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Coronavirus on Long Island: Updates for April 22

Coronavirus testing conducted at the ProHealth testing centers

Coronavirus testing conducted at the ProHealth testing centers in Jericho on Wednesday. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

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:

Trump: CDC chief was misquoted

President Donald Trump on Wednesday night said the chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was misquoted in a story where he warned this fall could see a reemergence of the coronavirus worse than the current pandemic.

“I spoke to [Redfield] and he said it was ridiculous,” Trump told reporters at his daily White House update on the coronavirus pandemic, referring to a Tuesday story in the Washington Post.

“He was talking about corona and the flu coming together at the same time,” Trump said. 

The president then called Redfield to the podium in the White House press room where the CDC director said he was accurately quoted but added context.

“When I commented yesterday was that next fall and winter could be more difficult and complicated but it’s important to emphasize what I didn’t say. ... The key to my comments was to appeal to the American public to embrace the flu vaccine with confidence.” — NEWSDAY STAFF

Trump at odds with Georgia governor over reopening efforts

President Trump said he disagreed with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s decision to partially reopen parts of his state.

“I told Gov. Kemp I disagree with him on what he is doing but he has to do what is right,” Trump said at his Wednesday White House coronavirus briefing.

Kemp’s order allows tattoo and beauty parlors as well as businesses like barber shops, bowling alleys and nail salons to reopen.

“They can wait a little bit longer, Trump said. — NEWSDAY STAFF

Wednesday afternoon updates

Groups call on Nassau to address impact on blacks

A coalition of civil rights and advocacy organizations called on Nassau County to do more to address the disproportionate impact the coronavirus has taken on the county’s black community, whose share of fatalities from the virus is much higher than their share of the county’s population.

The local organizations — ERASE Racism, Birth Justice Warriors, the Long Island Black Alliance, the Long Island Progressive Coalition and the National Institute of Reproductive Health — are urging Nassau County to take “swift action to protect its communities of color as alarming new statistics show the disproportionate impact the coronavirus pandemic is having on Long Island’s Black population.”

African Americans account for 18% of COVID-19 deaths — 221 — in the state outside of New York City despite making up only 9% of the population, according to state Health Department data. Hispanics make up 14% of deaths —138 — while representing 12% of the state's population outside New York City.

Nassau on Wednesday opened testing sites in Hempstead and Freeport, County Executive Laura Curran said. — OLIVIA WINSLOW AND JESSE COBURN

Nurses to hold vigil in Smithtown Thursday

Nurses at St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in Smithtown planned a 6:30 p.m. Thursday vigil outside of hospital grounds to push for better access to protective equipment.

The New York State Nurses Association, which represents about 500 nurses at the hospital and is the largest nurses’ union in the state, has criticized hospital management for practices that included reusing some types of equipment like gowns and masks that are typically discarded after a single use.

While overall access has improved, said Michael Chacon, a union representative, “these practices are still unsafe.”

Patrick O'Shaughnessy, executive vice president and chief clinical officer for Catholic Health Services, which manages St. Catherine and other facilities across Long Island, said in a statement that the health system follows federal and state guidelines for extended use of masks and gowns when caring for patients who are suspected to have COVID-19.

“We have taken every measure available to protect our staff… We understand and respect the concern expressed by some employees and have established mechanisms at all our entities where employees can provide anonymous feedback regarding any PPE concerns.” PPE is an acronym for personal protective equipment. — NICHOLAS SPANGLER

Watch Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone's press briefing:

New testing site coming to Coram, Bellone says

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, in his Wednesday briefing, announced the county will be adding a testing site in Coram at the Elsie Owens Health Center.

He also encouraged people to fill out a county survey on mortgage relief to make sure those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic are taking advantage of all possible programs being offered.

“This will give us an understanding of what your situation is,” he said, and to make sure lenders “are doing the right thing.”

He said the county was also working on a property tax relief program for homeowners economically impacted by the virus. — NEWSDAY STAFF

Bellone: 'Continuation of positive signs'

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said the number of people testing positive is on a downward trend to below 30,000.

He said he did not have the newest number for COVID deaths but it was 888 Tuesday.

He said 141 people treated for the virus were discharged from the hospital in the last 24 hours.

The number of people in the hospital with the virus has gone down to below 1,400 for the first time in recent weeks.

There are about 500 people in intensive care, two less than Tuesday.

“It’s a continuation of positive signs,” he said, adding that the number of positive tests are also coming down. — NEWSDAY STAFF

New York State hospitals to get $4.4B

New York State hospitals are getting nearly $4.4 billion as part of another payment from last month's $2 trillion federal stimulus package. After this payment, 40% of the $100 billion earmarked for hospitals from that stimulus will have been allocated.

Hospitals in the region were frustrated when the first 30% was distributed without regard to which regions were COVID-19 hot spots.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said this time "New York gets its fair share. I estimate we will get significant additional dollars in the next several tranches."

Hospital executives in the region said in recent days that they're facing losses that collectively could cross $1 billion monthly during the height of the pandemic. DAVID REICH-HALE

Cuomo: Bloomberg will develop COVID-19 tracing program

Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg has volunteered to develop a coronavirus contact tracing program for the state, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Wednesday.

Emphasizing the need to test, trace and isolate coronavirus cases, Cuomo said at his daily briefing that the program will be coordinated with New Jersey and Connecticut. The state will work with Johns Hopkins University and the global public health organization Vital Strategies, and draw on 35,000 SUNY and CUNY medical students who can serve as tracers, he said.

Bloomberg "will design the program, design the training, he’s going to make a financial contribution,” Cuomo said. The state has “weeks” to get the program running, he said.
“It’s a super ambitious undertaking,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo reported Wednesday that 474 people died of COVID-19 in New York Tuesday, but said hospitalizations and intubations are down. The number of new people going into hospitals is “still troublingly high,” he said. —NEWSDAY STAFF

Watch Nassau County Executive Laura Curran’s press briefing:

Watch Gov. Andrew Cuomo's press briefing:

Bellone: COVID-19 patients in 2/3 of Suffolk hospital beds

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said that while “things are moving in the right direction” in the county amid the coronavirus pandemic, there are still more than 1,400 people in Suffolk hospitals with COVID-19.  And in a county with 2,200 to 2,300 hospital beds, Bellone said, that means that two-thirds of them are occupied by coronavirus patients.

Bellone made his comments Wednesday morning during an interview by Fox News radio host Brian Kilmeade.

When asked by Kilmeade about how the county will reopen its economy – whether it can do so on its own or must wait for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to do so – Bellone said Suffolk is working in coordination with the governor. “We’re going to do so in a phased way and in a smart way,” Bellone said.

Bellone also noted that social distancing has helped flatten the curve in a county that’s been hit hard by the pandemic. —  NEWSDAY STAFF

NYU Langone patient numbers down 33%

NYU Langone in Manhattan, which runs NYU Winthrop in Mineola, said It has seen the number of COVID-19 patients fall about 33% systemwide to about 950. The decrease by percentage is larger in New York City, said Dr. Andrew W. Brotman, senior vice president and vice dean of clinical affairs and strategy at NYU Langone.

Brotman, in an interview Wednesday, said Long Island also is headed lower, but is about a week behind Manhattan and Brooklyn. — DAVID REICH-HALE

Northwell has fewest COVID-19 patients since April 1
Northwell Health said Wednesday it has 2,443 COVID-19 patients at the 19 hospitals it owns and operates, including 11 on Long Island. That's down 95 patients from the prior day. It's also the fewest number of COVID-19 patients it has had since April 1.
Northwell added that if the pace continued, Friday would fall to the lowest level since March.
However, sicker patients are remaining behind, said Terry Lynam, a health system spokesman. He said 33% of the remaining patients are in an ICU. Also, about 700 COVID-19 patients are on a ventilator. Northwell has about 1,100 ventilators.
LIJ-Forest Hills in Queens, at 97%, has the highest ICU occupancy rate at Northwell. – DAVID REICH-HALE

De Blasio: July 4 fireworks “will go on”; COVID-19 test and trace plan announced
New York City will have a July 4 celebration with fireworks, though it’s not clear how it will be implemented given the coronavirus pandemic, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday.
“One way or another, the show will go on,” de Blasio said.
De Blasio also announced an ambitious effort to test New Yorkers for COVID-19, isolate and care for them if they have the virus and trace the people they had contact with.
De Blasio said the city has been identifying public sites where testing can be conducted.
Hotel rooms will be made available to people who test positive and can’t isolate properly, de Blasio said. The city will also provide transportation, laundry services, food and medical care, he said.
The city will also follow up with everyone that person had close contact with, de Blasio said. – NEWSDAY STAFF