Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone provided an update of the county’s response to the coronavirus earlier this week. At that time, he disclosed that a member of his team, deputy county executive Peter Scully, had a confirmed COVID-19 case, one of the 152 cases currently in the county.
At that point the office shut down, and several in direct contact with him were forced to enter a 14-day quarantine, working from home awaiting test results, including county Department of Health Services commissioner Dr. Gregson Pig- ott.
“Leading by example,” Bellone said he was also self-isolating in an abundance of caution; though he had not been in direct contact with Scully for an extend- ed period of time, Bellone has been in contact with those who are currently quarantined. Both he and Pigott remain asymptomatic and “feel fine.”
“It’s important for everyone to follow the guidelines, including leadership, Bel- lone added. “Government must continue to operate.”
Additionally, Bellone announced, the county officially had two confirmed COVID-19 deaths including a male in his 80s, one of the first positive cases in iso- lation, at St. Catherine’s Hospital, and a male in his 90s, at Huntington Hospital. A third person, a female in her 90s who had underlying medical conditions, also died after being in isolation at Huntington Hospital.
“We talked about this in the beginning: We know the people most vulnerable are the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions,” he continued. “All our efforts are focused on trying to reduce and contain the spread of this virus, as we know the deadly impact it can have for those populations.”
Last week, he said, the county had made the decision to close the schools, and this week the governor decided to shut down restaurants and bars (open for delivery and takeout only).
“Parents need to be following social dis- tancing guidelines,” he added, stating that though children are home from school, they need to keep from gathering in large crowds.
At this point, he said, it was unclear how far the virus had spread in local communities simply due to the lack of broad testing. “The numbers are going to continue to rise,” he added, explaining that testing is going to be ramped up. “Testing is one of our most powerful tools.”
The county is currently working with New York State to create a mobile testing site to launch shortly. All questions should be directed through 311, Suffolk County’s 24-hour answering service.
The mobile testing site will, hopefully, be up and running later this week. Testing criteria: residents will be able to call a number and get triaged by nurse, who will get sense of what the symptoms are to make a determination. Test results will be given within two to three days.
The county also accepted $700,000 from the state Department of Health and trans- ferred $500,000 from its Department of Public Works leftover snow removal fund for emergency services support.