NY AREAS ‘RACING TO BE PREPARED’ FOR PEAK OUTBREAK

SUFFOLK COUNTY CASES INCREASE BY 1,000 IN 24 HOURS

COUNTY EXECUTIVE STEVE BELLONE:

“IF WE GET MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY TO COME TO LONG ISLAND, THEY WILL SAVE LIVES”

“IT’S A WAR. THE FIGHT NOW IS ABOUT SAVING LIVES”

“THINGS WILL GET TOUGHER BEFORE THEY GET BETTER”

CALLS ON FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TO MARSHAL RESOURCES LIKE VENTILATORS AND PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT

Long Island is bracing itself for a difficult month as cases of COVID-19 continue to rise exponentially. Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone says the situation will only get worse before it gets better, and calls on the federal government to do more to provide the critical supplies needed to fight the “war” against the virus. Bellone says that while hospital capacity is being increased, there is still an urgent need for medical professionals to staff the hospitals. The County Executive also talks about some of the unique challenges posed by the current crisis on the seasonal communities on the eastern tip of Long Island, as well as the impact on Suffolk County’s immigrant community.

Aired on April 2, 2020. 

TRANSCRIPT

> GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

I'M RAFAEL PI ROMAN.

IN ONE OF HIS MOST SOBERING ASSESSMENTS YET, PRESIDENT TRUMP IS WARNING AMERICANS TO BRACE THEMSELVES FOR SOME TOUGH WEEKS AHEAD AS THE GOVERNMENT PREDICTS THAT COVID-19 COULD KILL BETWEEN 100 AND 240,000 PEOPLE ACROSS THE COUNTRY.

IN LONG ISLAND OFFICIALS ARE PREPARING FOR A SURGE IN CORONAVIRUS CASES THAT COULD PUSH ALREADY STRAINED RESOURCES TO THE BREAKING POINT.

JOINING US TO TALK ABOUT THOSE PREPARATIONS AND THE CHALLENGES AHEAD, SUFFOLK COUNTY EXECUTIVE STEVEN BELLONE.

STEVE, WELCOME TO THE PROGRAM.

THANK YOU FOR JOINING US TODAY.

THANK YOU, RAFAEL, GOOD TO BE WITH YOU.

STEVE, LET ME START WITH THIS.

HOW IS THE COVID-19 SITUATION IN SUFFOLK COUNTY AS WE SPEAK AND WE'RE TALKING ON THE EVENING OF APRIL 1st.

APRIL IS A TIME OF OPTIMISM.

THE WARM MONTHS ARE COMING, FLOWERS BLOOMING, PEOPLE THINKING ABOUT GRADUATIONS AND SUMMERTIME, ALL THE WONDERFUL THINGS WE LOVE ABOUT LONG ISLAND, BUT THAT'S NOT WHAT WE'RE THINKING ABOUT TODAY.

TODAY IS FAR DIFFERENT THAN ANYTHING WE'VE EVER EXPERIENCED.

TODAY WE'RE THINKING ABOUT THE FIGHT THAT IS AHEAD.

IT HAS BEEN CHARACTERIZED AS A WAR.

I THINK THAT IS AN ACCURATE DESCRIPTION.

IT IS A WAR, AND THE FIGHT IS ABOUT TRYING TO SAVE LIVES.

HOW MANY LIVES CAN WE SAVE HERE.

EVERYBODY HAS A ROLE TO PLAY IN THAT.

I THINK THAT'S VERY SIGNIFICANT.

THERE ARE PEOPLE ON THE FRONT LINES OF THAT WAR, THE HEALTH CARE WORKERS PARTICULARLY, WHO ARE RIGHT NOW, AS WE SPEAK, ARE WORKING TO SAVE PATIENTS' LIVES DESPERATELY.

BUT EVERYBODY HAS A ROLE TO PLAY.

THAT'S SOCIAL DISTANCING AND FOLLOWING THE GUIDELINES.

THAT'S IMPORTANT BECAUSE WHEN YOU DO THAT, YOU DEPRESS THE CURVE AND YOU CAN HELP THOSE HEALTH CARE WORKERS WHO ARE WORKING RIGHT NOW.

BUT THIS IS -- WHAT WE'RE LOOKING AT AS WE BEGIN APRIL IS IN STARK CONTRAST TO WHERE WE STARTED THE MONTH PRIOR.

MARCH 1st, LIFE WAS NORMAL HERE.

WE DIDN'T GET OUR FIRST CASE IN SUFFOLK COUNTY UNTIL MARCH 8th.

WE DIDN'T REPORT OUR FIRST DEATH IN SUFFOLK COUNTY UNTIL MARCH 16th.

APRIL 1st, I CONFIRMED TODAY WE HAVE A TOTAL NOW OF 69 DEATHS, 25 IN THE LAST 48 HOURS.

THOSE NUMBERS JUST GIVE YOU A SENSE OF THE TRAJECTORY OF THIS THING, WHERE IT IS HEADED AND WHY THINGS ARE GOING TO GET MUCH TOUGHER BEFORE THEY CAN GET BETTER.

BUT THAT IS THE THING.

WE ALL HAVE A ROLE TO PLAY IN MAKING IT GET BETTER QUICKER.

WE'LL GET TO THAT IN ONE SECOND.

HOW ARE YOUR HOSPITALS HOLDING OUT?

DO YOU HAVE THE NUMBER OF VENTILATORS AND PROTECTIVE GEAR FOR THE HEALTH WORKERS ON THE FRONT LINES THAT YOU THINK YOU'LL NEED WHEN THE APEX OF THE VIRUS COMES TO YOUR COUNTY?

NO, THEY DO NOT HAVE ENOUGH SUPPLIES.

THEY DO NOT HAVE ENOUGH VENTILATORS.

THAT HAS BEEN CLEAR.

THE GOVERNOR HAS BEEN TALKING ABOUT THIS EVERY DAY.

I'LL GO BACK TO THE WAR METAPHOR THAT HAS BEEN USED.

AGAIN, I THINK THAT'S APPROPRIATE.

I THINK THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT IS HAPPENING HERE.

BUT WHEN YOU FIGHT A WAR, YOU DON'T DO IT COUNTY BY COUNTY OR EVEN STATE BY STATE.

YOU FIGHT A WAR AS A NATION, AND WE NEED THAT NATIONAL EFFORT TO MARSHAL THE RESOURCES, GET THE SUPPLIES AND THE EQUIPMENT AND THE STAFFING THAT IS NECESSARY FOR FIGHTING THE BATTLE WHERE IT IS HAPPENING NOW.

THAT IS IN NEW YORK.

IT IS ON LONG ISLAND.

QUITE FRANKLY, IT'S WONDERFUL THAT FORD IS GOING TO BE MAKING TENS OF THOUSANDS OF VENTILATORS.

THAT'S GOING TO BE GREAT.

IT'S GOING TO HELP A LOT OF PLACES, BUT IT'S NOT GOING TO HELP NEW YORK.

WE NEED A NATIONAL EFFORT TO BRING THE SUPPLIES AND THE EQUIPMENT FROM OTHER PARTS OF THE COUNTRY TO NEW YORK WHERE IT'S NEEDED.

AND THE SAME THING WITH STAFFING.

THE GOVERNOR PUT OUT A CALL FOR MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS ACROSS THE COUNTRY TO COME TO NEW YORK TO WORK WITH US, AND NEW YORK WILL RETURN THE FAVOR.

I WILL TELL YOU THIS, IF WE GET HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONALS FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY TO COME TO LONG ISLAND, THEY WILL HELP SAVE LIVES, NO DOUBT ABOUT IT.

LET'S GO BACK TO THE POINT WE'RE MAKING.

I'M HEARING THAT YOU DON'T THINK THAT SUFFOLK COUNTY AS WELL AS NEW YORK STATE AS A WHOLE IS GETTING SUFFICIENT HELP FROM THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT?

AM I RIGHT?

AM I HEARING RIGHT?

I THINK THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT NEEDS TO MARSHAL THE SUPPLIES AND EQUIPMENT THAT EXIST AROUND THE COUNTRY IN THOSE AREAS THAT HAVE NOT BEEN HARD HIT YET AND DELIVER THOSE SUPPLIES TO NEW YORK.

I ABSOLUTELY BELIEVE THAT.

HOW ABOUT THE STATE?

THE STATE AND GOVERNOR CUOMO GIVING YOU ALL THE ASSISTANCE THAT YOU NEED TO THE DEGREE THAT THEY HAVE IT?

I THINK THE GOVERNOR HAS DONE AN INCREDIBLE JOB HERE.

I HONESTLY BELIEVE HE'S GIVING A MASTER CLASS ON CRISIS MANAGEMENT, THIS IS WHAT YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO DO WHEN YOU LEAD, IDENTIFY THE PROBLEM, BE TRANSPARENT ABOUT IT AND DO EVERYTHING YOU CAN TO MARSHAL ALL THE RESOURCES TO FIGHT THAT CHALLENGE, AND THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT HE'S DOING.

WE'RE BASICALLY BUILDING ANOTHER HOSPITAL HERE IN TERMS OF BED CAPACITY.

AT STONY BROOK UNIVERSITY, THE ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS, ALL THE RESOURCES GOING INTO BUILDING OUT THE HOSPITAL CAPACITY, THAT'S BEEN TERRIFIC AND THE GOVERNOR HAS BEEN LEADING THE EFFORT.

WE'RE DOING EVERYTHING WE CAN TO SUPPORT THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE STATE'S BATTLE PLAN AND WORKING WITH THE HOSPITALS TO SUPPORT THEIR EXPANSION AND EFFORTS AS WELL.

BY THE WAY, THE GOVERNOR NOW BELIEVES THE SURGE WILL COME AT THE END OF APRIL, APRIL 30th.

DO YOU BELIEVE THAT'S MORE OR LESS WHEN THE SURGE WILL COME TO SUFFOLK COUNTY?

IT'S HARD TO TELL EXACTLY.

I'VE ALWAYS THOUGHT WE'RE A LITTLE BEHIND NEW YORK CITY, MAYBE A WEEK, MAYBE TWO.

IT'S HARD TO SAY.

WHAT I CAN TELL YOU IS WE LOOK AT THE NUMBERS EVERY DAY ON HOSPITALIZATIONS, COVID-19 PATIENTS BEING HOSPITALIZED, AND THOSE NUMBERS GO UP EVERY DAY.

WE'VE BEEN TRACKING OVER THE LAST FOUR OR FIVE DAYS, ABOUT 100 NET INCREASE EVERY DAY.

OVER THE LAST 24 HOURS WE'VE SEEN A JUMP OF ABOUT 200.

SO THE NUMBERS CONTINUE TO RISE.

SO WHAT UNIQUE CHALLENGES OR CONCERNS ARE YOU FACING IN SUFFOLK COUNTY DID YOU THINK MIGHT BE A LITTLE DIFFERENT THAN WHAT THE REST OF THE STATE IS FACING?

I THINK MANY OF THE CHALLENGES ARE SIMILAR.

IT'S ABOUT EXPANDING THE CAPACITY.

THE PHYSICAL SPACE, AS CHALLENGING AS THAT IS, BUILDING A NEW SYSTEM IN A WEEK'S TIME ISN'T THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE.

THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE IS GETTING THE EQUIPMENT, SUPPLIES AND STAFFING THAT'S NECESSARY.

ONE OF THE CHALLENGES WE HAVE FACED HERE IN SUFFOLK COUNTY IS WE HAVE A LARGE IMMIGRANT COMMUNITY, AND THIS IS ALWAYS A DIFFICULT COMMUNICATE WITH COMMUNITY.

WE'VE SEEN IN THOSE AREAS HIGHER NUMBERS THAN ELSEWHERE.

SO WE'RE DOING A NUMBER OF DIFFERENT THINGS TO TRY TO GET THE MESSAGING ACROSS TO THAT COMMUNITY, THAT SOMETIMES HAS MORE DENSE POPULATION THAN OTHER AREAS OF THE COUNTY AS WELL, SO THAT CREATES ADDITIONAL CHALLENGES.

SO WE'RE WORKING WITH THE SUFFOLK COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT, OUR SPANISH-SPEAKING OFFICERS, TO GO INTO THOSE COMMUNITIES, TO DEAL WITH BUSINESSES DIRECTLY THERE AND GIVE THE MESSAGING ABOUT STAYING HOME, ISOLATING, WASHING HANDS, ALL THE MESSAGING WE'VE BEEN DELIVERING ACROSS THE COUNTY, BUT REALLY TRYING TO HONE IN ON THAT HARD-TO-REACH SEGMENT OF THE POPULATION.

ARE THERE RESIDENTS FROM THE NEW YORK METROPOLITAN AREA THAT HAVE CHOSEN TO RIDE OUT THE VIRUS IN PARTS OF YOUR COUNTY?

AND IF SO, HAS THAT BEEN A PARTICULAR CHALLENGE?

IT HAS PRESENTED SOME CHALLENGES, OF COURSE.

THEY'RE HOMEOWNERS HERE AND PART OF OUR FAMILY AS WELL.

WE ENCOURAGE TO THE EXTENT POSSIBLE FOR PEOPLE TO STAY WHERE THEY ARE.

THE RESOURCES ON THE EAST END OR ON FIRE ISLAND, FOR INSTANCE, THEY'RE NOT THERE IN THE OFF SEASON.

THE STAFFING IS NOT THERE.

THE RESOURCES -- I'LL GIVE YOU AN EXAMPLE.

GROCERY STORES.

THE GROCERY STORES OUT THERE AND SUPER MARKETS, THEY'VE STOCKED THE SHELVES WITH A SUPPLY THAT'S BASICALLY FOR THE END OF WINTER, BEGINNING OF SPRING-TYPE NUMBERS.

THEY ARE NOT STOCKING IT FOR THE SEASON.

THEY CERTAINLY HAVEN'T STOCKED IT FOR A GLOBAL PANDEMIC.

YOU'VE SEEN A LOT OF SHORTAGES OUT THERE.

THAT'S JUST ONE EXAMPLE OF THE CHALLENGES THAT THAT PRESENTS.

IN THE SUMMERTIME, THEY'RE STAFFED UP AND READY, THEY'RE RESOURCED.

THE SUPPLIES ARE THERE.

YOU KNOW IT.

IT'S EXPECTED.

MUCH MORE OF A CHALLENGE NOW.

THAT'S WHY WE'VE ENCOURAGED TO THE EXTENT POSSIBLE PEOPLE TO STAY IN PLACE WHERE THEY ARE AS WE GO THROUGH THIS CRISIS PERIOD.

YOU TOUCHED UPON THIS EARLIER.

ARE RESIDENTS GENERALLY FOLLOWING THE SOCIAL DISTANCING GUIDELINES?

I THINK FOR THE MOST PART WE HAVE SEEN MAJOR COMPLIANCE.

WE HAVE TO REMEMBER, THIS IS SOMETHING THAT HAS TURNED PEOPLE'S LIVES UPSIDE DOWN.

WE DID NOT EXPECT THIS TO HAPPEN.

WE'VE NEVER BEEN THROUGH ANYTHING LIKE THIS.

GIVEN ALL THAT, I WOULD SAY RESIDENTS HAVE DONE A GREAT JOB RESPONDING.

HAVING SAID THAT, THERE ARE A NUMBER OF PEOPLE WHO HAVE NOT.

WE ARE OUT THERE ENFORCING, SUFFOLK COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT IS ENFORCING.

WE'VE CLOSED A VAPE SHOP, A BEAUTY SALON.

WE'VE BROKEN UP A PARTY.

WE ARE OUT THERE COMMUNICATING.

OUR DEPARTMENT OF LABOR IS COMMUNICATING WITH ESSENTIAL BUSINESSES THAT MAY NOT BE FOLLOWING THE GUIDELINES EXACTLY.

WE ARE ENFORCING.

MOST IMPORTANTLY, WE NEED PEOPLE TO VOLUNTARILY COMPLY HERE BECAUSE THEY UNDERSTAND THEIR ACTIONS TODAY, TOMORROW AND IN THE WEEK AHEAD WILL HAVE AN IMPACT ON HOW MANY PEOPLE IN THIS COUNTY ULTIMATELY DIE FROM THIS DISEASE.

I'M RAFAEL PI ROMAN AND MY GUEST IS SUFFOLK COUNTY EXECUTIVE STEVE BELLONE.

STEVE, HAVE YOU HAD ANY TIME TO PONDER THE ECONOMIC FALLOUT OF THIS VIRUS CATASTROPHE ON YOUR COMMUNITY YET?

LET ME TAKE THIS MOMENT TO ASK YOU WHAT DO YOU THINK WILL BE THAT FALLOUT?

WE'VE BEEN THINKING ABOUT THIS FROM THE VERY BEGINNING.

OF COURSE, OUR FOCUS IS ON THE PUBLIC HEALTH CRISIS.

THAT IS PRIMARILY WHAT WE'RE DOING DAY IN AND DAY OUT.

RIGHT FROM THE START WE'VE WRECK NEEDED THIS IS NOT ONLY A PUBLIC HEALTH CRISIS, IT'S IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWED BY AN ECONOMIC CRISIS.

FOLLOWING THAT IS A HUMAN SERVICES CRISIS.

ALL THOSE ARE ISSUES THAT ARE AT THE CORE OF WHAT WE DO IN COUNTY GOVERNMENT.

IT'S PUBLIC HEALTH, PUBLIC SAFETY, IT'S HUMAN SERVICES.

SO WE'VE BEEN THINKING ABOUT ALL THESE ISSUES.

WE STOOD UP A BUSINESS RESPONSE UNIT WITHIN DAYS OF OUR FIRST CASE AND WHAT WE'VE DONE IS REACH OUT TO ALL OF OUR BUSINESS ASSOCIATIONS CHAMBERS OF COMMERCE.

WE SET UP THE RESPONSE UNIT TO TAKE CALLS IN OUR 311 SYSTEM.

BUSINESSES HAVE BEEN FILLING OUT A SURVEY SO WE CAN GET THE DATA WE NEED AND ASKING QUESTIONS.

WE'RE BUILDING THAT DATA TO UNDERSTAND WHAT THE CHALLENGES ARE AND WHAT THE NEEDS ARE.

IT'S A DESPERATE SITUATION OUT THERE.

PEOPLE ARE AND BUSINESSES ARE STRUGGLING.

WE NEED TO HELP THEM GET THROUGH THIS CRISIS PERIOD.

ABOUT 15 SECONDS THAT WE HAVE LEFT.

HOW HAS THIS BEEN FOR YOU LEADING THIS COUNTY AT THIS MOMENTOUS TIME IN HISTORY?

IT'S BEEN 24 HOURS A DAY, SEVEN DAYS A WEEK.

WE'RE USED TO DEALING WITH CRISES.

THIS HAS BEEN DIFFERENT THAN ANY OTHER -- MY DEPUTY COUNTY EXECUTIVE WAS THE FIRST TO BE CONFIRMED OF THE POSITIVE CASE IN SUFFOLK COUNTY GOVERNMENT.

THEREFORE, OUR ENTIRE SENIOR LEADERSHIP TEAM HAD TO BE RUNNING THIS OPERATION VIRTUALLY FOR TWO WEEKS.

THAT WAS A CHALLENGE.

BUT ALL OF US HAVE HAD TO DO THINGS DIFFERENTLY THAN WE HAD TO BEFORE.

WE HAD TO GET THE JOB DONE.

STEVE, SUFFOLK COUNTY EXECUTIVE STEVEN BELLONE, THANK YOU FOR JOINING US TODAY.

THANK YOU, RAFAEL.

GOOD TO BE WITH YOU.

> HEALTH CHANNEL PRESENTS CORONAVIRUS IN REALTIME.

THE USE OF TELEMEDICINE IS GROWING AS DOCTORS LOOK FOR WAYS TO TREAT COVID PATIENTS AND REDUCE EVERYONE'S EXPOSURE TO THE VIRUS.

IN CHINA THERE HAVE BEEN ABOUT 2 MILLION CONSULTATIONS VIA TELEMEDICINE TO DETERMINE IF A PATIENT SHOULD GO TO THE HOSPITAL OR BE TREATED REMOTELY.

IN THE U.S., THE GOVERNMENT HAS TAKEN STEPS TO INCREASE ACCESS TO TELEMEDICINE AS PART OF THE COVID-19 FUNDING MEASURE.

WAIVING TELEHEALTH RESTRICTIONS FOR MEDICARE BENEFICIARIES.

THAT MEANS THEY'LL PROVIDE TELEHEALTH SERVICES TO THEIR PATIENTS UNTIL NOW, MOST MAJOR INSURANCE COMPANIES ALSO LIMITED TELEMEDICINE COVERAGE TO A SMALL NUMBER OF PATIENTS, BUT MANY ARE ALSO ADJUSTING COVERAGE.

FOR MORE INFORMATION VISIT ALLHEALTHTV.COM.

STAY TUNED TO THE HEALTH CHANNEL FOR COVERAGE OF THIS SITUATION IN REALTIME.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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