Pilot program to launch allowing visitation to resume at select New York hospitals

A two-week pilot program will be launched to allow increased visitation at select hospitals throughout New York as the slow process of reopening begins from the coronavirus pandemic.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday the Greater New York Hospital Association will run the program in the downstate region.

The only Suffolk County hospital in the pilot program is Northwell Health’s Huntington Hospital.

Visitation at hospitals has been largely restricted since the onset of the outbreak locally as a way to contain the spread. That has meant families have been unable to be with loved ones, even during their final moments. Hospitals have turned to video tools like FaceTime as a way to keep family members connected with patients.

“This is getting visitors back into hospitals with the right precaution, with the right equipment,” said Mr. Cuomo, who spoke from the The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset. “It is terrible to have someone in the hospital and that person is isolated, not being able to see their family and friends. I understand the health reason for that. We were afraid of the virus spread.”

The visits will be time-limited and visitors are provided and must wear personal protective equipment. They will also be subject to symptom and temperature checks.

The governor did not outline how the program will be monitored and under what circumstances it could be expanded to additional hospitals.

Elective surgeries can also begin in Suffolk County, the governor had previously announced Saturday. Elective surgeries can also resume in Nassau County, he said Tuesday.

“There’s no reason not to go to the hospital or doctor’s office,” Mr. Cuomo said. “There are many reasons why you should go. Denial is not a life strategy. If you have an issue, get it tested, get it resolved.”

• Mr. Cuomo announced Tuesday that the Capital Region is the latest to meet the metrics to begin Phase 1 of reopening. There are now seven regions out of 10 that meet all seven metrics. Long Island, Mid-Hudson and New York City are the final three.

Long Island remains short on one key metric: The 14-day decline in hospital deaths or to have fewer than five deaths as a three-day average. Long Island also needs to get the contact tracers in place, but officials have expressed optimism that portion will be ready when needed.

The number of new COVID-19 cases on Monday was 335, which Mr. Cuomo called “really good news.” There were as many as 3,000 news cases in a day during the outbreak’s peak.

There were still 105 fatalities Monday in New York. Mr. Cuomo said as of a week ago, an average of 100 Long Island residents were dying each day. Today, that figure is down to an average of 13 per day.

“When someone asks ‘Well, why did we go through all this pain for two months, three months?’ Because we saved lives, that’s why. If we didn’t do what we need, that number of 100 per day would have kept going up.”

• Mr. Cuomo said the state will allow Memorial Day ceremonies with 10 people or less, in line with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We hope those ceremonies are broadcast or televised in their areas,” he said.

Mr. Cuomo said local governments can decide whether to allow those ceremonies or not.

He mentioned vehicle parades and said they should be encouraged.

“It’s important for the veterans that they be recognized,” he said.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said the county is seeking assistance from residents to come up with an additional 7,000 American flags to be donated that can be placed at the graves of veterans at non-VA cemeteries.

The county already has 1,000 flags, he said. The flag placements will be done Saturday and donated flags must be dropped by 5 p.m. Thursday at the H Lee Dennison building in Hauppauge.

The flags must be 8-by-12-inches or 12-by-18-inches and in good condition.

Locally, flags will be placed at St. John’s the Evangelist Cemetery in Riverhead and First Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Southold.