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Coronavirus on Long Island: Updates for May 20

A security guard walks near the COVID-19 testing

A security guard walks near the COVID-19 testing tent at the South Ocean Care Family Health Center in Freeport on Tuesday.  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:

Wednesday evening updates

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Watch Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone's live press briefing

Wednesday afternoon updates

Bellone announces Suffolk will ask state for tax relief for those impacted by virus

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone announced that local and county officials had unanimously developed a proposal to ask the state for a 45-day extension on the payment of property taxes.

Bellone said the extension would be available to homeowners who have experienced at least a 25% loss in their income and businesses of a certain size that have lost at least 50% of their income as a result of the shutdown prompted by the coronavirus pandemic.

“This provides more time,” Bellone said on a conference call with officials from a working group of town, school, fire, and other governmental districts looking at the economic impact of COVID-19.

The extension, which must come in the form of an executive order from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, would also waive penalties and fees as long as the taxes were paid by  July 15.


Nassau lawmakers vote to limit access at Nickerson

 Nassau County legislators approved an emergency ordinance on Wednesday to temporarily restrict access to Nickerson Beach to county residents for as long as New York City beaches are closed.
The Republican-sponsored bill passed 18-1, with Legis. Carrié Solages (D-Valley Stream) voting no.

Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) warned that city residents traveling to Nassau, "would overwhelm our beaches — not only our beaches but our barrier island roads. With limited capacity and the possibility of large numbers of individuals trying to access Nassau County beaches it makes for a potentially chaotic and catastrophic situation."

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, a Democrat, said she expected to sign the legislation Wednesday.

Watch Nassau County Executive Laura Curran’s press briefing:

Cuomo: Some religious gatherings can resume

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said at his daily news briefing Wednesday that some religious gatherings will be able to resume in New York State on Thursday.

The governor said groups of up to 10 people will be allowed to gather for religious events if they wear masks and maintain the appropriate social distancing.

Cuomo said he understands that faith leaders have a “desire to get back to religious ceremonies as soon as possible.” He said the state is also convening the Interfaith Advisory Council to discuss proposals to safely bring back religious services. – NEWSDAY STAFF


Cuomo: State to ramp up testing in minority and low-income neighborhoods

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Wednesday that the state will expand testing sites in predominately minority neighborhoods after early results of an antibody test show those and lower-income neighborhoods are suffering the most from COVID-19.

Cuomo said Northwell Health and faith-based communities partnered to administer antibody tests, and results from 8,000 of them show “very powerful” data. “You tell me the ZIP codes” that have the most minorities in the community, and they point to higher numbers of those affected by COVID-19, the governor said.

Cuomo said the state is doubling the Northwell Health testing program to 44 churches in impacted communities. He said New York is also partnering with SOMOS Community Care to establish 28 testing sites at churches and community-based providers in predominately minority neighborhoods.

While Cuomo said that hospitalizations, new cases and intubations again declined statewide, the number of deaths Tuesday, 112, is “still painfully high.”

Cuomo also reiterated the effectiveness of wearing a mask, showing infection-rate statistics of front-line workers that compare favorably with the general population’s. “It’s amazing how effective that mask actually is,” he said. – NEWSDAY STAFF

Watch Gov. Andrew Cuomo's press briefing:

St. Joseph’s freezes tuition

St. Joseph’s College, a private institution with campuses in Patchogue and Brooklyn, announced this week it would freeze its tuition rate of $14,950 per full-time semester for the 2020-21.

The college said the decision was made in light of the financial burdens students and their families may have faced from the pandemic.

“We recognize that this step is a serious one, as costs incurred by the institution to prepare and support the current modes of remote learning will be quite high,” St. Joseph’s College President Donald Boomgaarden said. “Even so, I felt strongly, and our board of trustees agreed, that we must consider the gravity of the crisis for our entire region when making decisions about the future.” – CATHERINE CARRERA

Northwell reports slight drop in deaths
Northwell Health on Wednesday said it had eight deaths at Long Island hospitals over the last 24 hours, down from 10 deaths the 24 hours prior.  

The death rate has been in decline for the better part of a month. Its highest one-day death total was 92 on April 14.

For the Long Island region to fully reopen, it needs to hit the state dashboard's hospital deaths metric. To do so, the region must experience 14 days of declining hospital deaths or an average of five deaths or fewer per day over the most recent three days of data.

According to the most recent state data, Long Island had six days of declining hospital deaths and an average of 13 hospital deaths per day over the past three days. The state is expected to update this metric Wednesday afternoon.

Northwell continues to report a drop in COVID-19 patients at its health system: It had 842 coronavirus patients at its 19 hospitals across the region, a 19% drop from the same period a week ago.

At North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, the number of COVID-19 patients has dropped by more than 60% from the peak, to 140, Northwell said. About 70% of patients at North Shore are not COVID-19 patients, said Dr. Michael Gitman, medical director at the hospital. 

"The number of COVID patients at our hospital has dropped to four or five per day," he said. – DAVID REICH-HALE

NYC to offer coronavirus tests to nursing homes; child vaccination rate down
Starting next week, free coronavirus tests will be made available to all 169 nursing homes in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday.

The city will also provide more staff to help fill any shortages that arise if nursing home employees test positive for the virus and cannot work, de Blasio said.

The tests and additional staff are part of a four-part plan announced by the mayor to address the needs of seniors in the city.

De Blasio said outbreak response teams lead by an epidemiologist have also been created. And looking long term, the mayor said there would be an effort to shift to more home-based care for seniors, which he said would offer less chance of exposure to the coronavirus.

The mayor also urged parents on Wednesday to get their children vaccinated. The vaccination rate for children two years and younger has dropped by 42%. For kids older than two, the rate has dropped by 91%, he said. – NEWSDAY STAFF

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