SUFFOLK COUNTY, NY — When two Suffolk beaches reopen Friday for Memorial Day weekend, the start of the summer season, admission will be for county residents only.
In Suffolk County, Cupsogue Beach County Park in Westhampton Beach and Smith Point County Park are set to open Friday and residents will need to bring their identification or green key card.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said the decision was made as Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Sunday that New York City beaches would not be opening for Memorial Day. Allowing county residents only will ensure locals can enjoy the beaches, he said.
"People will flock to the beaches and we want to make sure that when that happens, that it is in a controlled environment with safety protocols in place that allow people to be able to enjoy the beach in a safe way," he said. "As we move forward, because of the reduced capacity, and because there are a number of facilities that likely will not be opening at same time, we are reserving Suffolk County beaches at Smith Point and Cupsogue for residents only. We want to be sure that Suffolk County residents will be able to enjoy access to their beaches during this crisis period while we do have reduced capacity."
Last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced all state beaches would reopen on Friday, May 22, just in time for Memorial Day weekend, as Bellone outlined new protocols for the two Suffolk beaches slated to open on Friday, too.
State and local beaches and lake shores will open the Friday before Memorial Day in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Delaware, Cuomo announced Friday.
Protocols in place
Beaches will have to abide by several rules and regulations, he said, including remaining at no more than 50 percent capacity by controlling exits and entrances and limiting parking. Group contact activities remain banned, including sports and areas of gathering remain closed, such as picnic areas.
Bellone said on Thursday that he submitted his plan for reopening the beaches to Cuomo's office; the plan was in line with the "broad-based" guidelines put together by a summer planning working group put together by the county — and including town and village elected officials and other stakeholders — and headed up by Suffolk County Deputy Executive Peter Scully.
Beaches, Bellone added, are part of the fabric of life on Long Island. "That's the reason we live here. We love our beaches. This virus has taken so much from us. We couldn't allow it to take the ability for us to go to the beach in the summer." Especially, he said, at a time when children don't have pools, movies, or amusement parks open.
What you need to know
Although the beaches will open, however, Bellone said Memorial Day weekend will "not be exactly the same as summers past."
Those going to the beach, he said, will not be playing contact sports; concession stands will be closed, he said.
Face coverings will be required while beach-goers are in public areas, such as on the boardwalk or near bathrooms, but not while sitting on towels when they are with their own families or groups or while in the water. Social distancing protocols must be followed, Bellone said.
Bathroom attendants will be present, cleaning the rest rooms on a continual basis; hand sanitizer will be available for individuals to use prior to entering the facilities, Bellone said.
Staffers at the beach will be wearing face coverings and having their temperatures taken regularly, Bellone said.
Lifeguards, he said, will be positioned one per stand and separated out to maintain the goal of social distancing, with additional lifeguards added to help reach those goals. New training is taking place on additional protocols, Bellone said.
When asked how lifeguards would respond if an individual is in trouble or drowning in the water, Bellone said, "Lifeguards will all do what they need to, to save a person's life."
In addition, beaches will have reduced capacity, taking parking and the square footage of each beach into consideration to allow for social distancing so that families can sunbathe safely without risk of spreading the virus, Bellone said.
Bay beaches will not open on Memorial Day weekend, Bellone said.
The goal, Bellone said, is to open the beaches safely.
"Even with coronavirus happening, as we are still working through a public health crisis and doing what we need to do to hit the metrics to reopen the economy, we can still have a staple of life on Long Island start for us and enable families to do something they can enjoy as an essential part of our summers on Long Island," Bellone said.
County closer to opening; elective surgeries now allowed again
Cuomo announced Saturday that elective surgeries are once again allowed in Suffolk.
"We are now hitting six of the seven metrics," outlined by New York State, that regions must meet before reopening, Bellone said.
According to New York State's regional monitoring dashboard, Long Island still needs to meet two of those seven metrics, including a 14-day decline in hospital deaths or fewer than five deaths according to a three-day rolling average; as well as the metric regarding contact tracing. Bellone said, however, that although technically that contact tracing mark has not yet been met, with the 230 contact tracers Suffolk County already had plus others promised by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, he felt confident the metric would be met.
Number of new cases declines significantly
Bellone, on Monday, said the number of new cases of confirmed coronavirus had declined "significantly," with 107 over the past 24 hours one of the "lowest numbers" that's been seen in some time; that countywide total stands at 38,224. "That's another good indication and a positive sign," Bellone said
The total reported excludes 9,925 positive antibody tests recorded, he said.
Hospitalizations, according to data from May 16, decreased by eight, for a total of 505; the number of patients in ICU beds decreased by seven, for a total of 169 countywide.
Hospital capacity stands at 2,948 beds, with 901 available, or 70 percent; the number of ICU beds in Suffolk County is 574, with 208 available, or 64 percent, Bellone said.
A total of 47 patients were discharged in 24 hours.
Six additional deaths were reported. While tragic, Bellone said, the county can take some solace in the fact that it's "the lowest number we have seen; we have not been at that level in a long, long time."
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Suffolk County, broken down by town, is as follows:
East Hampton: 272
Shelter Island: 8
A total of 2.3 million school meals have been distributed in Suffolk County since the coronavirus crisis began, with 345,000 handed out in the past week. "It is an astounding number and a credit to the administrations and superintendents in different schools operating and making sure those in need are getting the meals that they need," Bellone said.
Bellone reminded that filling out the census is important so that Suffolk County can get its fair share of funding from the federal government for the next 10 years. "We know that Suffolk County, Long Island, and New York as a whole send way more to Washington than we ever receive back in funding," Bellone said. "We know the census is critical to us getting the funding we need and deserve on Long Island."
Currently, he added, Suffolk County is behind the national average in regard to how many have responded to the census: In Suffolk County, 58.8 percent have responded while nationwide, 59.1 percent have filled them out. "We do not want to be behind; we want to be far ahead of the national average," Bellone said.
To respond to the census, click here.
Virtual run to honor veterans
The annual Suffolk County Veterans Run Series kicks off on Memorial Day weekend with a virtual CpL Christopher G. Scherer Memorial“I Did The Grid” four-mile run / walk.
While there may be no bell rung at the end of the race as in other years, Bellone said the event will honor America's heroes, including Scherer, Chief Warrant Officer John W. Engeman, United States Coast Guardsman Nathan Bruckenthal, and Master Sgt. Chris Raguso of the NY Air National Guard 106th Rescue Wing in Westhampton, who was an Air Force master sergeant, a lieutenant in the FDNY and a volunteer firefighter for the Commack Fire Department; he was one of four killed in a helicopter crash in Iraq in March 2018.
"When you finish the race, voice the names of these American heroes aloud," Bellone said.