In a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Southampton Supervisor Jay Schneiderman argues for a per-capita metric for daily COVID deaths so that more populated regions and their less populated counterparts will be held to the same standard. Courtesy photo: Gov. Andrew Cuomo

All regions of the state should be on a level playing field when it comes to deciding when they’re ready to reopen, but one key metric is fundamentally unfair to more populous regions like Long Island, according to Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman.

One of the state’s seven metrics for reopening requires a 14-day decline in deaths or fewer than five deaths per day on a three-day rolling average.

It’s one thing to have less than five deaths per day when your region has less than 500,000 people, like the North Country — it’s another thing altogether for a region of nearly 3 million people, like Long Island, Schneiderman said.

“It has to be a per-capita death rate, not a fixed number,” he said.

If the metric were applied on a per-capita basis, more populous regions would be held to the same standard as their less populous counterparts, the supervisor said.

“It should be one death per 100,000 people,” Schneiderman said. “That would be holding all regions to the same standard.”

The per-capita ratio proposed by Schneiderman would result in a “daily death” metric of less than five deaths per day for a region like the Mohawk Valley (pop. 505,092) and a metric of 28 deaths per day or less for the Long Island region with its population of 2,834,000.

If Schneiderman’s proposal were adopted, the Long Island region would already meet metric number two. The Long Island region would still need to meet the metrics for hospital bed capacity and contact tracers. Schneiderman said the region is close on both criteria.

Once all seven metrics are met, the region would be able to begin Phase One reopening, which allows for the opening of construction, agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, retail (limited to curbside or in-store pickup or drop off), manufacturing and wholesale trade businesses.

All of the regions that have met all seven criteria for reopening met metric number two by having fewer than five COVID deaths per day. None crossed the goal line on the basis of a 14-day decline in deaths. Long Island had a 13-day decline, then the number of deaths in a 24-hour period went up and the metric reset.

Schneiderman drafted a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo today and said he is hoping to get all the other town supervisors to sign on. He also thinks his proposal will appeal to the governor.

“The governor is into science,” Schneiderman said. “He’s all about the data.”

Cuomo would agree that every region needs to be held to the same standards, Schneiderman said.

“The science regarding COVID-19 does not change whether you are in the Western New York region or the Southern Tier region or the Long Island region,” Schneiderman said.

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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.