarting life.”

It starts with testing, he said, noting that rapid testing needs to be brought to scale and that the state is also awaiting Federal Drug Administration approval on anti-body testing that could allow individuals who were positively diagnosed with and have recovered from the coronavirus to return to the outside world. He suggested Tuesday that those state residents could even return to work sooner than others.

The governor also said he believes more stimulus money will be needed to help New York financially recover. He said on Tuesday that he was writing to all the state’s federal representatives to find solutions in future legislation.

• County labor commissioner Rosalie Drago reported that Suffolk has now heard from 1,329 small businesses as part of its surveying efforts. About 7,000 workers have been laid off or furloughed since COVID-19 hit and at least 120 of those businesses said they intended to apply for small business loans as part of the stimulus package.

“That’s a snapshot of what’s on the ground here and it’s not pretty,” Mr. Bellone said, adding that the county is in the process of launching a second phase of the survey process.

The New York State Department of Labor is expected to release updated unemployment numbers on Thursday, April 16.