Bellone: Number of COVID-19 patients in Suffolk ICU units has doubled in 48 hours

The number of Suffolk residents occupying intensive care units in local hospitals has doubled in the past two days, County Executive Steve Bellone reported in his daily COVID-19 media briefing Thursday.

A confirmed 103 patients are currently being treated in ICU, up from about 50 on Tuesday, he said. There are only 305 ICU beds in Suffolk, county officials have said.

“The hospitals are working on innovative solutions here,” Mr. Bellone said of the steps being taken to increase the number of ventilators available to patients suffering from the virus. “They’re working on unique ways to try to treat this.”

He said using anesthesia machines as ventilators is among the things hospitals are doing to assure the equipment needs are met as demand increases at local hospitals.

The county executive reported two more coronavirus deaths Thursday, bringing the county total to at least 22. One was a man in his 80s who had pre-existing conditions and was being treated at Southampton Hospital. The other, whose death was reported by The Suffolk Times earlier this week, was a resident of Peconic Landing, where six people have died.

“This is the eighth day in a row we’re continuing to see fatalities from the coronavirus,” Mr. Bellone said.

State and county officials said Thursday the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Suffolk has risen to 2,735 with 287 hospitalized. The county did not provide an update on the number of cases on the North Fork Thursday.

Here are some other key points from Thursday’s call:

• Mr. Bellone called the issue of getting personal protection gear to people on the frontlines “real” and said the county is identifying “places that have critical shortages and make sure we’re delivering those supplies from what we have as a county.”

“The simple, most basic thing that we can all do to protect our health care workers is to follow the guidelines of the state health department,” he said.

• The county executive said figures released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Labor showing 3.3 million individuals have filed for unemployment this past week puts into greater context what is being reported on the local level.

“We have never seen anything like this before,” Mr. Bellone said.

To date, at least 6,000 Suffolk residents have lost their jobs, he said, basing that number on an ongoing survey being done by the county.

“That is just a slice of it,” the county executive said. “The national number puts into focus the scale of what we’re looking at.”

Mr. Bellone said in the past two days 416 Suffolk residents have filed SNAP (food stamp) applications, nearly three times the average number of people seeking help.

• Mr. Bellone also said parents of school-aged children should operate under the assumption that school will not reopen on April 1, as initially expected. He said Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office is currently exploring a new target date to reopen schools.

• The county executive also addressed a request made by East End town and village leaders calling for a travel ban in the five East End Towns. He said it’s not something the governor is considering at this time, but urged anyone traveling around the state to follow social distancing guidelines.