Bellone: Fatalities in Suffolk rise to 53; county launches new portal for FEMA information

An additional nine fatalities in Suffolk County have been confirmed as linked to COVID-19, bringing the total up to 53, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said Tuesday.

The first death in the county was reported March 16.

Mr. Bellone did not provide specific information on the victims, such as genders or hometowns, but did note two of the people were in their 30s. Another person in their 40s also died at home, he said. All of the victims had underlying medical conditions. The other six were in their 70s or older.

Peconic Landing confirmed earlier Tuesday an eighth member died.

“A lot of people think of this as a virus that’s impacting the elderly and it certainly is,” Mr. Bellone said. “But it is not just the elderly. It is people with compromised immune systems, who have underlying medical conditions and past illnesses that make them more vulnerable to this virus. It is not just the elderly who are at risk here, it is many, many people in our community.”

Some notes from Tuesday’s briefing:

• Nonprofits and municipalities in Suffolk County can find information on FEMA assistance on the county website through a new COVID-19 pubic assistance webpage.

Mr. Bellone said it is critical to make sure paperwork is filed correctly so reimbursements can be received promptly.

“I want every dollar possible back into our economy,” he said. “We’re going to face significant economic challenges, budgetary challenges. The focus now is public health, public safety, but I am also thinking we need those reimbursements here.”

The FEMA assistance is limited to nonprofits and local governments, so a business could not apply for employees’ pay based on lost revenue, for example.

The site links to a DR-4480 form as well as a form for anyone with questions about eligibility.

• A total of 6,713 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Suffolk. Southold Town has 142 cases, an increase of seven from the previous day. Riverhead Town has 82 cases, an increase of 13 from the previous day.

The number of confirmed cases increased by nearly 1,000 in 24 hours.

“Just a few weeks ago we were talking about cases in single digits,” Mr. Bellone said.

A total of 708 patients are hospitalized, an increase of 107 from the previous day. The number of people in the intensive care unit is 229, an increase of 48 from the previous day.

Mr. Bellone said hospital capacity is increasing are there are 2,803 beds and 598 available. Out of 397 ICU beds, there are 67 available.

• Mr. Bellone said the county is working to get additional supplies from New York State. He said on Monday the county distributed approximately 35,000 N95 masks and over 100,000 surgical masks to hospitals.

Staffing remains an issue, he said.

He applauded the governor’s effort to recruit retired or former health care workers to volunteer to help relieve the current workers on the front line.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at his briefing Tuesday that about 78,000 retirees came forward to say they would help. The state is now working with hospitals to sort those people by region and expertise. They will also be checked for proper licenses and any prior disciplinary issues. A new portal with information for hospitals goes live today.

• Mr. Bellone said crime statistics from Suffolk County Police have shown a decline in recent weeks as more people isolate at home.

He said there was a 30% reduction in major crime during a two-week period that ended Sunday.

He said he’s heard from people who are anxious and stressed and concerned some criminals may see this time as an opportunity to strike. Crime, however, has seen a decline.

 • Mr. Bellone said the county will release more detailed breakdowns of COVID-19 cases by hamlet in the “next couple of days.” said the IT staff pulled down a map over the weekend that showed the breakdowns because it needed additional work.

“I have made this a top priority,” he said. “I know how important the information is to people.”

• Gov. Cuomo said across the state there are 10,929 people currently hospitalized and 2,710 in ICU. Just under 5,000 people have been discharged from hospitals.

• The governor said his brother Chris, a host for CNN, has tested positive for COVID-19. He is isolating at home in his basement, where he plans to continue to host his show.

“He’s going to be fine,” he said.

• The governor said it’s still unknown how long the crisis will last. The state has yet to reach the apex of cases and he pointed out there is still time on the back end coming down from the apex.