Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone discussed coronavirus precautions in Suffolk County at a press conference March 9. Photo: Denise Civiletti

The coronavirus death toll in Suffolk County has risen to 175 people, County Executive Steve Bellone said this afternoon.

That number represents the biggest increase in fatalities in Suffolk since the county’s first death was reported March 16. It is nearly twice the number of the second-highest increase, which was reported yesterday.

It is also the first time Suffolk has surpassed Nassau County in the number of deaths reported.

In part due to rising number of fatalities, the county will no longer be providing any additional details about fatalities, including the gender and ages of deceased victims, Bellone said. It will simply report the numbers, he said.

“It’s important that we don’t put any additional burden on our health care providers” in terms of reporting requirements, Bellone said. “The most important thing is for those front-line workers to save people’s lives.”

The county executive said the 175 COVID-19 deaths occurred “in Suffolk hospitals.” Neither Bellone nor Suffolk Health Commissioner Dr. Gregson Pigott could say whether that number included COVID deaths that occurred outside of hospitals — in other settings, including nursing homes.

This afternoon, Peconic Landing, the Greenport life care and retirement community that has been battling a coronavirus outbreak since March 10, said in an emailed statement that a ninth resident there has died of COVID-19 illness.

Suffolk officials have not reported on whether any other nursing homes or congregate living facilities have been dealing with coronavirus outbreaks.

Bellone also reported today Suffolk’s first death of a health care worker as a result of the pandemic. A nurse at Huntington Hospital died of the disease, the county executive said.

New York City still leads the state in the number of coronavirus infections, hospitalizations and deaths, but according to data provided by the New York State health department, the Long Island counties of Nassau and Suffolk now account for 22% of the COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo reported 4,159 COVID-related deaths in New York as of April 4, an increase of 594 over April 3. That was a smaller increase than the day-to-day increase (630) on April 3. Cuomo said he hopes the data signals a new trend in New York, indicating that the state may be nearing the “apex” of the outbreak.

Among the “non-vulnerable population,” the governor said, 74% of those hospitalized (12,187 patients) have been discharged. But among the vulnerable — including the elderly and people with underlying medical conditions — once infected, a “cure is very difficult,” he said.

Bellone said today there are currently 1,435 COVID patients hospitalized in Suffolk, with 540 of them in intensive care units — an increase of 113 in ICU since yesterday. The county currently has 82 ICU beds available, he said. Total hospital beds and ICU beds have increased, he said, thanks to hospitals’ efforts to increase their capacities.

Bellone said the efforts of Rep. Lee Zeldin, who reached out to senior advisor to the president Jared Kushner, led to the county being able to purchase 150,000 masks for hospital workers. He urged county residents to use face coverings when they go out in public spaces, as is now being recommended by the CDC. Instructions on how to make face coverings at home can be found here.

Zeldin said he learned on Saturday night that “the county’s stockpile of surgical masks, regular sized n95 masks, gowns, face shields, and body bags was empty.” He thanked Kushner for his quick response to his call and the delivery that occurred in less than 24 hours.

“He told me that he would personally help ensure Suffolk County has the PPE it needs for at least the next 30 days,” Zeldin said.

“We are all in this together as one community,” said Congressman Zeldin.

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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.