Sue O'Brien, left, and Grace Papagn, both of Sayville, practice...

Sue O'Brien, left, and Grace Papagn, both of Sayville, practice safe social distancing while taking a walk down Montauk Highway in Sayville on Thursday. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

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:

Thursday evening updates

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

Trump releases guidelines to start gradual national reopening

President Donald Trump Thursday afternoon laid out COVID-19 guidelines in a phased-in effort aimed at relaxing social distancing and getting Americans back to work.

The guidelines were announced by Trump at his daily White House briefing and make it clear that the governors and other elected officials in all 50 states will take the lead in enforcing them. Trump told governors that they could begin reopening by May 1 or earlier if they wanted and were in step with guidelines.

“To preserve the health of our citizens we must also preserve our economy. We want to deliver food and medical supplies,” Trump said.  We must have a working economy. And that’s what’s going to happen.”

Titled, “Opening Up America Again,” a cue from Trump’s 2016 campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” the guidelines require that each state meet listed criteria before moving forward with three phases designed to gradually reopen the country. The criteria includes requirements that all states must see a downward trajectory of “influenza-like” illness symptoms within a 14-day period, a downward trajectory of “documented cases” within a 14-day period and the ability to test at-risk hospital workers for the coronavirus and antibodies.

After meeting the criteria, states will follow three phases outlined in the guidelines. Among the recommendations in phase one, “vulnerable individuals” should remain sheltered in place and those who live with them should be aware that by returning to work or other environments where distancing is not practical, they could carry the virus back home. Precautions should be taken to isolate from vulnerable residents.

The guidelines say people can return to work but their employer must have strict social distancing protocol in place and encourage telework when possible. Schools and other youth facilities should remain closed. Large venues, theaters, sporting venues, houses of worship, can operate under strict social distancing protocol.

Elective surgeries can resume, as can non-essential travel, assuming the criteria are met. Gyms can open with social distancing protocols in place but bars should remain closed.

Among the recommendations for states that meet the criteria for phase two, non-essential travel can resume, schools and organized youth activities can reopen and bars may operate with diminished standing-room occupancy, where appropriate. Large venues, theaters, sporting venues, houses of worship, can operate under moderate social distancing protocol.

Among the recommendations for states that meet the criteria for phase three, "vulnerable individuals" can resume public interactions, but practice safe social distancing, employers can resume unrestricted staffing of worksites and visits to senior care facilities and hospitals can resume. Gyms can remain open if they adhere to standard sanitation protocols and bars may operate with increased standing room occupancy, where applicable. Large venues, theaters, sporting venues, houses of worship, can operate under limited social distancing protocol. — NEWSDAY STAFF

Watch Nassau County Executive Laura Curran's town hall:

Call for New York rent strike beginning May 1

Progressive housing advocates and tenants Thursday called for a massive rent strike across the state, beginning May 1, to address the growing number of New Yorkers who have lost their jobs during the pandemic.

“The suffering is real and it’s only going to get worse,” said Winsome Pendergrass, a Brooklyn resident with New York Communities for Change, which is calling on Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to cancel rent for tenants through at least June.

Earlier this week, state and city lawmakers, along with groups such as the Association for a Better Long Island, the Long Island Builders Institute and the Long Island Coalition for the Homeless, wrote to the state’s congressional delegation asking for $10 billion in rental assistance.

Arbor Realty Trust, a Uniondale-based real estate investment trust, announced it launched a $2 million rental assistance program to bridge the gap for tenants unable to pay rent because of job loss. The program will be offered to tenants at properties Arbor finances across the country on a first-come, first-served basis.

“For those who have unfortunately lost income and are temporarily unable to meet their rent obligations, we are looking to provide some much-needed relief until they are able to stabilize their situations,” said Ivan Kaufman, president and chief executive of Arbor Realty Trust. — ROBERT BRODSKY

Thursday afternoon updates

Nassau reports good news on discharging COVID-19 patients.

In Nassau, County Executive Laura Curran said there continue to be more discharges of COVID-19 patients than new arrivals, and “we’ve had the biggest spread yet, last night.”

There were 2,419 patients in 11 hospitals, a decrease of 58 from the day before.

And there were 235 discharges on Wednesday.

“That is a very large spread and we’re very happy to hear that,” Curran said. She said there are 505 COVID patients on ventilators, two more than the day before.

“We stayed home, we did the right thing and we flattened the curve,” she said.

"The numbers aren't as bad as were predicted just three weeks ago.”

Still, the coronavirus continued to exact a heavy toll on the county. Besides the latest deaths, it reported 1,057 new cases of COVID-19, for a total 27,772, according to state figures. released Thursday. Suffolk reported 904 new cases for a total of 24,182. — SCOTT EIDLER

Watch Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone's press briefing:

Bellone sees ‘a leveling off’ in Suffolk County

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said Thursday that there were 960 new cases of coronavirus reported in the county, bringing the total cases to almost 24,500.

Hospitalizations due to the virus were down slightly,  a decrease of 45, to 1,585 from 1,630, and the number of ICU beds in use decreased by 25, to 537 from 562.

“That is very good news,” Bellone said, describing “a leveling off at this very high level.”

A total of 152 people who had the virus were discharged from hospitals in the county in the last 24 hours, Bellone said. He also said intubations were down, without providing a number. — NEWSDAY STAFF

Sands Point officer has died of coronavirus, police chief says

Sands Point police announced the death Thursday of Sgt. Joseph Spinosa, with Chief Tom Ruehle saying the 19-year veteran officer had died of COVID-19.

Spinosa was hired in September 2000 and received the Nassau County Municipal Police Chiefs Officer of the Year award in 2008, as well as being recipient of the 2015 Life Saving Award.

He was promoted to sergeant on Dec. 4, 2018, and Ruehle said the department is defining the passing, which occurred Wednesday, as a line-of-duty death, noting: "He will be forever missed and loved." – JOHN VALENTI

Watch Nassau County Executive Laura Curran's press briefing:

Watch Gov. Andrew Cuomo's press briefing:

Cuomo: NYS “pause” extended to May 15
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo extended the closing of non-essential business and large gatherings to May 15 on Thursday.
“New York Pause has worked. We have to continue doing what we are doing. The New York Pause policy will be extended in coordination with other states to May 15. I don’t want to project beyond that.”
New York continued to make progress in pushing back against the coronavirus spread, with another day of hospitalizations trending down, intensive care unit admissions decreasing and fewer people needing to be intubated due to severe illness, Cuomo said.
The number of people hospitalized across the state for illness related to the COVID-19 virus fell below 18,000 Wednesday for the first time in about a week, according to the latest state figures, continuing to draw a curve that stabilized and then bent downward in tracking of the virus' impact on health systems.- NEWSDAY STAFF

Poll: Upstate CEOs say recovery will be longer than 6 months
ALBANY – A poll of upstate CEOs found 58% said they expect it will take longer than six months for the economy to return the way it was before the COVID-19 virus hit.
The Siena College Research Institute poll released Thursday found 40% of the chief executive officers had laid off workers and 58% cut back on buying equipment, all of which places a substantial drag on the economic recovery.
Five percent of CEOs said their companies haven’t suffered because of the shutdown by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of non-essential businesses and a state-home order for most New Yorkers.
The poll sponsored by the state Business Council surveyed 307 business leaders April 3 through Tuesday and has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.6 points. -- MICHAEL GORMLEY

De Blasio: City pools won’t open this summer
New York City will not open municipal pools this summer, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday.
De Blasio also said that city beaches are unlikely to open this summer as usual -- with lifeguards, crowded with tens of thousands of beachgoers and swimmers.
It's possible the beaches would be opened with social-distance rules, but: "The notion of having lifeguards and people coming to the beach like normal -- we don't have that in our sights yet. ... Right now, I'd just say, lower expectations." -- MATTHEW CHAYES

United Way raises more than $900,000 to help needy
The United Way of Long Island’s emergency assistance fund for low-wage workers affected by COVID-19 has raised more than $900,000 and helped more than 2,000 people, the nonprofit organization said Thursday. The “United Together: A Response Fund for COVID-19” was boosted with contributions of $250,000 each from Bank of America and the New York Jets, officials said.
The fund has provided financial assistance, in the form of gift cards, for food and household essentials. – OLIVIA WINSLOW

Northwell reports drop in COVID-19 patients
Northwell Health on Thursday said the number of COVID-19 patients at its 19 hospitals dropped to 2,893, a drop of about 13% from the same period a week ago. It's also a drop from Wednesday, when there were about 3,000 hospitalized COVID-19 patients at the health system.
But four of Northwell's Long Island hospitals, Long Island Jewish Medical Center, LIJ-Valley Stream, North Shore University Hospital and Glen Cove Hospital, still have an ICU occupancy rate of above 90%.
About 70% of the health system's ventilators are in use. Northwell has about 1,100 ventilators, which include converted bi-level airway pressure (BiPAP) machines. – DAVID REICH-HALE

De Blasio decreases city’s proposed budget
New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio has decreased the city’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year to $89.3 billion from $95.3 billion, citing a projected $7.4 billion tax decline from coronavirus crisis.
This is the first time since de Blasio became mayor in 2014 that he hasn't proposed a higher budget than the year before. – MATTHEW CHAYES

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