Suffolk County on Long Island is similar to upstate New York in that it’s rural, agricultural, and has far fewer hospitals and doctors than neighboring Nassau County and New York City.
And like upstate, it’s geographically large.
“I like to say you can fit Brooklyn, Queens, and Nassau County into Suffolk and have plenty of room to spare,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone told Spectrum News over Skype on Monday.
At the same time, Suffolk is close to both population centers and has become a COVID hotspot.
“We always had the expectation …that we were 7 to 14 days behind New York City, and actually behind Nassau County as well, and that has turned out to be the case,” Bellone said.
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Sunday, more than 500 people died in Suffolk County alone.
“The numbers are absolutely staggering,” said Bellone. “Life was normal here just a month ago.”
But Suffolk saw a welcome infusion of nursing staff recently when Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon sent nurses downstate from Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse. Bellone said the gesture by Onondaga County was inspiring.
“When those nurses arrived, it really was like the cavalry coming,” said Bellone. “The cheers and just the relief and joy that they were there.
“It sent the message that it really is one New York.”
Two nurses from Suffolk County who were treating COVID patients have succumbed to the disease, according to Bellone.
“Hundreds of workers have contracted the virus, and are back now, working to save peoples’ lives,” he said.