Nassau County coronavirus cases rise to 278 as drive-thru testing opens

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ProHealth Urgent Care in Little Neck is one of two local urgent care centers offering coronavirus testing. (Photo courtesy of Christina Levin)

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran announced Wednesday that the county’s coronavirus cases have risen to 278, with one death announced Monday.

Three drive-thru testing sites opened in the area in the past week, in Jericho, Little Neck, Queens, and at Jones Beach.

By order of the county and state, K-12 schools have shut down until March 27 as part of the county’s state of emergency.

DRIVE-THRU TESTING

Long Island’s first drive-thru coronavirus testing site opened at Jones Beach on Tuesday. It was the second in the state, after one was set up last week in New Rochelle.

Two additional drive-thru sites at the ProHealth Urgent Care locations in Little Neck, Queens, and Jericho, opened Wednesday.

The sites in Little Neck and Jericho will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, by appointment only, and are limited to ProHealth primary care patients.

County residents with symptoms including a fever, cough and aches are advised to call the county coronavirus hotline at 516-227-9570.

SCHOOLS, BUSINESSES & TRANSIT

On Sunday, Curran announced that beginning Monday, public and private kindergarten through 12th grade schools in the county would be closed until Friday, March 27, to slow the spread of the virus.

Curran said she spoke to Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier in the day to develop a plan for health care workers with school-age children.

According to Curran, the school districts and county officials plan to implement a “grab-and-go system” for students throughout the county that are dependent on school meals.

On Monday, Cuomo announced a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people, and said that restaurants and bars will only be allowed to serve food via take-out or delivery, and that nonessential businesses like gyms, movie theaters and casinos would be shut.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman and CEO Patrick Foye issued a letter Tuesday to New York State’s congressional representatives, requesting over $4 billion in federal aid in the wake of the pandemic. The MTA, which is continuing operations, has seen ridership decline by approximately 60 percent on the subways, 49 percent on buses, 90 percent on Metro-North Railroad, and 67 percent on Long Island Rail Road, he said.

“The stark reality is that as more people stay home following the advice of medical experts, the MTA is now facing financial calamity,” Foye wrote. “For these reasons, I am urgently requesting substantial federal aid at the level of MTA revenue losses ($3.7 billion assuming ridership trends this week continue for six months) and COVID-19 expenses (approximately $300 million annualized) as we continue to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.”

TOWN, COUNTY & STATE

Curran announced March 13 that the county was declaring a state of emergency.

The declaration, which went into effect at 5 p.m. that day, shuts down county-owned properties and buildings such as Eisenhower Park, the Cradle of Aviation Museum and the Nassau Coliseum, along with many others.

The state of emergency will also allow the town to implement public safety measures, purchase essential items and services quickly, suspend parking regulations and respond to emergency needs.

Curran also announced Tuesday that a 96-year-old man diagnosed with the virus had died at Mercy Medical Center on Monday night, marking the county’s first coronavirus-related death.

On Wednesday, Curran announced a strategy that includes tracking and calculating lost revenues across every industry so that county business losses can be recouped.

The strategy includes a partnership with Hofstra University to maintain an accurate running tally of lost revenues and expenses and the multiplier effect of these economic losses. A data collection system for all segments of the county’s businesses, including industries such as hotels, restaurants, bars and entertainment, among others, will be put in place.

I sympathize with the thousands of Nassau County businesses and employees and the nearly 1.4 million residents of Nassau County who are adversely impacted economically and I vow to advocate on their behalf,” Curran said. “Our goal is to advocate for the relief that our families and local economy will need. I thank Hofstra University and all of the members of the Economic Advisory Council for their hard work and commitment to this long-term endeavor.”

Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth also declared a townwide state of emergency on March 13. The supervisor and Town Board sent a letter to Cuomo requesting an extension for payment of the second half of the 2019-20 school taxes in light of the pandemic. Currently, the final day to pay is May 11.

“We are asking the Governor to extend the deadline to June 1, 2020, which is the latest date allowable for paying taxes without interest or penalty,” Bosworth said. “In light of the effects caused by the coronavirus pandemic on our region, we believe it would put our residents at ease knowing that they have this extra time.”

Monday night also saw Cuomo postpone village elections throughout New York until the presidential primary on April 28. Nineteen villages on the North Shore will see their elections rescheduled.

Cuomo has also directed Michael Dowling, the president and CEO of New Hyde Park-based Northwell Health, and Ken Raske, the president of the Greater New York Hospital Association, to discuss ways to increase capacity.

In a letter by Cuomo published Sunday in The New York Times and directed at President Trump,  the governor spoke of the “all but certain” “imminent failure of hospital systems” that would occur without “immediate action.”

“According to one projection, as many as 214 million people in our country could be infected over the course of the epidemic,” Cuomo wrote. “Of those, as many as 21 million people could require hospitalization. This would crush the nation’s medical system. New York State has just 53,470 hospital beds, only 3,186 of which are intensive-care beds. Our country as a whole has fewer than one million staffed hospital beds, fewer proportionately than China, South Korea or Italy. Ask your experts, how many intensive-care beds do we need for our vulnerable populations, and how many do we have now?”

NATIONAL

In Washington, D.C., representatives from New York are urging their colleagues in Congress to take steps to avoid economic pitfalls and labor issues that may result from the virus.

U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) was one of number of Democrats who signed a letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig asking to extend the 2020 deadline to file tax returns.

“In light of the rapidly changing circumstances, our taxpayers do not have the time to wait for much-needed tax relief,” Suozzi said in a statement. “Not only does our government need to ensure the health of the American people, but we also need to ensure their financial security by giving people the extra resources they need during this difficult time.”

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) introduced a three-pronged plan Tuesday to combat the virus’ economic effects, including providing emergency funding to programs designed to support a pandemic response, supporting the “social safety net designed to help the working class,” and making “essential policy changes to further ensure hard-working Americans don’t fall through the cracks into financial ruin due to no fault of their own.”

“If your house is on fire, the first thing you worry about is not smoke damage to the roof — you try to put out the fire,” Schumer said on the Senate floor Tuesday. “That’s what our proposal does. It means, first and foremost, we work to address the coronavirus itself, and the people most impacted. In the midst of a sprawling health and economic catastrophe, industry bailouts should not be at the top of our priority list.”

Early Saturday morning, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, sponsored by House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey (D-NY), passed in the House of Representatives.

The bill, which went to the Senate for action, provides close to $2 billion in economic relief to assist food banks, the National Disaster Medical System and the Department of Veterans Affairs, and will fund free virus testing, among other things.

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