Nassau and Suffolk county leaders each declared a state of emergency as the number of people who tested positive for coronavirus on Long Island rose to 79 on Friday, officials said.
The emergency declarations give government leaders the flexibility to respond to the crisis more quickly by, for example, awarding contracts to companies that can assist without having to go through the usual lengthy government contract procurement process.
“We have to curtail, to slow, to stop the spread of COVID-19,” said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, who ordered the closure of county-run museums Friday, halted eviction orders carried out by the county sheriff, and announced that some non-essential county workers would not be required to come in starting Monday.
The developments came as the number of cases in New York State rose to 421 with 50 of those, of 12 percent, hospitalized and 18 in intensive care. Gov. Andrew Cuomo noted that he suspects thousands more people may have COVID-19 and were never diagnosed and expects confirmations to spike next week when the state’s test capacity increases to 6,000 per day. President Donald Trump also declared a national emergency on Friday afternoon.
“I understand fully the anxiety that people feel,” Cuomo said, noting that one of his daughters was in precautionary quarantine. “But the facts do not justify the fear.”
Eighty percent of cases self-resolve, he said. He and many other are most concerned with the virus spreading in nursing homes since seniors have the highest mortality rate of those diagnosed with COVD-19.
The governor and others reiterated that the efforts to have workers stay home, cancel mass gatherings, and avoid community transmission are meant to protect vulnerable populations such as seniors and those with underlying health issues as well as not overwhelm the health system.
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In Nassau, the 51 cases include 34 in the Town of Hempstead, 10 in the Town of North Hempstead, and four in the Town of Oyster Bay. Thirteen of those are hospitalized and many are improving, although two with underlying health issues are in critical condition.
In Suffolk, the 28 cases include 11 in the Town of Southold, five in the Town of Brookhaven, four in the Town of Huntington, three in the Town of Babylon, two each in the towns of Islip and Smithtown, and one in the Town of East Hampton.
“This is going to be with us,” Bellone said. “It is going to be important that we all work together and cooperate with one another.”
Curran said she was disappointed to hear of people still going to work while being sick despite repeated government warnings that people should telecommute if they feel under the weather. She added that despite the museum closures and widespread event cancellations, the parks are open for those with cabin fever setting in.
“Go get some fresh air,” she said.