SUFFOLK COUNTY, NY — The Long Island Ducks will not be playing this summer at the Bethpage Ballpark, as previously hoped, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone announced Tuesday.
The Long Island Ducks, he said, announced that they were suspending any plans to play ball this season after New York State nixed a proposed plan put forth by the team. Professional sports teams will not allow any fans to attend games, even at reduced capacity, and while those teams have television contracts and fans can watch at home, "the Ducks don't have that ability. Fans need to come to the ballpark. And that's what we wanted to do, give families things to do this summer. We were really hoping to give everyone that opportunity but unfortunately, the reality is, that's not going to happen," Bellone said.
Bellone had been optimistic that the Ducks might play: During challenging times, it's important to give people something to look forward to, Bellone said in early June. Gov. Andrew Cuomo had spoken at great length about sports coming back and how "that would be a real shot in the arm," he said.
Bellone agreed at the time and said he had been in talks with the Long Island Ducks, the Atlantic League Champions, to play this summer. He had been in communication with Frank Boulton, owner of the team, about a safety plan for reopening. The Long Island Ducks came up with a safety plan "that's incredibly thorough, with significant protocols. We think it's a great plan," Bellone said.
The plan, which was submitted to New York State for consideration, and ultimately not approved, would have limited capacity for attendees at the Long Island Duck stadium in Central Islip to 25 percent, with social distancing protocols.
While at the ballpark, Bellone said visitors would have followed the same guidelines as they do at county beaches — when they are with their groups and are social distancing, they would not have needed to wear face coverings. Face coverings would have been mandated, though, in public spaces such as the rest room or concession areas, he said.
Plans for sanitization were also put forward, Bellone said.
But the Ducks didn't not get the green light, the county executive said. He added that the plan that the Ducks submitted was thorough — the team worked with Northwell Health and followed safety protocols used by the MLB — and said he had supported the plan and believed it could be executed safely with a shorter season.
He thanked Boulton and the Ducks' general manager Mike Pfaff for all their hard work. "On the bright side, the Ducks will remain the Atlantic League defending champions when we welcome people back for the 2021 baseball season," Bellone said.
In the end, Bellone said: "In light of everything happening around the country, the spikes and surges we are seeing in cases, they are taking a more cautious approach here. I certainly understand that. It's the timing right now. With professional sports not permitted and the strict limits on any type of mass gathering, from their perspective, it just doesn't line up."
When asked about the implication for youth sports, Bellone said those plans will still move forward. Parents and other spectators should follow the guidance and adhere to social distancing and face covering protocols, he said.
Hospitalizations drop below 70 countywide
On Tuesday, as Suffolk County looks forward to moving into Phase 4 next week of the state's plan for reopening the economy, the numbers remain good, Bellone said. A total of 41,385 individuals have tested positive for the coronavirus, with 46 new cases reported out of 33,012 tested over the past 24 hours — or an infection rate of 1.4 percent. That percentage is "slightly higher" than what's been seen in recent days, Bellone said, adding, "We don't put much stock in one day's numbers."
A total of 19,127 have tested positive for antibodies. Hospitalizations have dropped below 70 for the first time, with a decrease of six, for a total of 66 countywide. The number of patients in ICU has remained "relatively flat," Bellone said, with an increase of one, for a total of 24.
There are a total of 3,045 hospital beds in Suffolk County, with 1,010 available, or 67 percent capacity; there are also 516 ICU beds, with 213 available, or 59 percent capacity, he said.
Nine patients were discharged within 24 hours. And two more patients lost their lives to coronavirus, for a total of 1,981.