COVID-19 UPDATE: Bellone Optimistic That Phase One Activities Will Not Cause Significant Uptick In Cases - 27 East

COVID-19 UPDATE: Bellone Optimistic That Phase One Activities Will Not Cause Significant Uptick In Cases

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COVID-19 updates.

COVID-19 updates.

authorStaff Writer on May 21, 2020

Wednesday, 4 p.m.: Bellone Optimistic That Phase One Activities Will Not Cause Significant Uptick In Cases

On Wednesday, the first day of Long Island’s phased reopening, Suffolk County Steve Bellone was optimistic that the industries resuming activity in phase one will not cause a significant uptick in the number of COVID-19 cases. He said that if an increase in cases were to be found, the contact tracing that is in place now will allow a targeted response rather than a broad shut down.

Long Island had to meet seven metrics identified by New York State in order to begin reopening, but breaching one of those metrics won’t necessarily mean that the region shuts back down. The metrics concern the COVID-19 testing and infection rates, the hospitalization rate, the number of hospital beds available, the death toll and the number of contact tracers trained. Mr. Bellone said during his daily press briefing that he does not think that the direction of Long Island’s reopening will change if the region is not meeting one metric one day. Rather, he said, all factors will be looked at in totality.

“What the contract tracing does, in addition to the ability to isolate people, is also to determine if there are any particular places or activities that are causing a spike or a problem,” Mr. Bellone said. “That information should give us the ability to target our response, rather than what we had to do at the beginning of this outbreak, which was, basically, across the board — except for some essential businesses — shut down the economy. Now, as we have come onto the other side of the mountain, we have learned a lot. We should be in a position to be able to do this in a more targeted way.”

The phase one activities include curbside retail, agriculture, construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting.

“I do not anticipate anything happening of a negative nature with respect to the metrics, I really don’t,” the county executive said. “I do believe that we will be in a position to do this safely, particularly with these phase one openings.”

He said the industries that are reopening are used to dealing with safety issues so they will know how to implement COVID-19 safety measures.

“I really don’t anticipate any issues, and I am hopeful we are able to look at the example of other places around the state that have opened earlier than us,” Mr. Bellone said. Watching those other regions will be an advantage to Long Island, he explained. “We can see and take a look at what they have experienced and what activities they have engaged in that have not had an impact on the numbers. And if that’s the case, then it may inform our ability to even move a little quicker with respect to reopening.”

Wednesday, 9:30 a.m.: Schneiderman Closes All Southampton Town Beaches To Day-trippers And Nonresidents

Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman Wednesday morning signed an emergency order closing all beaches to day visitors. Town beach parking lots were already restricted to residents and renters under a prior emergency order. The new emergency order limits the use of all town beaches, not just parking lots, to residents and legal renters until at least May 31 and restricts roadside parking near beaches as well.

Emergency orders like this, suspending local laws, are limited to no more than five days. However, Supervisor Schneiderman indicated the order is likely to be extended beyond five days, according to a release from his office.

The newly issued order extends the beach parking restrictions to include all town roads within 1,000 feet of a road-end directly leading to a public beach or water body. This change is aimed at stopping the parking of cars throughout town neighborhoods that are within the vicinity of beaches and road-endings leading to the beach, but were not restricted.

Memorial Day weekend saw an influx of hundreds of visitors many of whom parked their cars along roadways near beaches where parking was not restricted. The town had prepared for weeks to open several beaches for the Memorial Day weekend. These beaches, including Ponquogue, Sagg Main and Long Beach, were busy, but not overwhelmed according to Mr. Schneiderman.

Weather conditions were not ideal for sunbathing, which limited beach attendance, but, even in the rain, people flocked to certain beaches to go fishing.

The problem reached an apex at the end of North Sea Road. Police closed the beach on Saturday determining that social distancing could not be achieved based on the volume of people. On Sunday and Monday, the beach was limited by police to 20 people at a time and then closed at night.

Under the current emergency order, those parking at or near the beach will need to display a valid town parking sticker on their vehicles. Anyone entering the beach, or on the beach, may be asked to provide proof that they are living or renting within the town. Acceptable proof would include a valid New York State driver’s license or nondriver ID showing a Southampton Town address; or a valid car registration showing a Southampton Town address; or a property tax bill or utility bill showing a Southampton Town address, or proof of a legally permitted rental. Police will only ask for identification when overcrowded conditions exist.

Parking on East Landing Road, West Landing Road, and Petrel Lane in the hamlet of Hampton Bays, has also been restricted in the emergency order to parking by permit only. Violators will be asked to leave and could face a penalty if they refuse. Cars not displaying the proper sticker will be ticketed. Cars parked overnight may be towed.

Southampton Town Police Department, code enforcement, fire marshals and the Department of Parks and Recreation personnel will enforce these new restrictions.

Tuesday, 3:45 p.m: Start Of Phase One Is ‘Milestone’ For Long Island; 911 Service Restored

County Executive Steve Bellone said Tuesday afternoon that the anticipated reopening of Long Island on Wednesday is an important milestone and step forward after more than two months of shutting down whole segments of the economy to prevent the hospital system from being overwhelmed and reducing the number of people effected by COVID-19, including deaths.

Reopening is happening in stages, and Wednesday will be the beginning of phase one for Long Island. Phase one includes construction, agriculture, forestry, fishing, hunting, curbside or in-store pickup retail, manufacturing and wholesale trade.

Suffolk County is investigating why its enhanced 911 system went down on Tuesday. Mr. Bellone said the county immediately switched over to its secondary system, “essentially, the unenhanced system,” but nine East End jurisdictions were left out. In those jurisdictions, callers could reach the police with local “public-safety answering point” phone numbers. He said Verizon has since successfully integrated those jurisdictions into the unenhanced 911 system. The enhanced system should be back up and running countywide today, he added.

There were 126 new positive COVID-19 diagnostic tests overnight, Mr. Bellone said. Now, approximately 40,000 people in Suffolk County have tested positive for the virus, while another 12,623 people tested positive for the antibodies despite never having a positive diagnostic test.

Mr. Bellone also said that the county is waiting for the governor to take action on a request for an executive order giving Suffolk County taxpayers a 45-day extension to pay their property taxes without penalty. The requested new deadline is July 15. Mr. Bellone said a 21-day extension is in place.

Tuesday, noon: Long Island Reopens In Phase One Wednesday

Memorial Day turned the page from COVID-19 to reopening, Governor Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday morning, offering his daily update from the New York Stock Exchange. Long Island will reopen on Wednesday, May 27, when the contact tracing program comes online and if the decline in deaths continue. The Mid-Hudson region opened today, Tuesday, May 26.

Each region has an appointed “control group” tasked with monitoring data and responding to the numbers, the governor said. “If you see movement, pounce on it,” he said, alluding to data that might show spikes or continued flattening of the curve. The governor said he told members of the regional control groups to “watch the numbers and when you see a cluster of cases, jump on it.” The numbers, he said, will inform response and reopening.

New York City will be the last region in the state to reopen, due to the large number of cases. The infection rate in the general population in the city is about 20 percent, but in 10 communities — lower income and predominantly minority neighborhoods — the infection rate is “literally double the citywide average,” at 40 percent, the governor said.

Statewide, he said, “We all have to remain smart.” All along Mr. Cuomo has said the trajectory of the virus is determined by people, whether they abide by hygiene protocols, social distance, and wear a mask. “I believe wearing the mask … is officially cool,” he said. “It makes a real difference.”

While reopening is underway, it should “supercharge” so the economy “comes roaring back,” he said. “I don’t believe the economy comes straight back … it bounces back differently. I don’t think it comes right back to where it was. … I don’t think it comes straight back up.”

The top end of the economy will be fine, Mr. Cuomo said. “They always are.”

Thousands of small businesses have been lost and won’t reopen their doors. “You’re gonna see pain in this new economy,” the governor said. “Let’s start to anticipate that and let’s start to deal with that now.”

Government can stimulate the economy, he said. He spoke of how major infrastructure projects could provide jobs. “There is no better time to build than right now,” Mr. Cuomo said.

Monday, 3 p.m.: Long Island Remains On Track To Begin Phase One Of Reopening Wednesday

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone confirmed Monday afternoon that Long Island is still on track to begin a phased reopening on Wednesday.

Mr. Bellone said the county’s conversations with the businesses community regarding reopening have been positive.

“There’s no one that wants to get this right more than the business community because they understand that they — in order to be successful — that they need to protect their employees, they need to protect their customers, and that it is a business imperative for them not to be in a situation where we have spikes in cases that require a slowdown or even restrictions be put back in place,” he said. “No one wants to see that happen, least of all the business community.”

The county executive reported that, generally, people complied with social distancing measures over the holiday weekend, including wearing face coverings. He did note that beach attendance was low due to the weather, even though the county was ready to welcome people

“I think it’s important to have people outside and for people to know that we are going to be able to enjoy a summer,” Mr. Bellone said.

He said that, just like Memorial Day ceremonies happened on Monday with adjustments, people will adapt.

“We are going to have a summer,” he added. “We are determined to make sure that families and kids are able to enjoy a summer, even in the midst of this global pandemic. And we believe that we can do this safely. I am confident in that.”

Phase one reopening permitted activities include construction, agriculture, forestry, fishing, hunting, curbside and in-store pickup retail, manufacturing and wholesale trade.

Six more people have died in Suffolk County due to COVID-19, one of the lowest daily death tolls that there has been since the crisis began in March, Mr. Bellone said. The total is now 1,840.

In last reported 24-hour period, 126 people in Suffolk County tested positive for COVID-19. That number is in line with what the county has seen for the past couple of weeks, Mr. Bellone said.

That brings the total number of people who have tested positive in the county up to 39,090, excluding antibody tests. There have been 12,409 positive tests for COVID-19 antibodies.

There are 343 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the county. The total declined 31 in 24 hours. Also in the course of one day, 38 people were discharged from hospitals to continue their COVID-19 recovery at home.

Of Suffolk County’s hospital bed capacity, 64 percent of beds are in use and 61 percent of ICU beds specifically are in use. In order to reopen a region, the state requires that no more than 70 percent of beds are in use.

Mr. Bellone noted that the county’s map for tracking and reporting COVID-19 cases will come down Tuesday as the county transitions over the next few days to a new system that is part of the county’s contract tracing efforts in partnership with New York State. However, will continue to post the numbers daily, even as the map is offline, he added.

Monday, noon: Governor Cuomo Announces Benefit For COVID-19 Frontline Workers

Governor Andrew Cuomo Monday offered his daily update from the U.S.S. Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum in New York. His Memorial Day focus was on honoring servicemen who lost their lives in service of the country.

This Memorial Day is especially poignant and powerful, the governor said.

“We know something about loss,” he said.

He called for remembering to thank the heroes of today — frontline workers — and said he feels “a grave responsibility to frontline workers … who understood the danger and went to work anyway.”

He spoke of telling New Yorkers of the danger, then asking the frontline workers to get to work.

To that end, Mr. Cuomo announced plans to ensure New York State provides death benefits to frontline workers who died responding to the COVID-19 crisis.

“They deserve not just words of thanks, but actions that show appreciation,” he said.

He also renewed a call to the federal government to dedicate funds toward hazard pay for frontline, essential workers.

Quoting President Abraham Lincoln, the governor emphasized, “It is for us, the living … to be dedicated here to the unfinished work.”

The crisis isn’t finished, Mr. Cuomo underscored.

Asked to react to news of weekend gatherings depicting unmasked revelers in New York City and elsewhere in the country, Mr. Cuomo said, “You can reopen, you can increase activity, without increasing the virus spread. Be smart.”

Frontline workers, police, MTA train workers, people caring for infected patients continue to exhibit lower infection rates than the general population, “because they use the PPE. It works.”

There’s no legitimate rationale for not using a mask.

“The opposition is so trivial and nonsensical related to the risk,” he said.

Sunday, 3:30 p.m.: County Executive Bellone Optimistic As Downward Trends Point Toward Imminent Reopening

While the weather is not cooperating, the official start of summer in the Hamptons is not canceled — and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said he is confident that a slow, smart reopening will only build its momentum, as long as overall COVID-19 metrics continue to decline.

“Our beaches are open and they will stay open. We are going to have a summer here,” he said during a press conference. “Our families and kids are going to enjoy our beaches this year.”

On Sunday afternoon, Mr. Bellone reported 162 additional positive COVID-19 cases over the last 24 hours, bringing the county total up to 38,964. But for the first time since March 27, hospitalizations have dipped below 400, to 374, which he said is “very good news.”

“That is a very good thing, as we approach phase one of opening this week,” he said. “Getting those numbers down and seeing those numbers go as low as possible is important as we begin to put more activity into the economy.”

Slated to begin this week, phase one is expected to include construction, agriculture, forestry, fishing, hunting, curbside or in-store pickup retail, manufacturing and wholesale trade.

“We are on the downward trajectory. We have been for weeks now and we see progress happening everywhere, and what I would say to people in our county is continue to be smart,” he said. “We are on the road to recovery. Progress is being made every day. If we continue to be smart, then we will make that progress quicker, faster, and come out of this stronger than we otherwise would.”

Sunday, 12:45 p.m.: Long Island On Track To Reopen By Wednesday

The East End can still expect Long Island to reopen by Wednesday, despite an increase in COVID-19 deaths on May 23 — an uptick from 84 to 109 — reported Governor Andrew Cuomo during an update on Sunday morning.

“Long Island is on track to meet the numbers on Wednesday,” he said during a press conference from Jones Beach Theatre in Wantagh. “We have to get the number of deaths down on Long Island and we have to get the number of tracers up, but we’re doing that.”

New York State beaches are currently open, and campgrounds and RV parks will follow suit tomorrow. The Long Island Rail Road and MTA bus system are also readying for a new mode of operation, which will include a mandatory mask policy, additional train cars for social distancing, and daily cleaning and disinfecting of all trains and buses — for the “first time ever,” Mr. Cuomo said.

“We’re now, decidedly, in the reopening phase, and we’ve been following the numbers from day one, not emotions — following the science, not the politics,” he said. “This is not a political ideology question, this is a public health question. It’s about a disease, stopping the disease, stopping the spread of the disease, and that’s science, not politics.”

Saturday, 4:15 p.m.: County Executive Bellone Echoes Governor On A Wednesday Reopening Of Long Island

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone echoed Governor Cuomo’s statement that if the metrics continue the way they are going Long Island could reopen by Wednesday.

“The Governor today spoke about a timeline ... so Wednesday, the Governor specifically mentioned, is the date that if we continue on this track, which I believe that we will, that we are looking at reopening Long Island. That is great news. Hitting the first phase.”

Bellone stated the county is on track with training contact tracers, “We intend to have over 1,000 people trained by the time we get to Wednesday, when we need to meet this metric ... We will get everyone trained and we will be ready. Tracing will not prevent us from reopening.”

On Friday the county opened up camping reservations and the response was so overwhelming the website crashed.

“We have these sites opening again on June 1,” Bellone said. “We have reservations from the 1st through the 15th, We reopened last night at 7 p.m. for June 15 moving forward, unfortunately we had so many people hit the site it crashed. We are working and have been working with our vendor to get that repaired. We will get that back up and running this week and we will give people plenty of notice before opening up the site once again so everybody has a fair opportunity to get a reservation.”

Saturday, 12:50 p.m.: Governor States Long Island Could Reopen By Wednesday

Governor Andrew Cuomo stated in an update this morning that Long Island could reopen by Wednesday if the number of COVID-19 deaths continue to decline and corona virus tracers are in place.

The number of deaths in New York State dropped below 100, with 84 in total, 62 in hospitals and 22 in nursing homes.

“What we are doing is working,” said Governor Cuomo. “You look at the new York curve, you look how low it is, you look at the number of deaths, you look at the decline. Compare that with the rest of the nation where you still see the rest of the nation’s curve going up.”

Saturday, 10 a.m.: Governor Signs Executive Order Allowing Groups of 10 Or Fewer To Gather

On Friday evening Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order to allow groups of 10 or fewer to gather, provided they observe safety and social distancing rules.

Friday, 3 p.m.: County GIS COVID Case Tracking Map Questionable

For several days, the county’s interactive map has reported numbers in excess of the data related by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone during daily media updates. On Friday, he reported 38,672 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Suffolk County, up 119 from Thursday. However, the GIS map lists cases at 43,069. Apprised of the disparity, Mr. Bellone said he was unsure why the numbers were different but said he would get it clarified.

That in mind, the map shows cases in Southampton Town topped 1,004, with 276 confirmed cases of coronavirus depicted for the Town of East Hampton.

Reporting hospitalization data for May 20, Mr. Bellone said general hospitalizations were down by 28 patients to 425, with intensive care unit admissions up by two patients to 131. Hospital capacity was “right at the metric,” he said, with ICU capacity at 65 percent. Each region in the state must meet or exceed seven metrics before reopening may occur. Long Island has met five of the seven. A metric related to contact tracing is expected and a metric related to a decline in the number of deaths remains elusive.

Fifty-eight patients have been discharged from area hospitals. Twelve patients died in the 24 hour period ending Friday afternoon, bringing total fatalities in Suffolk County to 1,814.

Echoing comments made earlier in the day by Governor Andrew Cuomo, the county executive said Long Island was on track for Phase 1 reopening in a week. “We are ready,” he said.

Discussions with the business community have been underway “for a long time now,” he informed. Businesses adapt and adjust and “they make it work.”

Mr. Bellone spoke of Memorial Day weekend as more than the unofficial beginning of summer; in 2020 it’s the unofficial beginning of the reopening of the economy. As the county this weekend demonstrates it can reopen beaches safely, he said, “so, too, can we reopen businesses safely.”

The county will reopen its campgrounds beginning June 1, Mr. Bellone said. The reservation system for booking sites is slated to open Friday night at 7 p.m. Reservations are available for spots beginning July 15. A county camping committee has developed safety rules. Only self-contained units may visit the sites, bathroom and shower facilities will not be provided. Tents will not be permitted and no visitors to the site will be allowed. The sites are just for families, not gatherings or parties.

A letter from “a low-level bureaucrat” with the U. S. Department of Veterans Administration rejected Mr. Bellone’s request for permission to place flags at the graves of veterans this weekend.

“This is a decision I cannot fathom,” he said.

He acknowledged it was likely made with an overabundance of caution, but said officials should bend over backwards to find ways to accomplish the traditional activity. The county executive said he thinks President Donald Trump would be “appalled” if he was aware of the underling’s determination.

Now that the county has stepped forward to fund the drive-up testing site in Southampton, would it also underwrite the site in East Hampton? It opened earlier this month, thanks to funding from a private non profit. Mr. Bellone said one testing site was envisioned for the South Fork, as officials considered spreading them out across the region.

Friday, 11:45 a.m.: Long Island Could Begin Phased Reopening Next Week

Long Island could reopen next week if deaths continue to decline and the region trains enough contact tracers, Governor Andrew Cuomo said Friday morning.

In anticipation of phase one of reopening beginning in a week, the governor said construction staging is now allowed on Long Island and in the Mid-Hudson region. That includes delivering construction materials to work sites and putting safety precautions in place.

In addition to construction, phase one of reopening includes agriculture, forestry, fishing, hunting, curbside or in-store pickup retail, manufacturing and wholesale trade.

According to the New York State Regional Monitoring Dashboard, Long Island has had eight consecutive days of decline in COVID-19 hospital deaths as of Wednesday. To reopen, a streak of 14 days is required. Alternatively, the region could reopen if it has fewer than five deaths per day, based on a three-day average. Long Island now has 10 per day on average.

Long Island still needs more contact tracers to reopen, but according to the dashboard, the region is expected to meet that requirement.

The governor also announced that the state is making $100 million in small business loans available, targeting businesses with 20 or fewer employees and less than $3 million in gross revenue.

Also, New York State is making its contact tracing training curriculum available at no cost to all states.

Thursday’s one-day COVID-19 death toll in New York State was 109, with 82 deaths in hospitals and 27 in nursing homes.

Friday, 11 a.m.: County To Continue Southampton COVID-19 Testing Site

Since testing began, East End officials have been urging county counterparts to host a testing site on the South Fork. Last month, confronted with governmental inertia, Southampton Village Mayor Jesse Warren collaborated with the Hamptons Health Society to amass funding to create a testing site on property owned by Stony Book Southampton Hospital.

The society collected donations sufficient to run the site for the month of May and into the first week of June. Located at the Krause Family health center, the site is operated by Hudson River Health Care. HRH offers free testing to uninsured residents at sites through out Suffolk, assisted by county funding.

On Friday, Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman announced that the site will stay afloat. He reached out to Legislator Bridget Fleming and County Executive Steve Bellone, hoping the county would pick up the funding of the site. The response was affirmative.

Said Mr. Bellone in a release announcing the measure, “Access to widespread testing is one of the most critical tools in the battle against COVID-19. As we get closer to reopening, Suffolk County will continue to work with all of our partners to ensure our testing sites remain open and anyone who needs to be tested has access.”

Testing is a key metric in the reopening plan, Ms. Fleming observed. “With more testing, we are able to determine the extent of the spread of the disease.”

“Jay’s wonderful,” said Dr. Peter Michalos of the Hamptons Health Society. “He convinced the county to chip in and help the East End. It’s amazing he was able to do that.”

Continuing, the doctor added,”I’m happy East Hampton has been able to duplicate what we’ve done, setting the precedent of public/ private partnership.”

Earlier this month an HRH popup site in East Hampton that’s funded by the East Hampton Healthcare Foundation opened.

The Southampton testing site runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 am to 3 p.m. the East Hampton site is open on Wednesdays and Fridays. Both require appointments. Call 845-553-8030.

Thursday, 4:30 p.m.: Suffolk, Nassau, Westchester County Executives Discuss Regional Plans

“All three of us have worked incredibly closely together throughout this unprecedented pandemic,” County Executive Steve Bellone said Thursday during a Zoom meeting with counterparts Laura Curran of Nassau County and George Latimer of Westchester County. Representing a combined total of 4.5 million people, the trio “leaned on each other, communicated with each other, and shared ideas,” Mr. Bellone said.

In some ways, Ms. Curran said, reopening is more complicated than operating on crisis mode during the coronavirus surge. As the healthcare crisis begins to subside, the focus is on “putting the pieces back into some kind of new normal,” she said.

Residents have done “a fantastic job” acting in compliance with NY PAUSE, she said. She believes there’s room for recalibration in the metrics necessary for reopening.

“People are ready,” she said.

The Long Island region dropped down from meeting five of seven metrics to meeting four. The number of hospitalizations increased once the facilities were opened up to elective and other non-COVID-related procedures. Mr. Bellone said he was confident the region would meet the metric nonetheless.

Introducing Mr. Latimer, Mr. Bellone noted Westchester was at the epicenter of the outbreak at the outset. He said he was grateful for his colleague’s leadership. Mr. Latimer offered that there’s a benefit in shared experiences and emphasized that the regional approach “is the way to go.” The downstate economies are interconnected, he underscored.

Each county is following a similar protocol with beach openings as the holiday weekend approaches.

“Demand is going to be strong,” Mr. Latimer cautioned.

But, like Mr. Bellone, both he and Ms. Curran made the decision to open to their own county residents only.

In Westchester, Mr. Latimer said tough decisions were made in terms of other summer attractions — Playland amusement park will stay closed trough July, with social distancing and sanitizing “impossible” at such a venue.

So, too, are myriad summer ethnic festivals where, by definition, people cluster together. The July 4 fireworks shows have been canceled in Westchester; in Suffolk, the decision has yet to be made and in Nassau all summer events in Eisenhower Park have been canceled. No formal decision about fireworks shows has been made in Nassau, Ms. Curran qualified. “Stay tuned,” she said.

“We’re trying to rise to a moment that none of us has ever experienced,” Mr. Latimer said.

Asked whether he sees the upcoming weekend as a litmus test for how Suffolk County will handle the rest of the summer, Mr. Bellone said, “Every new step we take is sort of a test.”

Eleven people died from COVID-19 in the 24-hour period from Wednesday to Thursday, bringing Suffolk’s death toll to 1,802. Mr. Bellone reported 142 new confirmed cases during the same time frame, for a total of 38,553 cases countywide.

Thursday, 1:10 p.m.: Summer School Will Be Via Distance Learning; Too Early To Say If Classrooms Will Open In Fall

Summer school across New York State will be done through distance learning, and it is too soon to determine if classrooms can welcome students in the fall, Governor Andrew Cuomo said Thursday.

During his daily COVID-19 briefing, Mr. Cuomo said the facts have changed on schools because while it was once believed that children are not affected by the coronavirus, now it appears they are.

The New York State Department of Health is now investigating 157 cases of an illness in children that may be related to COVID-19. It is an inflammatory disease that has symptoms like Kawasaki disease or toxic shock syndrome and causes inflammation in blood vessels that can also affect the heart. Mr. Cuomo said New York was the first to investigate cases of the illness, and now 25 states and Washington, D.C., have reported cases as have 13 countries.

“This is one of those situations, where the more they look, I believe, the more they are going to find,” Mr. Cuomo said.

The governor said schools have high-density issues in classrooms, cafeterias and school buses — and density is how coronavirus spreads.

“Summer school is not going to open statewide for in-class teaching,” Mr. Cuomo said. “It will be through distance learning, and meal programs and child care services for essential employees will continue. In terms of opening up schools for the fall, it’s still too early to make that determination.”

The governor said more information on the inflammatory syndrome is needed and the state is waiting to see how development of a vaccine proceeds. The state will issue guidelines in early June for schools and colleges to make plans to possibly open in fall, he added, and the state will approve — or not approve — those plans in July.

Mr. Cuomo advised that the state’s contact tracing program is beginning, and he urged New Yorkers who have tested positive for COVID-19 to take the call if their caller ID identifies an incoming caller as “NYS Contact Tracing.”

The governor said employees who believe their employer is not following PPE, hygiene and social distancing guidelines may call the New York Coronavirus Hotline at 1-888-364-3065.

Total hospitalizations and the number of intubated COVID-19 patients were both down statewide Wednesday. The number of new COVID-19 hospitalizations on Wednesday was just 246, based on a three-day rolling average. Mr. Cuomo said that is lower than the number was in the early days of COVID-19’s emergence, before the spike in cases.

There were 105 deaths attributed to COVID-19 reported statewide Wednesday. That matches the low that was set on Monday. Of Wednesday’s reported deaths, 78 occurred in hospitals and 27 occurred in nursing homes.

Long Island has eight consecutive days of decline in hospital deaths as of Wednesday, with an average daily death toll of 10. Fourteen days of decline are required to reopen a region.

Long Island reports 1.43 new COVID-19 hospitalizations daily per 100,000 residents. That number must stay under 2 per 100,000 in order to reopen, and for the past few days Long Island’s number keeps getting lower.

Long Island has moved in the wrong direction on the availability of hospital beds. A region must have at least 30 percent of its bed capacity available, and at least 30 percent of its ICU beds, specifically, available. The region has 33 percent of its ICU beds free, but just 27 percent of its total number of beds free. However, this appears to be due to both Suffolk County and Nassau County hospitals being allowed, as of this week, to resume elective surgeries, and not due to an increase in COVID-related hospitalizations.

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At Agawam Park Vigil for Floyd, Remembrance Transitions to Calls for Action

A socially-distanced crowd filled Agawam Park in Southampton Village on a sweltering Thursday morning to ... by Alec Giufurta

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