Pictured Above: The local face of the new economy, Greenport

The worst of the coronavirus pandemic’s effects in New York appeared to be ebbing on Monday, with numerous indicators there that we are well into the ‘plateau’ of the disease’s arc here.

But with this news comes a dogfight between the federal government and the states on when we can reopen schools and businesses, with no decison-makers daring to name a reopening date in the past 24 hours.

For the first time, three indicators of the flattening of the Covid-19 epidemic curve appeared in Suffolk County on Monday, when Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone reported a net decrease of 19 people hospitalized, with the number of intensive care patients decreasing by nine and daily intubations decreasing by one.

“To see all those numbers go down, however slightly, is a good thing,” said Mr. Bellone at his Monday afternoon press briefing.

While Mr. Bellone says the county’s focus is still on saving lives, he announced April 10 that the county is also putting together a Covid-19 Recovery Task Force to focus on the devastating effect the virus has had on our local tourism-based economy.

Suffolk’s task force would be led by Deputy County Executive Jon Kaiman, who led the state’s response to Superstorm Sandy on Long Island; along with the county’s Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner on Economic Development, Natalie Wright and Rebecca Sinclair; Labor Commissioner Rosalie Drago; Social Services Commissioner Frances Pierre and Assistant Deputy County Executive Vanessa Baird-Streeter.

Mr. Bellone did report that another 50 Suffolk County residents have died from the virus in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths in the county to 568. But 125 patients were also released from the hospital in that same period.

The total number of Covid-19 infections in the county stood at 22,204 as of Tuesday morning, with 315 cases in Southampton Town, 237 cases in Southold, 227 in Riverhead, 98 in East Hampton and five on Shelter Island.

The county task force is being built as New York State has put together a consortium with neighboring states to coordinate the reopening of the economy, in defiance of President Donald Trump’s repeated assertion that he and only he has the power to reopen the nation’s economy.

The states include New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. A similar consortium of West Coast states is also coordinating reopening efforts.

President Trump doubled down on his belief that he will determine when the country opens again in an unhinged media briefing at the White House Monday evening, in which he showed a propaganda film praising his administration’s decision to close off travel to China Jan. 31. The film was silent on the administration’s response to the virus throughout the month of February, when the president had been calling the coronavirus a hoax.

After saying for weeks that states could chose whether or not to close their economies, Mr. Trump now says it is his decision to reopen them, in direct violation of the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“For the purpose of creating conflict and confusion, some in the Fake News Media are saying that it is the Governors decision to open up the states, not that of the President of the United States & the Federal Government,” Mr. Trump tweeted Monday morning. “Let it be fully understood that this is incorrect.”

“The President of the United States calls the shots,” he said of the governors’ efforts at the Monday evening press briefing. “They can’t do anything without the approval of the President of the United States.”

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called in to CNN anchor Erin Burnett to refute the president about an hour later.

“We don’t have a king. We have an elected president,” he said. “The constitution clearly says the powers that are not specifically listed for the federal government are reserve to the states and the balance between federal and state authority was central to the constitution. It’s one of the great balances of power and the constitution has served his nation very well for a long time. They didn’t want a king or we would have had King George Washington.”

Mr. Cuomo had said at his Monday morning briefing that the state is also seeing indicators that the worst is over.

On Easter Sunday, he said, 671 New Yorkers lost their lives to Covid-19, the first day in the past week that fewer than 700 people have died. But 10,056 New Yorkers had died as of Monday, a number that more than doubled since April 5.

Mr. Cuomo said the consortium of states will likely gradually increase economic activity by recalibrating the definition of essential work, then dialing back if indicators like daily Covid-19 hospitalizations go up. He also said more testing is key to reopening.

“Yeah, you don’t know because nobody knows,” he said of people who have their own opinions of how the economy should reopen. “We’ve never been here before.”

“There isn’t going to be a headline one morning, ‘hallelujah it’s over,'” he said. But “the worst doesn’t get any badder than this…. I believe the worst is over.”

With nearly 19,000 New Yorkers currently hospitalized Mr. Cuomo said the state appears to have been able to avoid the worst case projected need of as many as 140,000 hospital beds at the apex of the disease trajectory because “New Yorkers decided on the facts that they would comply” with the state’s orders to stay at home and shut down non-essential businesses.

“Our health care system can do phenomenal work. They can control the spread,” he added.

Mr. Cuomo said he believes there will be signs of hope in the months ahead, including more effective antiviral treatment, but we won’t be able to put Covid-19 behind us until there is a vaccine, which will take at least 12 to 18 months.

“I want this to be over more than you want this to be over. I want it to be over tomorrow,” said Mr. Cuomo, then repeated a quote from Winston Churchill that he’s used several times over the past few days:

“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she 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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