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Suffolk Considers a Phased Reopening

Wed, 04/29/2020 - 16:19
Signs at Brent's Market in Amagansett point to how businesses are adjusting to a new normal.
Christine Sampson

With Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo poised to lift business and personal restrictions in areas of New York State on May 15, County Executive Steve Bellone is considering what such plans might mean for Suffolk.

In a press briefing on Wednesday, he outlined what requirements would need to be met to lift some or all of those restrictions. These were in line with what the governor discussed earlier in the day.

One of the stipulations is that the county's hospitalizations need to demonstrate a consecutive 14-day decline, which the county is within a week of meeting, according to Dr. Gregson Pigott, commissioner of the Suffolk County Department of Health Services. He noted that the last time there was a spike in hospitalizations was on April 20.

The county must also not exceed a 70-percent capacity in both its hospital and intensive care unit beds, "so we have the space necessary if, as we reopen, there is a spike of cases," Mr. Bellone said. 

With a decline in hospitalizations over the past 24 hours to 1,047 and I.C.U. patients down to 369, the county is at 74 percent of capacity for regular beds and 69 percent for I.C.U. beds. "We're right around the numbers the state says you need to be at," he said. The total number of confirmed Covid-19 patients in the county rose by 661 over the past day to a total of 34,079.

Other factors the county must consider regarding when and how to reopen include having testing readily accessible and contact tracing in place. "We are working on that every day," Mr. Bellone said. The rate of transmission is also an important metric. "We have a very narrow window when it comes to the rate of transmission. We've been at .8. If that number gets to 1.1, then we are looking at this virus spreading once again."

Mr. Bellone said having to reinstate restrictions would be "emotionally, psychologically, and economically devastating. That means we need to get this right."

Few if any activities will go back pre-pandemic normals. Businesses that are now closed will need to show how they will protect their workers and customers with distancing, masks, and disinfection. Parks and recreational sites will need to limit visitors. Most openings will be in phases and not all at once.

Speaking about the summer, Mr. Bellone said, "We're not transitioning back to where we were seven weeks ago, we're transitioning to a new normal." More information about the relaxing of restrictions and what the summer will look like in the county will be announced soon, he said.

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