Suffolk County executive Steve Bellone began hosting daily public briefings via Zoom on March 8, the day before the first positive case of COVID-19 was announced in the county. Last Wednesday, July 8, not only marked Long Island’s transition into Phase 4 but also Bellone’s final consecutive daily briefing since then.
“We have been up the mountain, and we made it down the other side. In the process, we have seen terrible tragedy and acts of extraordinary heroism. Today marks a new stage in this unprecedented event that we are responding to. And I said the crisis period of this event would not end until we get to this point — the final stage of reopening our economy,” Bellone said, continuing on to say that there is still more work to do.
Every business is not able to open yet, including gyms, catering halls, movie theaters and bowling alleys. Honing in on gyms, Bellone said that has been a focus for the county and that the county has been directly involved with planning their reopening.
“We have heard directly from struggling gym owners on Long Island. Some have closed down their doors for good, unfortunately. Overall, what we have heard from them is that they want to be part of the solution to reopening. Many of them have spent months developing their own health and safety plans when their businesses are allowed to reopen,” Bellone said, adding that necessary health and safety protocol involved in the plan includes social distancing, eliminating the sharing of equipment, and many other measures.
Bellone also gave a special thanks to all those representing the county and its response on the Zoom meetings, and several of them have been in attendance each day, including chief of police Stuart Cameron.
“You really do represent and personify what public service does meet, and I appreciate you being on these calls to answer all those questions that I could not answer myself,” Bellone said. “Thank you for what you do, and I know what you will be continuing to do every day moving forward now.”
Additionally, Bellone expressed gratitude for all those on the executive staff, essential workers, first responders, and health care workers. He also put out a special thank you for the media. On the 122nd and final day of his daily briefings to the public regarding the county’s response to the COVID-19 health pandemic, Bellone announced that July 8 will now be recognized as Local Media Appreciation Day in Suffolk County.
“There are few people in our region who are as informed or as aware of the historic and unprecedented times that we have just gone through and also, at the same time, the challenges that lay ahead in a time when journalism has faced unprecedented challenges from both political and economic forces,” Bellone said. “All of you have provided a real-time, real-world master class in the vital role that a vibrant free press plays in our society. You have demonstrated quite clearly the critical role that local media in particular plays in our communities.
“I believe one of the most significant lessons is that we need to have a greater appreciation for journalists and the work that they do, particularly at the local level. Over the last 122 days, you have given your readers and viewers and our residents the critical information that they needed to stay safe, stay alive, protect their loved ones, and flatten the curve,” Bellone added.
Bellone referenced the partnership that has become more prominent during the health pandemic between local government, media, and the public with the common goal of gathering and delivering information in a consistent and responsibly expedited fashion.
“For 122 days, we have communicated on a daily basis — on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, the Fourth of July, and many other holidays in between — all driven by an unrelenting civic duty to do what was right to provide the public with key information to help rid our communities of this virus,” Bellone said. “Together, for the most part, we have succeeded.”