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Coronavirus on Long Island: Updates for April 15

Members of the medical staff at Nassau University

Members of the medical staff at Nassau University Medical Center prepare to escort patients to the admission tent outside the hospital on Wednesday. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

Newsday is providing all readers with access to this breaking news blog on important developments about the coronavirus and our community.

What's happening today:

Wednesday evening updates

Watch President Donald Trump and the coronavirus task force's press briefing:


LIRR president says 551 back on job

Long Island Rail Road president Phillip Eng said Thursday that 551 LIRR employees who were on the sidelines because of testing positive or having been quarantined for COVID-19 have returned to work, including 46 on Tuesday.

“So the numbers are showing that we're making a difference,” Eng told LI News Radio. “The challenge will be as the system gets back to normal, when that day comes. Social distancing, obviously, when it comes to mass transportation is much more of a challenge. And I think that's where people still have to practice good social habits, good social hygiene.”

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority — the LIRR’s parent organization — on Wednesday announced it had entered into an agreement with Northwell Health to help ramp up COVID-19 testing for front-line transit workers. Under the agreement, workers displaying symptoms of the virus will receive priority testing at 52 Northwell Health facilities throughout the MTA’s service area. MTA chairman Patrick Foye said he expects about 400 symptomatic employees to receive the tests.

Northwell will begin administering the tests Friday, and can handle about 50 tests per day, Foye said. MTA workers also can choose to be tested at other medical facilities at no cost. More than 2,000 MTA employees have tested positive for the coronavirus, including 59 who have died. — ALFONSO CASTILLO

Read more here.

Wednesday afternoon updates

Senate Democrats propose $30B testing plan

As President Donald Trump and many state governors begin considering steps to reopen the economy, Senate Democrats on Wednesday proposed a $30 billion plan for a comprehensive national testing strategy and an investment to make tests free for everyone.

“Testing is the best tool we have to fight the virus today to know who’s infected and who is not, and when to open our economy,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a phone call with reporters. “It is critically important to the health and well-being of every person in our country.

“We have to ramp up testing so it can be done on a broader scale,” he added. “We need to get the results back quickly. That’s going to take a national major effort.”

But the Trump administration has failed to make that happen, Senate Democrats said, pointing out that South Korea has tested 40 people per million more than the United States.

“The administration is at best scattershot and at worst just chaotic when it comes to testing,” Schumer said.

On March 6, Trump said that “anybody that needs a test gets a test,” he said.

“A month later, our testing capacity is woefully inadequate to the crisis, much less to reopen our economy,” Schumer said. “We have testing shortages in communities in New York and across the country.”

Schumer said he hopes the $30 billion for testing can be added to the Republicans’ interim $250 billion bill to expand the $359 billion popular small business Paycheck Protection Program, which the administration said has almost run out of money.

Schumer said he had talked with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin Wednesday morning and that Democratic congressional staff was set to meet with Mnuchin’s staff Wednesday afternoon to try to reach a deal, which has been deadlocked since last week.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has insisted the interim bill, the fourth to address the pandemic, should be passed quickly with funds solely for the small business program. But Democrats countered another $250 billion should be added to the bill for health care providers bearing the brunt of COVID-19 and struggling state and local governments. – TOM BRUNE

Read more here.

Numbers show slowing of new coronavirus patients

COVID-19 hospital patients on Long Island have reached a plateau, and statistics show that social distancing is driving fewer increases in hospitalizations and intubations, a Newsday analysis shows.

The flattening of the curve that health officials have hoped for is evident in a leveling of numbers of coronavirus hospital patients and fewer new patients between April 9 and 13 in both Nassau and Suffolk counties.

The statistics show deaths from coronavirus continue to increase.

Some 4,088 patients were hospitalized on Long Island as of April 10. Three days later, the number was 4,082, according to data provided by Nassau and Suffolk counties.

“It looks like it’s flattening out quite a bit,” said Jaymie Meliker, an epidemiologist who is a professor at Stony Brook University’s Program in Public Health. — SANDRA PEDDIE AND MATT CLARK

Read more here.

Watch Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone's press briefing:

Some cashiers at Coliseum not covered by compensation fund

A group of cashiers at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum are frustrated that they are receiving no financial support from the company that employs them while their colleagues throughout the Uniondale arena are being compensated for some missed events.

The Coliseum's operator, Onexim Sports and Entertainment, set up a fund with help from the Islanders last month “to assist with offsetting some of the lost wages our hardworking employees are incurring” while the arena stays dark amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

But these cashiers — four of whom spoke with Newsday in a group video interview — are not included in the Coliseum's fund because they are not Onexim employees. Instead, they are employed by the third-party concessionaire Levy Restaurants, a food and hospitality company that services arenas nationwide. — JIM BAUMBACH

Check out the full story here.

Cuomo: NYers must wear face covering to stop virus spread

All New Yorkers venturing out in public will be expected to wear mouth and nose covering to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, as the state seeks "to stop the spread" of COVID-19 and build on current gains against the outbreak, said Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo during a Wednesday afternoon briefing.
Cuomo said he was offering the public three-day notice to figure out how to comply with the executive order he's issuing and emphasized a message of civic-minded compliance.
“All people in public must have a mouth and nose covering … and they must wear it in a situation where they are not maintaining social distancing,” Cuomo said.
He said he understood "your right to go out for a walk in the park … Fine, don’t infect me. You don’t have a right to infect me.”
While Cuomo said the state could move to a civil penalty for violation of his order, he expects local enforcement could monitor compliance without having to impose fines.
He said New Yorkers can help enforce the rule, by simply asking others who are in public places: "Where's your mask, buddy? — in a nice New York way."
Check out the full story here. – NEWSDAY STAFF

Watch Nassau County Executive Laura Curran’s press briefing:

Watch Gov. Andrew Cuomo's press briefing:

Northwell: Numbers continue to drop
Northwell Health said Wednesday it has 3,006 COVID-19 patients at its 19 hospitals, 11 of which are on Long Island. 
"The numbers keep going down, although not dramatically," said Terry Lynam, a Northwell spokesman. "But we are hopeful the trend continues."
Northwell had been reporting between 3,300 and 3,400 patients daily last week. The number of patients has gone down each day since then.
Also, Northwell said only two Long Island hospitals, LIJ-Valley Stream and North Shore University Hospital, had an ICU occupancy rate above 90%.
The New Hyde Park-based health system, the largest in the state, said about 70% of its ventilators are in use. Northwell has about 1,100 ventilators, which include converted bi-level positive airway pressure (BiPAP) machines. – DAVID REICH-HALE

Farmingdale State offering virtual open house
Farmingdale State College’s first “Virtual Open House” for prospective students is scheduled for Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Prospective students can take a virtual campus tour, and attend online sessions conducted by staff and faculty of the schools of Health Sciences, Business, Engineering Technology, and Liberal Arts & Sciences.
The college also will host webinars about financial aid and admissions, as well as on different fields of study, including nursing, dental hygiene and aviation. To register, go to –JOIE TYRRELL

Wednesday morning updates

Sheriff: Suffolk inmates won’t be freed amid COVID-19 concerns
A lawsuit filed by the Legal Aid Society of Suffolk County to free about 120 inmates over concerns about the possible spread of the coronavirus was unsuccessful, the county's sheriff, Errol D. Toulon Jr., said Wednesday morning.
Speaking on Fox News's "Fox & Friends," Toulon said there was only one inmate in the Suffolk County jail system who has had the virus, a fact "which really helped the judge in his ruling."
Toulon said Wednesday that inmates in Suffolk shouldn't be freed.
"If you put them out into the street, especially with the pandemic issues that we're currently facing, they will then have an opportunity to contract the virus," he said. -- MATTHEW CHAYES

MTA to ramp up testing for employees
A new partnership between the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Northwell Health will help ramp up COVID-19 testing for front-line transit workers — among the hardest hit in the region by the pandemic.
Under the agreement, MTA workers displaying symptoms of the virus will receive priority testing at more than 50 Northwell facilities throughout the MTA’s service region. MTA chairman Patrick Foye was scheduled to join Northwell CEO Michael Dowling at a Manhattan news conference Wednesday morning to discuss further details of the program, which will also include “a range of comprehensive medical exams,” according to the MTA.
More than 2,000 MTA employees have tested positive for the coronavirus, including 59 who have died. – ALFONSO CASTILLO

De Blasio: NYC needs up to $10B in stimulus from Congress

New York City's government needs between $5 billion to $10 billion in stimulus money from Congress to sustain basic services like police, fire and trash pickup, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday morning on cable television shows. 

"Our revenue is gone, our tax base is gone, our economy is gone," de Blasio told CNN's "New Day." He added: "We're not going to be able to provide basic services and actually have a normal society if we don't get help from the federal government, so we can restart, so we can actually have a livable, working city again; if it doesn't come from the federal government, it's not gonna happen."

He said the Congress needs to pass another stimulus bill.

"If we're going to have a functioning, strong economy, if we're going to be that economic engine that we are for our region and for our whole nation," he said on the Fox News Channel's "Fox & Friends" immediately after the CNN interview, "we have to be able to have our first responders, we have to be able to have a functioning health care system, we gotta have stability. There's no way we're going to be able to make up that money on our own. That's where the Congress has to step up." -- MATTHEW CHAYES