Coronavirus Update (March 18): Mobile Testing Up at Stony Brook; Suffolk Cases Jump

Pictured Above: (file photo) Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone at a recent press conference.

Update March 19, 6:30 p.m.

• Several members of the Peconic Landing retirement community in Greenport had been confirmed to have the coronavirus earlier this week, and Thursday morning “we received notification that we have more members with confirmed cases of COVID-19,” according to a statement Thursday from Peconic Landing. “Unfortunately we are experiencing the same trend we are seeing in other communities. We are caring for those members in our health center as this is where we have had our only confirmed cases at this time. All members in our health center have been isolated in their suites and our care team is managing their care one on one. When a member has tested positive we directly reach out to each family. We have been in constant consultation with the New York State Department of Health and are following the protocols we have been given. This is a very difficult time and we understand and share the deep concern our members, their families, our employees and the greater community has regarding the overall outbreak of COVID-19 both locally and nationally.” Peconic Landing is updating the public online.

• There were 239 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Suffolk County, as of County Executive Steve Bellone’s update Thursday afternoon. On the East End the bulk of those cases are in Southold, with 45 cases. There are 4 confirmed cases in Riverhead and Southampton towns, 2 confirmed cases in East Hampton and 1 on Shelter Island.

Update March 19, 10:50 a.m.:

• New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has updated his workforce reduction order to decrease in-office personnel at non-essential businesses to 25 percent. He has also directed banks to provide mortgage relief to New York residents, suspending mortgage payments for 90 days with no credit score impact for those financially impacted by these restrictions. Mr. Cuomo also said that there are now 178 confirmed cases in Suffolk County.

• “Peconic Landing has been notified by the New York State Health Department that members of our community have tested positive for COVID-19. Affected members are in stable condition at this time,” according to a statement from the Greenport retirement community. “The New York State Health Department is providing the community with access to testing for members believed to be in close contact with the confirmed members and precautionary quarantines are being instituted to assist with the containment of the illness on our campus.” Peconic Landing is updating the public on the situation online.

• Greenport Village is creating a “Helping Hands” list to centralize the information of those that would like to participate in any upcoming volunteering efforts that may be required.Kindly e-mail Village Clerk Sylvia Pirillo at: spirillo@greenportvillage.org to provide your name, best phone contact information, e-mail address and any ideas of specific ways in which you’d like to serve your friends and neighbors.

Original Story Follows:

The first mobile coronavirus testing site in Suffolk County came online at noon today at in the south commuter parking lot at Sony Brook University, as the county announced the number of confirmed cases in the county jumped by one third.

The New York State Department of Health is operating the mobile testing site, which is can be accessed by appointment only by calling 1.888.364.3065, said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone in his daily teleconference update with reporters Wednesday afternoon.

Suffolk County Health Commissioner Dr. Gregson Pigott, who was also on the call, was quick to point out that the testing criteria has not yet changed — people will only be tested if they are symptomatic and have had close contact with someone who was confirmed to be infected, and people who have had close contact but are asymptomatic may be placed under mandatory quarantine but not yet tested.

“The guidance will change on that, but we don’t know when that will happen,” said Mr. Bellone.

Mr. Bellone also reported a “dramatic jump” in the number of confirmed cases in the county, which now stand at 152 people, up from 97 (including three deceased) at the end of the day Tuesday.

As of mid-afternoon Wednesday, Mr. Bellone said there are 33 confirmed cases in Southold Town, two each in East Hampton and Riverhead and three in Southampton Town, with none reported on Shelter Islaand.

“As the testing ramped up, we knew we were going to see more and more cases,” said M. Bellone. “At the beginning we were tracking foreign travelers, but as the number of positive cases has mounted, all the cases have come from community transmission. This virus has spread throughout the county. It’s a containment, and ultimately a mitigation effort at this point.”

Dr. Pigott pointed out that, as of 9 a.m. Wednesday, Suffolk County had just 391 empty hospital beds available for potential patients, out of a total of 2,300 beds. He added that the county has just 68 open intensive care beds, out of a total of 242 beds.

“The hospitals are looking at ways to ramp up the number of beds,” said Mr. Bellone. “We are working with the state and the hospital system to support those efforts.”

In response to concerns that the mobile testing site is far from communities on the East End, Mr. Bellone said his office is communicating every day with local officials on the East End, and the county is aware there is a need for more testing here.

“Those conversations are happening on a daily basis,” he said.

Dr. Pigott added that the New York State Department of Health has been actively testing residents and workers at the Peconic Landing retirement community in Greenport.

Mr. Bellone said the Suffolk County Police Department is urging people to file minor police reports online, to avoid unnecessary interactions between first responders and the community. He also urged families to disclose their health information if calling for police or EMS service at their homes, or to sign up for Smart911 to provide details so that first responders can protect themselves before arriving at potential coronavirus patients’ homes.

He also urged residents facing a mental health crisis to visit the 24/7 DASH mental health crisis center run by the Family Service League in Hauppauge, which can be reached at 631.952.3333.

“In a crisis like this, the likelihood for the need for those services will increase,” he said.

Mr. Bellone added that the county is working on relief efforts for small businesses.

County Legislator Bridget Fleming is urging business owners to call the county’s 311 hotline to give the county information on their business’s needs, in an effort for the county to develop the aid programs that are most useful for businesses.

“The hope is that, by organizations contacting the business services unit, the county will be able to develop an understanding of the needs, advocate for relief, and assist businesses in accessing relief,” she said.

“We understand, while we are currently dealing with a public health crisis, a global viral pandemic, we are and will be moving forward dealing with human resources and human services crisis,” said Mr. Bellone.

Other recent updates:

• All indoor portions of retail shopping malls, amusement parks and bowling alleys are ordered closed as of 8 p.m. March 19.

• Update March 19 10:50 a.m.: Governor Cuomo has updated the order below to decrease in-office personnel to 25 percent. He has also directed banks to provide mortgage relief to New York residents, suspending mortgage payments for 90 days with no credit score impact for those financially impacted by these restrictions. Mr. Cuomo also said that there are now 178 confirmed cases in Suffolk County. Governor Cuomo has issued an executive order directing non-essential businesses to implement work-from-home policies effective Friday, March 20. Businesses that rely on in-office personnel must decrease their in-office workforce by 50 percent. Exemptions from the order apply to businesses that provide essential services, which will include: shipping, media, warehousing, grocery and food production, pharmacies, healthcare providers, utilities, banks and related financial institutions. Additional guidance is expected to be issued. For questions on the coronavirus, please call the New York State Department of Health Novel CoronavirusHotline at 1.888.364.3065. 

• Suffolk residents can now text COVIDSUFFOLK to 67283 to receive information on the latest coronavirus developments and health guidance.

•The Greenport branch of Bridgehampton National Bank is operating with just the drive-through window open to the public, and the Mattituck branch of Capital One Bank is temporarily closed. Capital One customers are being directed to use the Riverhead drive-up in the TJ Maxx parking lot on Route 58. In an email to customers, Capital One said it made this decision due to the lack of safety glass at inside teller windows.

• Southampton Town amended its State of Emergency Tuesday to note that playgrounds at town parks are now closed, though the parks themselves remain open.

• New York State state will temporarily halt the collection of medical and student debt owed to the State of New York and referred to the Office of the Attorney General for collection, for at least a 30-day period, in response to growing financial impairments resulting from the spread of the coronavirus.

Read our ongoing coverage of the coronavirus crisis.

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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