Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said it’s unlikely the Long Island region would be ready to start Phase 1 of the reopening plan Friday when the NY on PAUSE executive order expires and he declined to speculate on a timeline.
“Unless there’s some major turnaround in the metric, we’re not going to meet those metrics by Friday,” Mr. Bellone said Monday during his daily media briefing. “We’re making real progress on those metrics, but we’re not going to be there by Friday.”
The State Department of Health on Monday released a dashboard that tracks each of the 10 regions in New York on seven metrics that must be met to begin the first reopening phase. The dashboard shows Long Island as having met five of seven metrics. Mr. Bellone spoke Monday as Suffolk County specifically meeting four of those metrics and he said the county Department of Health will post a separate dashboard as well with numbers specific for the county. But the reopening will be based on the region of Suffolk and Nassau counties.
Mr. Bellone said the county is “actively working on getting contact tracing up as quickly as possible.”
The county has not yet met that benchmark of 30 contact tracers per 100,000 residents. The state dashboard lists that metric as “expected” for Long Island since it’s a known variable.
Mr. Bellone said the county needs between 400 and 450 contact tracers in addition to the contact tracers already on the team. The contact tracers will be tasked with tracking down anyone who may have been in contact with a confirmed COVID-19 patient to alert them to isolate and therefore limit further spread.
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is helping to lead the state’s effort to begin the contact tracing and Mr. Bellone said the county is working with his team.
They’re currently in the recruitment process. The county dashboard lists 230 contact tracers toward a goal of 400.
“They’re vetting through applications and looking to hire people as quickly as possible and then train them as well,” he said. “The process began about a week ago.”
While the contact tracing is a large-scale project to “put an army of investigators together,” Mr. Bellone said his biggest concern in terms of meeting each variable is new hospitalizations.
Long Island is currently at 2.85 new hospitalizations per 100,000 residents. The goal is to be under 2. Only New York City has a higher rate right now of any other region in New York at 3.46.
“The new hospitalizations, that’s tougher for us to know,” he said.
The number of deaths as a metric, he said, is more of a lagging indicator.
He said Suffolk County is currently meeting the indicators for hospital capacity and ICU capacity, however, elective surgeries have not yet resumed.
“I’m confident as we move forward as a region in Suffolk and Nassau county, the hospital bed capacity issue is not going to hold us back,” Mr. Bellone said.
There were an increase of 209 COVID-19 cases in the county, which does include results from antibody tests. There were 2,014 diagnostic tests administered in the last 24 hours, putting the positive rate at around 10%.
County Health Commissioner Gregson Pigott, M.D. said the average number of tests per day continues to be around 2,000.
“The percent positive is definitely going down a lot,” he said.