Long Island no longer ranks last among New York State regions eligible for reopening from the coronavirus shutdown, jumping in one week from meeting only two out of seven benchmarks to five.
Nassau and Suffolk counties checked off two boxes since last week: having 30 percent of hospital beds and intensive care unit beds available in case of a possible spike in coronavirus cases. And New York State reports that the region is expected to meet the criteria of having 30 contact tracers — disease detectives tasked with investigating the transmission of cases — per 100,000 residents.
“Some regions are ready to go today, they just need to get some logistical pieces in order by the end of the week,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters Monday during his latest coronavirus news briefing. “Some places are very close … just one or two criteria that haven’t been met yet.”
Last week, LI lagged behind all 10 regions statewide in meeting the goals with just two: A 14-day decline in coronavirus hospitalizations and having 30 tests per 1,000 residents monthly. With the three new metrics the Island is meeting, the region only has two more to go: having a rate of COVID-19 hospitalizations at less than 2 per 100,000 residents and a 14-day decline in hospitalized coronavirus deaths or under five new deaths on a three-day rolling average.
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said Monday that the county appears to be making progress on the last two goals as well. As for the hospitalization rate, last week LI was at last week at 5.7 residents per 100,000 and as of Monday it is at 2.85 residents per 100,000.
“We are definitely going in the right direction and we seem to be going in the right direction rather quickly,” said Curran.
The number of Nassau residents who died of COVID-19 on Sunday was 10, which is down significantly from the peak, while Suffolk County saw 22 new deaths.
“This increase of 10 is much smaller than we’ve been seeing lately,” Curran said. “If that continues we could be well on our way of checking off one very important box, that 14-day decline in hospital deaths.”
Still, Curran said it is “very unlikely” that the county will meet the last two goals by the May 15 expiration of the New York on Pause order that mandated non-essential businesses to close and workers to telecommute statewide. She repeatedly said last week that she expects LI will “probably reopen by the end of June.”
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said he would not “speculate on a date.”
“My focus continues to be getting the region ready as quickly as possible to reopen,” he said. “We are working to hit these metrics are quickly as we can.”
Three upstate regions are expected to reopen this weekend: The Finger Lakes; the Southern Tier bordering Pennsylvania, and Mohawk Valley near Albany. Long Island’s numbers have caught up with those of Western New York and the Capital and Mid-Hudson regions. Central New York and North Country met six and New York City met four.
The first phase of reopening will be construction, manufacturing, agriculture, and retailers using curbside pickup.
“Phase one for us means a lot of people will be coming back to work,” said Curran. “Seventeen percent of total jobs on Long Island are in construction, manufacturing and wholesale trade.”
Phase two will be professional services, finance, retail, administrative support, and real estate. The third phase includes restaurants and hotels. The fourth and final phase includes education, recreation, and arts and entertainment.
Cuomo also added to the list of things that can open ahead of schedule.
“We will also open certain businesses statewide which are low risk: landscaping, gardening, low-risk recreational activities like tennis, drive-in movie theaters,” the governor said.
Curran said there is work being done to identify parking lots that can be converted to drive-in movie theaters since there are none left on LI.
Helping guide the reopenings are what Cuomo termed regional control rooms. LI’s will consist of Curran, Bellone, Empire State Development Corp. President and CEO Eric Gertler, Regional Economic Development Council Co-Chair Kevin Law, and Long Island Federation of Labor President John Durso.
As for the number of cases, as of Monday Long Island had 75, 248 confirmed cases, with 38,337 in Nassau and 36,911 in Suffolk. There were 337,055 cases statewide, 1.3 million nationwide, and 4.1 million worldwide.
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