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Coronavirus on Long Island: Updates for June 5-7

Hillside Islamic Center serves as the central food-packages

Hillside Islamic Center serves as the central food-packages pick-up location for Zakat Foundation of America volunteers, June 7, 2020 in New Hyde Park, N.Y.  Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

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

Sunday updates

Robert Moses, other beaches and parks hit capacity

Many state beaches and parks were filled up before 2 p.m. as people looked to take advantage of the sunny skies and warm temperatures. Capacity at all sites was slashed to make room for social distancing.

That long list of sites that closed early include Robert Moses State Park, Jones Beach Field 6 and Field 2, Caumsett, Caleb Smith, Belmont Lake, Montauk Point, Camp Hero, Hallock Park Preserve, Connetquot, Planting Fields, Orient Beach State Parks and Bayard Cutting Arboretum State Park. 

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said the county’s two ocean beaches, Smith Point and Cupsogue, hit capacity earlier today and were closed. -- Lisa L. Colangelo

Cuomo allows small outdoor graduations

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Sunday said the state would allow socially distant outdoor graduations for high school seniors beginning June 26.

Cuomo said the graduations would be limited to 150 people, and it was not clear who would be included in that count.

The governor also said state officials would watch case numbers between now and then and could adjust the policy if the situation changes.

Before Cuomo’s announcement, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran on Sunday said she is hopeful local schools can host outdoor graduation ceremonies for high school seniors during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“We are really pushing to have outdoor graduations for our seniors,” she said. “I’m speaking to school officials who have very good plans on how we can do this.”

Three people in Nassau County died of coronavirus Saturday and 56 new cases were reported, Curran said. The county had recorded zero deaths for the first time in 81 days on Friday. Nassau and Suffolk begin Phase 2 of the reopening on Wednesday, for retail, barbershops and hair salons, real estate, office jobs and administrative work. 

Watch Gov. Cuomo's live press briefing

Saturday updates

Bellone welcomes Gov's decision on houses of worship
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone welcomed the news Saturday that houses of worship can open at 25% capacity under Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plans.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced the news at a briefing earlier in the day. Long Island is set to advance into Phase 2 on Wednesday.
“It is a good time, an important time for our faith-based communities…to be opening back up and having people be able to go back and to practice their faith and to pray,” Bellone said.
Bellone said he believes houses of worship can open at 25% capacity safely.
Asked whether the governor’s decision also applies to community groups that use houses of worship, Bellone said he believes it is only for religious services but will have to see what the guidance is. – NEWSDAY STAFF

Curran: No deaths in Nassau from COVID-19
For the first time in 81 days, Nassau saw no deaths Friday due to the coronavirus,  County Executive Laura Curran said Saturday.
“Very, very good news,” Curran said at her daily coronavirus briefing.
She wants malls to reopen as part of phase two, which begins Wednesday on Long Island, she said. She has asked Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to include this in his plan.
“Malls are iconic here in Nassau, County” Curran said, noting that "they're an integral part of our economy."
She applauded the governor’s announcement Saturday that houses of worship can open to 25% capacity under phase 2.
She also thanked Cuomo for approving in-person special education on Friday.
 On other numbers, Curran said hospitalizations fell 19 to 182 and, of the 5,533 people tested for the virus, only 1% were positive.
-- Newsday staff

Watch Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone's Saturday briefing:

Watch Nassau County Executive Laura Curran's Saturday briefing:

Cuomo: Houses of worship can open at 25% occupancy in Phase Two

Houses of worship can open with 25% occupancy for regions in Phase Two of the state's reopening plan, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Saturday.
The news comes as Cuomo said the state saw its lowest daily death toll from the coronavirus to date — 35 people.
“This is an acceleration for us because we’re doing so well on the metrics," Cuomo said.
Cuomo said worshippers must social distance. - NEWSDAY STAFF

Watch Governor Cuomo's Saturday briefing:

Friday afternoon updates

LIRR back to 90% capacity on Monday

The Long Island Rail Road will provide about 50 additional trains on Monday, bringing its schedule back to about 90% of a typical weekday, as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority works to restore most regular weekday service.

The LIRR will reopen ticket offices at Penn Station, Jamaica and Atlantic Terminal, as well as its Penn Station lost and found office. Off-peak fares will remain in effect and summer travel packages are not being offered.

The railroad is also deploying 85 station ambassadors throughout its system, including at 27 stations in Nassau and Suffolk, to assist riders and help monitor social-distancing efforts. There will also be increased MTA Police presence throughout LIRR stations and on trains, although they have been directed “no make no arrests related to masks and crowding,” according to the railroad.

MTA chairman Patrick Foye unveiled a “13-point action plan for a safe return” that included already-established measures, like intensified disinfecting efforts and contactless fare payments, as well as new initiatives, like the distribution of up to 2 million face masks for riders without them, floor markings at stations, and a “data dashboard” that will provide real-time information and allow customers to “make empowered choices about their commutes.” — ALFONSO A. CASTILLO

Watch Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone's press briefing

COVID-19 patients declining at Northwell

Northwell Health said Friday its patient count from COVID-19 is down to 465 at the 19 hospitals it owns and operates, a drop of 19% since Monday.

The hospital network is also down 86% from the peak of around 3,400 in April.

Northwell said 14 patients were admitted for COVID-19 over the last 24 hours, essentially the same number of admissions it’s reported daily. - DAVID REICH-HALE

LIRR to ramp up weekday service

The Long Island Rail Road plans to restore about 90% of its normal weekday schedule on Monday, as public transportation providers in the region gear up for New York City entering the first phase of reopening. The LIRR had reduced train frequency by about 30%, since late March.

LIRR President Phillip Eng said the railroad will continue to charge off-peak fares for the time being.

“We’re going to monitor ridership, and we’ll see when we need to go back to peak fares,” Eng said. “We want them to know that, if you come on our trains, people are wearing masks, that we are disinfecting, and that we’re doing everything we can to give them a comfortable ride.”

New York City Transit Interim President Sarah Feinberg said city buses and subways will be back at about 95% strength on Monday, and closer to normal by Tuesday. Feinberg rejected suggestions by Mayor Bill de Blasio that the MTA should consider skipping some subway stops to minimize crowding.

“We don't pick and choose, and we don't say some people can use the system and others can't,” Feinberg told 1010 WINS radio Friday morning.

The Nassau Inter-County Express, or NICE Bus, also announced plans to return to regular service beginning Sunday, after operating on a weekend schedule on most routes since early April. — ALFONSO A. CASTILLO

Watch President Donald Trump's press briefing

Watch Gov. Andrew Cuomo's press briefing

Watch Nassau County Executive Laura Curran's press briefing

Curran: Percentage of positive COVID-19 tests continues to decline
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran on Friday said the percentage of people testing positive for the novel coronavirus continues to decline, as officials prepare to manage gatherings of thousands for what will be a sixth night of protests in the county.

Curran said two new deaths can be attributed to COVID-19 and 201 people are still being treated for the disease in the county’s 11 hospitals. Of the 5,104 viral test results returned, 69 were positive.

“The percentage of those testing positive has been consistently under 2% here in Nassau County for more than a week,” Curran said. “An incredible difference from just a month ago when we saw 300 to 400 new cases every day, or two months ago when we were seeing over a thousand new cases every day.”

Curran talked about her concerns about the impact the shutdown is having on the local economy. “Long Island is still struggling from the financial impact of COVID-19. …We have to get our economy going now,” Curran said.

“As Long Island demonstrates huge progress, I believe we can accelerate reopening,” Curran said.  – CANDICE FERRETTE

Cuomo: Lowest number of COVID-19 deaths to date
The statewide toll of people lost to COVID-19 Thursday was 42, the “lowest number of deaths since we started eight weeks ago” when the number of fatalities was 800, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Friday.

The state also had the lowest number of hospitalizations to date, Cuomo said.

At his news briefing Friday, Cuomo commended the progress made on the coronavirus pandemic since the beginning of the crisis.

The people of the state “radically changed how they behaved,” the governor said. “Look at that progress” from eight weeks ago.

Referring to the pandemic and the civil unrest following George Floyd’s death, Cuomo said, “It’s a dangerous combination of colliding crises compounding each other.”

“Our job is to address this reality” and “learn from what we just went through” with the pandemic, Cuomo said. While the crisis was a public health and economic issue, Cuomo said, “more than anything it was a social issue.” - NEWSDAY STAFF

Friday morning updates

De Blasio: Protesters should get tested for the coronavirus
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday “strongly” urged those protesting the death of George Floyd, who died while in police custody in Minneapolis, to get tested for the coronavirus.

“It is dangerous to be close together,” de Blasio said.

De Blasio also announced that the city would start free, mobile coronavirus testing next week.

Trucks will be in the Soundview section of the Bronx on Tuesday and Wednesday, and in Kew Gardens on Thursday, according to a slide presented during the briefing. The city will ramp up to 10 trucks by July. – NEWSDAY STAFF

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