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Coronavirus on Long Island: Updates for May 26

Healthcare workers conduct coronavirus testing in the parking

Healthcare workers conduct coronavirus testing in the parking lot of the Brentwood Recreation Center on Tuesday. Credit: James Carbone

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

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Officials: LI courts to reopen Friday

Long Island courts will begin to take their first steps towards reopening to the public on Friday, state judicial officials announced, but visitors will be required to undergo coronavirus screening before entering courthouses. 

Visitors and staff will also be required to wear masks, the officials said Tuesday. Courtrooms and other areas will be marked to ensure proper distancing. 

"With guidance from public health officials, plans to safely resume more normalized court operations have been ongoing," officials said in a news release.

Courts had limited operations for the past two and a half months in order to restrict courthouse traffic and contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Court officials said will begin taking steps this week to normalize operations on Long Island after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo gave the green light for Suffolk and Nassau reopen their economies.

Courts in Duchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland and Westchester will begin the reopening process on Wednesday, followed by Ulster and Sullivan on Thursday. Courts in other parts of the state began the process earlier this month. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio have said New York City would not begin to reopen its economy until mid-June. — MICHAEL O'KEEFFE

Bellone: County on track to start Phase One Wednesday

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said he remains confident that the county will reopen Wednesday, meeting all seven of the necessary metrics, after 80 days in shutdown mode.

The last two categories the county had to meet the metric in were a steadily declining death rate and having enough contact tracers to track those who may have been exposed to COVID-19.

The reopening means Phase One is due to go forward, allowing for construction, forestry, hunting and other activities to begin again.

Another 11 people died of the virus in the last 24 hours and Bellone said the county had identified 1,368 employees who can serve as contact tracers.

Hospitalizations continued to go down with another 20 people being discharged overnight and hospitality capacity for those being treated for the virus coming down to 64% in general and 59% for ICU beds.

There are now 335 people in the county in hospitals for the virus, he said, a decrease of eight.

He cautioned that it was critical for businesses to follow the county's reopening guidelines, which are available on the county's website, to avoid a second spike of cases. — NEWSDAY STAFF

Watch Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone's update:

LIRR adding to capacity for reopening

With word of Long Island's reopening, the LIRR announced plans Tuesday to bolster capacity on trains, which have been running on a reduced schedule since March. The Long Island Rail Road said it is adding 105 cars to its existing schedule of trains, bringing the total number of cars in operation to more than 800 — an increase of 15%.

The railroad also said it has another 105 cars positioned at yards across its system that can be put into service at a moment's notice to further supplement its fleet. LIRR ridership has been down by more than 90% for most of the last two months.

"We continue to monitor ridership and make adjustments as necessary," LIRR president Phillip Eng said. "MTA Essential Service continues to be for essential customers at this time, and everyone who travels with us is required to wear a face mask. We all need to do our part to keep each other healthy and safe." — ALFONSO CASTILLO

Curran confident in COVID-19 contact-tracing capacity

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said the county continues to add coronavirus contact tracers — it has nearly 750 of them, she said — as Long Island prepares to reopen Wednesday.

Regions need a certain number of tracers in place, one of seven metrics to be met to begin reopening their economies in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nassau and Suffolk together make up the Long Island Region.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced earlier Tuesday that the region will reopen Wednesday, which Curran called "great news."

Curran also said the county will be using state software starting Wednesday to help with tracing efforts.

County Health Commissioner Lawrence Eisenstein said tracing has been supplemented with partnerships of medical, nursing and public health schools.

Curran also said antibody testing will begin later this week at four community clinics — Freeport, Hempstead, Elmont and Westbury — to help track those who have been exposed to the virus. Routine viral testing continues at those clinics.

Those seeking to be tested should call 516-396-7500 to make an appointment. — NEWSDAY STAFF

Watch Nassau County Executive Laura Curran's briefing:

Tuesday morning updates

Cuomo: 'LI will open tomorrow'

Long Island can start reopening parts of its economy Wednesday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Tuesday.

"Long Island will open tomorrow," Cuomo said.

The Island can begin its Phase 1 reopening, which includes construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting as well as retail limited to curbside or in-store pickup.

The mid-Hudson region started reopening Tuesday.

The state will now focus on reopening New York City, which Cuomo said still needs to get its number of contact tracers up and online.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said earlier in the day that more than 1,700 contact tracers have been hired and they will be trained and ready to be deployed by June 1.

Cuomo also stressed the need to stimulate the economy and urged fast-tracking construction of the new LaGuardia Airport and the Second Avenue subway expansion project. Additionally, the governor urged increasing low-cost renewable power downstate and production upstate by building new cross-state transmission cables.

Cuomo said he will meet with President Donald Trump on Wednesday to discuss reopening and jumpstarting the economy. — NEWSDAY STAFF

Watch Gov. Andrew Cuomo's briefing:

Northwell: Just 3 virus deaths over last 24 hours

The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients, as well as admissions and deaths from the virus, continues to decline at Northwell Health. The health care system said Tuesday it had 669 COVID-19 patients, down nearly 25% from the same period a week ago. 

The largest health system in the state said it recorded six deaths over the last 24 hours at its 19 hospitals. Three of those deaths were on Long Island. A week ago, Northwell had 11 deaths, 10 of which were on Long Island. Another bright sign: Northwell had 13 COVID-19 admissions at its 19 hospitals. 

"We've had hospitals with no admissions at all," said Terry Lynam, a Northwell spokesman. "The numbers are very promising."

Lynam added that "you wonder what will happen over the next few days, after a holiday weekend. The numbers over the next few days will be interesting." — DAVID REICH-HALE

De Blasio: NYC preparing for Phase 1 reopening

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday that New York City is building up its contact tracing operation and preparing for an expected increase in people using public transportation when the city's economy reopens.

City officials had set a goal of 1,000 tracers by June 1. De Blasio said that over 1,700 tracers have been hired, and they will be trained and ready to be deployed by the beginning of next month.

De Blasio said the city is preparing for the economy to start reopening in the first half of June.

Reopening the state's economy is based on several metrics, including decline in total coronavirus hospitalizations and contact tracing capacity. Once a region meets those metrics, it can begin a Phase 1 reopening, which includes construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting as well as retail limited to curbside or in-store pickup.

De Blasio said city officials are getting the necessary enforcement, support and protocols in place for a reopening. He said they are also working with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to prepare for more commuters using the subways and buses to get to work. — NEWSDAY STAFF

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