Curran expects coronavirus apex to hit Nassau this week

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(Photo courtesy of Lee Weissman / Northwell Health)

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran expects the apex of the coronavirus to hit the county this week as health care resources are being stretched thin.

“If you’ve ever been on a roller coaster you know when it goes up steeply, steeply, slowly, slowly, it’s that kind of feeling,” Curran said Saturday, referring to the apex.

Two weeks ago, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he believed the apex of the virus would hit New York in two to three weeks.  While Curran said her prediction was an “educated guess” and followed Cuomo’s timeline, she referred to the increase of confirmed cases, hospital admissions and deaths throughout the county increasing.

Curran said 2,684 people were tested in the county last Friday, more than any day since the outbreak began in Nassau March 5.

Since Saturday, Curran said, the number of Nassau residents who tested positive for the virus increased from 13,346 to 16,610, the highest three-day jump in the county since the pandemic began.

As of Saturday, the number of deaths in the county was at 149, Curran said. On Tuesday, Curran confirmed that 500 residents had died from the coronavirus, according to state figures.

Curran said Nassau hospitals remain in need of ventilators, protective personal equipment, and staffing.

“It is dire, it is urgent, and we need to get ventilators here as quickly as possible,” she said.

According to Newsday, John Chiara, deputy Nassau County executive for compliance, said Nassau placed a $930,000 order for 100 ventilators with Acute Care Gases II LLC, of Wolcott, Conn., about two weeks ago.

Chiara told Newsday that the price of acquiring ventilators has been “skyrocketing” as the county seeks to purchase more.

“The federal government is really going to all the suppliers, so you’re sort of left with the second and third levels of distribution, which just becomes much more expensive,” Chiara said. “It’s been a real challenge; everyone in the world is buying the same stuff.”

It is unclear how many ventilators the county has right now, but Curran said the need for those and other resources is becoming more imperative.

Meanwhile, Cuomo said a new high of 779 people across the state died Tuesday from the coronavirus. The number of deaths will continue to rise as people remain on ventilators for a long period of time, he cautioned.

Curran said 2,281 people were hospitalized in county facilities from coronavirus-related illness. Among those 473 were on ventilators, she said.

A total of 151 people have been discharged from hospitals after being admitted for coronavirus-related symptoms. For the second day in a row, Curran said, the number of discharges has been greater than the number of coronavirus-related hospital admissions.

“If that trend continues, then it does mean this is a plateau, which does give us a ray of hope,” she said.

Some 111 members in the county, city, and village police departments have tested positive, Curran said, and 187 members are quarantined, she said.

Curran provided some good news, citing 97 police department members who were under cautionary quarantine and cleared to return to work as of Tuesday.

Curran urged that the temporary hospital at SUNY Old Westbury, which could be opened within the next week, be used strictly for people who require hospitalization from the coronavirus.

Similarly, Cuomo announced last Friday that the Javits Center would be used strictly for coronavirus-related hospitalizations, veering off the initial plan of being an overflow site for hospital patients without the virus.

While the staff at Javits is being provided by the federal government, the same cannot be said for the SUNY Old Westbury hospital.  Curran said a plan to find adequate staffing has not been devised yet.

Curran has touted the county hospitals’ use of ingenuity and innovative resources, such as using BiPAP machines for sleep apnea, splitting ventilators, and using 3-D printers to develop components to transform the machines into ventilators.

Curran said there has also been an increase in 15-minute coronavirus tests throughout the county, while first responders and health care workers are still being prioritized for testing.

HOLIDAY TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS

Passover and Easter celebrations begin this week, but government officials on the local and state levels have advised people to remain home throughout the holiday weekend.

Cuomo, who extended the pause on schools and non-essential businesses through April 30 two days ago, discouraged people from traveling and gathering with extended family and friends.

“You worship the way you can, but the gatherings are just not a good idea,” Cuomo said.“It’s hard. But on the flip side, I say look what happened in New Rochelle. Those were religious gatherings.”

Curran agreed with Cuomo’s point and advised Nassau residents to do the same.

“In order to preserve life and health, you can suspend some of the laws of festivals and of the sabbath,” Curran said.

Religious figures throughout the North Shore also said this holiday season should and will be different to protect everyone’s health.

“I am no Moses, but I can assure you keeping social distancing, even if at the expense of having limited people at the Seder table, is now one of the Ten Commandments,” Rabbi Anchelle Perl of the Chabad of Mineola said.

“We’ve been asking all Catholics to watch Mass on television or through the internet and then to receive what we call a spiritual communion, to ask the Lord to come into their heart,” said Father John McCarthy of the Diocese of Rockville Centre.

We must reiterate that residents should refrain from large gatherings – this includes getting together with friends and family who do not reside in your home,” Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth said. “While it may not be ideal to celebrate these special holidays away from your loved ones, it is the only safe way to celebrate this year.”

Bosworth said that many religious groups are hosting online services throughout the holidays.

Village of Great Neck Mayor Pedram Bral said he will not be conducting his usual lifting of parking restrictions throughout the village to discourage people from traveling and visiting friends or family.  Bral said the health and safety of Great Neck residents remains paramount.

“As much as I would love for people to spend the holidays with their extended families, we simply cannot afford to take these risks,” Bral said.

STATE AND NATIONAL

New York remains a hot spot, with more confirmed cases- 141,000- than any other state.  Cuomo said he appreciated President Trump’s help in turning the Javits Center into a facility strictly for people who have tested positive for the coronavirus in need of hospitalization.

“I thanked the president for doing it,” Cuomo said. “He did it despite the fact that the federal agencies were not eager to do it, and he did it quickly. I thank him for that. It is a big deal for us.”

Cuomo said the facility will add an additional 2,500 hospital beds to help New York combat the virus. More than 1,100 ventilators are being shipped into the state of New York, Cuomo announced.

According to Cuomo, the Chinese government helped facilitate the delivery of 1,000 ventilators that arrived at JFK airport.  Additionally, Cuomo said, the state of Oregon is sending over 140 ventilators.

“I thank the Chinese government, Jack Ma, Joe Tsai, the Jack Ma Foundation, the Tsai Foundation, and Consul General Huang,” Cuomo tweeted out.

Cuomo also thanked Oregan Gov. Kate Brown for her part in providing more than 100 ventilators for New York.

Cuomo announced that 1,000 medical personnel throughout the nation such as doctors, nurses, respiratory technicians, will be deployed within New York hospitals.

In terms of staffing, Cuomo said, 85,000 New York residents and 22,000 out-of-state residents have volunteered to help in the medical field.

“I’m also signing an executive order to allow medical students who are slated to graduate to begin practicing,” Cuomo said. “We need doctors, we need nurses, so we’re going to expedite that.”

As of Tuesday night, a total of 374,329 people throughout the nation had tested positive for the coronavirus. Of that total, 12,064 had died.

Cuomo said a new high of 779 people died on Tuesday from the coronavirus. The number of deaths will continue to rise as people remain on ventilators for a long period of time, Cuomo said on Wednesday.

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