A desolate Pulaski Street in Polish Town this afternoon. Photo: Peter Blasl.

Suffolk County government is working with the business community to find ways to blunt the economic impacts of the extraordinary measures employed to try to stop the spread of the virus, County Executive Steve Bellone said during a telephone press briefing this afternoon.

Yesterday, the state ordered all theaters, gyms, bars and restaurants closed, with bars and restaurants allowed to provide takeout and delivery service. The move stunned small business owners and left them wondering about their own prospects for survival.

“I just had a call with a number of business leaders and business organizations concerned about the economic impacts of the virus,” Bellone told reporters. “The measures have been taken to protect public health but they have extraordinary economic impacts that can affect public health and safety,” he said.

Bellone said the county is putting together a “business response plan to deal with the incredible impacts of this virus.”

The impacts on the county over the last week have been “just stunning,” he said.

The plan, being developed by the Department of Economic Development and the Department of Labor, is “a living and breathing document — not a report,” the county executive said.

The Department of Labor will be collecting data from businesses so they can see a picture of what is happening on the ground.

The Department of Economic Development will focus on identifying available resources to help support small businesses and help “prop up the economy,” Bellone said. The county will work to help facilitate small businesses accessing those programs, he said.

“We can take the data and use it to advocate for different types of funding,” Bellone said.

The county will establish a working group of stakeholders and will set up a business support unit in the Department of Labor that will be available to answer questions and collect data.

As of Thursday, businesses can access the support unit by dialing 311 and asking to be transferred to the business services unit, Bellone said.

The 311 help line is up and running 24/7 as of last week, he said.

“We’re doing everything we can to respond to and mitigate the risk that’s in our community,” Bellone said. Success in the battle against the coronavirus depends on residents taking action and following guidance put out by health officials, he said. These include: social distancing, frequent hand washing, and self-isolation for anyone who is symptomatic. Anyone who is symptomatic should stay home, Bellone said.

“Do not go out. Do not risk transmitting the virus to anyone else.”

The county encourages residents to sign up for smart 911, which allows a resident to provide critical medical information to first responders and lets them know who is at greatest risk in the community. Visit smart911.com to sign up.

Residents can also sign up for text message updates by texting covidsuffolk to 67283.

As of today there have been 97 confirmed cases in Suffolk County, with three deaths. The county has results from 564 tests so far, so the “case rate” — ratio of positives to total tests reported — is 17%. It is not clear how many test results are pending, since the time it takes to get results, varies, according to the county executive. He said it probably takes 2-3 days. But residents in the local community who have been tested report waiting up to a week for results.

The virus is in the community and spreading in the community, Bellone said.

“We will see those numbers continue to rise as testing ramps up.”

He said there are at least two cases being investigated by the medical examiner as possible COVID-19 deaths in people who were not diagnosed with the disease prior to their deaths, but died of respiratory illnesses.

Today’s breakdown of confirmed cases, by town:

Babylon 12

Brookhaven 13

East Hampton 2

Huntington 24

Islip 11

Riverhead 2

Smithtown 3

Shelter Island 0

Southampton 2

Southold 28

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.