Long Island is lagging behind all other regions in New York State in meeting benchmarks required to end the coronavirus shutdown, indicating that Nassau and Suffolk will likely take longer to reopen, officials said.
Nassau and Suffolk counties met only two of the seven sets of metrics that are required for regions to start reopening after the anticipated May 15 expiration of the New York Pause order that closed non-essential businesses mandated to stop the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This state has different regions which are in much different situations than other regions in this state,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in his daily coronavirus news briefing Monday. “And rather than wait for the whole state to be ready, reopen on a regional basis. If upstate has to wait for downstate to be ready, they’re going to be waiting a long time.”
The two metrics that Nassau and Suffolk have met are having a 14-day decline in hospitalizations and conducting 30 tests per 1,000 residents monthly. The five that it still needs to meet are a 14-day decline in hospital deaths or fewer than five deaths, new hospitalizations of under two patients per 100,000 residents, having 30 percent of hospital beds available for a possible surge in cases, and having at least 30 contact tracers for 100,000 residents.
By comparison, New York City and Western New York met three of the metrics, the Capital Region and Mid-Hudson Valley met four, while Central New York, the Finger Lakes, Mohawk Valley, North Country, and Southern Tier met five.
Cuomo said he understood the feelings of protesters pushing for a faster reopening but also warned that moving too quickly could rekindle the virus, noting that the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic was deadlier in its second wave.
“I’m actually in communication with the state to make that our math matches up with their math because according to those new critera, we could be on pause on Long Island for longer than that May 15 deadline,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said Tuesday.
Nassau is reported its 20th straight day of delines in hospitalizations and Suffolk was just meeting its 14-day benchmark when in the past two days hospitalizations saw an uptick. Nassau slightly more than 1,000 COVID-19 hospital patients and Suffolk has 835.
The hospitalization rate is based on a three-day rolling average, so Suffolk is not restarting the 14-day clock due to its newly admitted patients.
“The fact that we’ve had now two days in a row of inceased hospitalizations is definitely something that I am concerned about,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said Tuesday. He added that he’s “confident” the county will meet the metric, “but that’s not the way we wanted to come across the finish line.”
Both counties are also in the process of hiring hundreds of new contract tracers that will be deployed to do the detective work required to find the source of new infections. Curran noted that the software required in that effort won’t be online for another four weeks.
“That is going to be one of our challenges,” she said.
As for overall cases, as of Tuesday LI at 72,427 coronavirus cases, with 37,152 in Nassau and 35,275 in Suffolk. There were 321,192 statewide, 1.1 million nationwide, and 3.5 million worldwide. Fatalities rose to 3,114 on the Island with 1,818 in Nassau and 1,296 in Suffolk. There were 19,645 statewide, 70,646 nationwide, and 247,838 worldwide.
Cuomo said construction, manufacturing and select retail shops could open in a first phase of reopening, followed by a second phase that would include finance, administrative support, and real estate and rental leasing industries.
Phase three will see restaurants and the food service and hotel industries reopen, Cuomo said, followed by arts, entertainment and recreation facilities as well as schools in the fourth and final phase.
He said the decline in hospitalizations was “not as steep as the incline” when infections skyrocketed in March and warned against underestimating a virus that some people had initially dismissed as akin to the seasonal flu.
“This is a different beast that we are dealing with, and we learned that the hard way,” Cuomo said.
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