SUFFOLK COUNTY

Bellone: COVID-19 response comes at a cost

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The death toll from COVID-19 in Suffolk County has been “approaching” 2,000 for several weeks now, and county executive Steve Bellone said that the slow-down of deaths correlates with the state of the virus’ spread.

“While that number is a horrific number, the fact that we have slowed this to such an extent [is] truly a credit to everyone who has worked so hard in Suffolk County to do the right thing and to get control of this virus,” Bellone said during a county briefing on Wednesday, Aug. 12. “And that is good news as we move forward: that these numbers remain so low as we move forward to reopen our schools in the next several weeks and work to do that in a safe way. We are making sure we are protecting our kids as well.”

However, Bellone pointed out that the safety-driven COVID-19 response in the county did come at a cost, continuing on to explain that the economic shutdown was the suggestion disseminated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the federal government.

“We are still fighting a global pandemic, and we are just weeks away from reopening our schools,” Bellone said. “We need the resources to continue this fight by funding our public health workers, our police, and our other first responders. This funding is not only necessary. To be clear: It is justified.”

Bellone also made note of the fact that President Donald Trump was in Suffolk County the previous weekend and particularly mentioned Trump’s reference to federal disaster assistance as a “bailout.” The county executive explained during Wednesday’s Zoom meeting that this term does not fit the circumstance.

“Paying for cops and public health workers and funding our schools so that they can open safely is not a bailout; it is just the right thing to do,” Bellone said, continuing to reference the global health pandemic as a natural disaster.

Bellone said how “bailout” does not fit the circumstance of the urgent request for disaster assistance from the federal government, in that Long Island residents send billions more of their tax dollars to the federal government every year than they ever see in return.

“Two years ago, President Trump helped to push through a law that effectively took away our state and local property tax deductions, adding even more billions to what we send to Washington as a region every year that we never see in return,” Bellone explained. “But we don’t call that a bailout. If they want to make a deal where we just keep our tax dollars here, that is fine for us. We can use our own tax dollars to pay for our police officers and public health workers. We can use our own money then to reopen our schools safely and to protect local taxpayers here.”

The county executive continued on to say, secondly, that “bailout” suggests wrongdoing by counties in the region.

“The fact of the matter is we all did our jobs,” Bellone said, referring to the positivity rate consistently hovering around 1 percent of tests daily. “We stopped the spread, we flattened the curve, and we undoubtedly saved countless lives. However, there was a cost to that response. There was a cost to shutting down the economy to stop the virus. The revenue necessary to fund government disappeared because of the shutdown and the deep recession that it has caused.”

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