This story was reported by Lisa L. Colangelo, Bart Jones, Victor Ocasio, Tory N. Parrish and John Valenti. It was written by Jones.
The Stony Brook Medicine health care system began allowing visitors back at their hospitals on a limited basis starting Tuesday, officials said, as New York State prepares a major easing of pandemic restrictions later this month and rates of COVID-19 continue to drop.
Still, some local businesses said the loosening of restrictions ordered by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Monday likely will not cause them to alter current policies.
Hospital visits were banned in the early days of the pandemic in an effort to stop spread of the disease.
Under the new guidelines, Stony Brook Medicine officials said one visitor over the age of 18 will be allowed to go to the inpatient units from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. or 4 to 6 p.m. Visitors must follow all safety protocols set by the hospital.
"We know visitors and loved ones play an essential role in the healing and recovery process of our patients, and we look forward to welcoming them once again," Stony Brook Medicine officials said in a statement
What to know
The Stony Brook Medicine health care system starts allowing visitors at their hospitals on a limited basis on Tuesday.
Some local businesses say the loosening of state restrictions that starts on Monday will not cause them to alter current policies to prevent coronavirus spread.
COVID-19 indicators continue to fall in New York, falling 1.76% on a seven-day average for positivity from Monday test results, the lowest level since Nov. 5.
The change in policy at Stony Brook comes after Cuomo announced an easing of pandemic restriction guidelines in the tristate area, ending many capacity limitations by May 19 while maintaining the 6-foot social distancing rule.
The move could mean a more robust return of New Yorkers to restaurants, museums, theaters, Broadway, retail, shops and offices, though some business operations may experience delays in returning to normal, Cuomo said on Monday.
COVID positivity continues to decline
The statewide seven-day average for positivity in 96,747 test results from Monday was 1.76%, the lowest figure since Nov. 5, according to state data. The level on Long Island was 1.74%, while New York City registered 1.65%.
There were 132 new confirmed cases in Nassau County, 148 in Suffolk County and 832 in New York City.
Statewide, 39 people died Monday of causes related to the virus, including three in Nassau and one in Suffolk.
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said Tuesday that coronavirus hospitalizations in the county have declined by 63%, crediting vaccinations for the sustained progress.
"Let’s keep getting shots into arms so we can save more lives and get back to normal," she said in a statement.
According to state figures from Tuesday, 54% of Nassau residents had gotten at least one dose of vaccine, while 48% of Suffolk's population had done so.
Cuomo said the increasing number of New Yorkers getting vaccinated is helping the state to control the virus, but mitigation measures must still be followed such as wearing masks and socially distancing.
Some businesses observe own limits
After the capacity restrictions on businesses are lifted May 19, Target will keep in place its own capacity limits, which are lower than those under the state’s COVID-19 restrictions.
"On average, our stores are operating at less than 20 percent of their total capacity, and our capacity limits account for the CDC’s social distancing guidance of giving others 6 feet of space. Every store has a slightly different capacity based on its size, and we’ll continue to follow any local government mandates," said a spokesman for Target Corp., which is headquartered in Minneapolis.
Liz Uzzo, chief human resource officer at Melville-based H2M architects + engineers, said the loosening of occupancy restrictions was unlikely to impact her business operations. The firm has already moved toward a flexible schedule.
"We’ve developed a flexibility policy," said Uzzo, whose firm has slowly brought workers back into the office since last summer. "It’s not like a standard. It’s really what works for the individual and the department manager."
While offices in the state will be moving from 50% to 75% capacity on May 15, Uzzo said a balance between fully remote, partially remote and fully on-site workers will continue at her firm. Even workers who are currently in the office are given much more leeway to come up with work arrangements that work for their departments.
Pointing to issues like access to child care, Uzzo said it’s important that H2M accommodate employees when they can to help keep talented folks in their ranks and prevent employees — especially women with young children — from having to make a "sacrifice" between career building and handling parenting responsibilities.
"I don’t want anyone to have to make that choice," she said. "We have to be able to be nimble. We want to keep qualified staff around."
Seven Brothers Gourmet, a family-owned grocery store in Oceanside that specializes in Italian groceries and prepared foods, will continue to operate under the 50% capacity limit it had been observing, said Anthony Fiorito, who co-owns the business his father founded.
"Seven Brothers will continue to keep capacity limits for the time being. Our utmost priority is our customers’ well-being and providing a comfortable shopping experience. We will continuously review the capacity limits and adjust accordingly," he said.
Because of the capacity limits, there are times when customers wait outside in line, particularly on busy weekends.
Like Seven Brothers Gourmet, Uncle Giuseppe’s Marketplace also will continue to operate under the 50% capacity limits.
"It’s about keeping the customers and the team members safe," said Adam Giovia, vice president of operations and chief administrative officer for Melville-based Uncle Giuseppe’s, a high-end Italian grocer whose nine stores include seven on Long Island.
On busy weekends, lines of customers sometimes form outside the stores. As 10 customers leave, 10 more are allowed to enter, Giovia said.
"Our managers make those calls," he said.
Broadway Commons will return to operating at full capacity in the common areas after the restrictions are lifted, but the Hicksville mall’s retailers will decide their own store capacities, said a spokeswoman for the mall, which is owned by El Segundo, California-based Pacific Retail Capital Partners.
Pacific’s three malls in New York state, including Colonie Center in Albany and Galleria White Plains in White Plains, "will be complying with CDC guidelines and recommendations. We will continue to encourage all guests to wear face coverings and maintain social distancing," the company said in a statement.
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