Bellone: Hospitalization rates in county are trending downward

Suffolk County executive Steve Bellone reported Wednesday that the hospitalization rate of COVID-19 patients is continuing on a downward trajectory.

The trend is welcome news as officials prepare for an incremental reopening of the local economy.

On Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced criteria for reopening to include not exceeding 70% of hospital capacity and closely monitoring the virus transmission rate to determine whether reopening is causing a spike in cases.

“We’re right around numbers where the state says you need to be at in order to be reopening the economy in a safe way,” Mr. Bellone said during a briefing.

COVID patients hospitalized in regular beds and ICU beds both decreased by 35, leaving 1,047 patients hospitalized and 369 patients in the ICU.

There are currently 874 hospital beds available and 230 ICU beds, which accounts for 74% and 69% of the capacity for each.

“A little further down and we’re good to go there,” Mr. Bellone said.

With warmer weather approaching and many, especially those in the construction industry, are eager to get back to work, questions also remain on East End tourism—and what Gov. Cuomo has described as “attractive nuisances.” Places and events that draw large gatherings, including festivals, theme parks and beaches, may all be considered as such, according to the governor. 

Mr. Bellone did not specify how that would apply to Suffolk County, but noted officials will follow state and CDC guidelines on mass gatherings. 

He warned that this summer may not go on as normal. “We’re not transitioning to where we were seven weeks ago,” the county executive said. “It’s going to be a different kind of summer.”

While he didn’t say whether beaches and community pools would be allowed to open, he said he wants to make sure there are recreational activities available for residents this summer.

Mr. Bellone also announced a mortgage survey that residents can complete to provide insight into how banks and financial institutions are providing relief.

According to Mr. Bellone, 175 homeowners have already filled out the survey, which officials hope will help determine whether banks are following federal guidelines that require them to provide forbearance and deferrals to homeowners without impacting their credit.

He encouraged other residents to fill out the survey online or by dialing 311.

The county executive also wants homeowners to know that there are other relief options.

“If you have been economically impacted by COVID-19 and you may not be able to make that payment right now, I want you to know there are not-for-profit housing counseling agencies that are HUD certified, operating here to assist you,” he said. “They will work for you, they will be an advocate for you.”

Residents can also connect with these agencies by calling 311, he said.

There are now approximately 34,079 cases of COVID-19 in the county, an increase of 661 patients from Monday. Officials have cited the increases to additional testing capabilities.

Mr. Bellone announced that the county’s seventh hotspot testing site will open this week in Southampton. There’s also a free testing site in Riverside at the county center complex. Appointments are required for both sites and can be made by calling 845-553-8030.