SUFFOLK COUNTY, NY — It was a day to rejoice in Suffolk County — the first day with no coronavirus-related deaths reported in three long months.
"Today is an important day for Suffolk County," Bellone said. Since March 16, it was the first time that no deaths due to the coronavirus have been reported over a 24-hour period.
"This is a sign of progress, a tribute to the men and women in the healthcare industry, the health care heroes who stood the line, day after day, in what I likened to the equivalent of a war zone. In hospitals packed with COVID-19 patients, putting themselves at risk to save lives," Bellone said.
While there has also been economic devastation and there is a long road ahead, with food security, addiction and mental health issues still to be addressed, "Today certainly is a milestone," he said.
A total of 47 new positive coronavirus cases were reported, bringing the total to 40,559.
Hospitalizations over the 24-hour period recorded on June 10 declined by 17, bringing the total to 134. The number of patients in ICU decreased by four, bringing that number to 41 countywide, Bellone said. Hospital capacity stands at 3,040, with 1,051 beds available, or 66 percent; there are 576 ICU beds in Suffolk with 234 available, or just below 6o percent.
A total of 16 patients were discharged over 24 hours. And none have died.
A "model" for the nation in police reform
After Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order Friday mandating that all police departments in New York embrace reform and community policing, Bellone said Suffolk has been a model for anti-bias efforts for years.
Cuomo threatened to revoke state funding for agencies that do not adhere.
Bellone said while he didn't see Cuomo's press briefing Friday, "We look forward to working with the state on the issues the governor mentioned, including community policing and anti-bias training."
The Suffolk County Police Department, Bellone said, has been working for many years to develop a leading edge anti-bias training program; individuals at the police academy and in the department are trained as well as other government officials, he said.
That training, Bellone said, has been utilized by the U.S. Department of Justice as a "national model to train other departments around the country."
He added, in reference to the death of George Floyd that has led to more than 100 protests countywide, most without incident: "The police procedures you have seen in Minneapolis are not utilized here. That is not part of how we police."
The protests in Suffolk County have been made up of residents who have come out "to protest, to express their anger, frustration, and pain, and they have doe so peacefully." He credited the SCPD for their hard work, as well.
Suffolk County Police, he said, are focused on working with the community and for years, "have been striving to "build bridges with all the communities in Suffolk County."
The SCPD, he said, is focused on being "part of the larger community, not just coming in to the community — and that comes with respect, with listening."
However, Bellone added: "There is never a point where you don't need improvement, where you've reached a point where you don't get better. That doesn't exist. You can always strive to get better."
Bellone said he believes the community needs a seat at the table for the conversations the county will have with the state as the plan moves forward; he said he hopes the county will "lead" the way in reform efforts.
Bellone mentioned Suffolk County Police Deputy Police Commissioner Risco Mention-Lewis, the first African American and woman to hold the position and said an effort has been made, with the need to continue to strive for a diverse makeup in the department.
Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said she met with the president of the Guardians, a fraternal organizations that represents black officers, Friday— the group meets monthly — and said in the past they have worked on a complete overhaul of hiring standards and guidelines to represent every minority group in the department.
The emphasis, she said, is on community policing and on making in "part of the DNA of the department."
The governor's extraordinary executive order comes amid nationwide anti-police brutality protests stemming from the death of George Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis police officer held his knee on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes.
At his daily briefing, Cuomo said the state is launching the "NYS Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative." The governor said the state's 500 police agencies and local governments must develop a plan that "reinvents and modernizes" police strategies and programs in their community. Not only must they implement reforms, police departments will have to do so with community participation.
The governor set an April 1 deadline for enacting a plan by local law to be eligible to receive state funding. He added those that fail to do so are "not going be eligible for state funding, period."
"We're not going to be a state government subsidizing improper police practices," he said.
Massive food distribution effort
Bellone joined Friday with Island Harvest Food Bank for a drive-through food distribution of New York State-produced agricultural products to continue to supply food to Long Island residents affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The distribution, held at the Westfield South Shore Mall in Bay Shore with the help of a number of community organizations, is one of several that have been held across the state as part of the Nourish New York initiative announced Cuomo in April, which provides $25 million for New York’s food banks to procure products produced in New York.
The food bank aimed to distribute about 100,000 pounds of food to an estimated 5,000 people at the event. Food to be given out included cheese, milk, yogurt, fresh fruit and vegetables, and ground beef.
The distribution is the result of a partnership between Island Harvest Food Bank, Bellone, and New York State officials.
Also distributed were face coverings and hand sanitizers, Bellone said.