Last weekend was cold and windy, which likely prevented many people from venturing outside to potentially crowded spaces like the Jones Beach Boardwalk. For now, that’s a good thing. The more people stay home, the better. The coronavirus breeds among those in close contact.
We know, however, that people will grow increasingly eager to get outside and see one another as the weeks wear on. Nonessential workers have been at home for eight weeks, and Nassau County Executive Laura Curran warned last Friday that it could be another six weeks before the economy fully reopens downstate.
Hospitalizations, Gov. Andrew Cuomo explained, are declining but remain persistently high, and the fear is that opening the economy will lead to a spike in the Covid-19 infection rate — and thus the hospitalization rate, which could, in turn, increase the death rate.
Deaths have declined to a quarter of what they were at the virus’s peak on April 9, when a staggering 799 people died overnight. From May 10 to 11, by contrast, 161 died.
We mustn’t focus solely on statistics, though. Each reported death is a grandmother or grandfather, mother or father, wife or husband, sister or brother.
Someone like Mike Field, a Valley Stream emergency medical technician and 9/11 first responder. He died on April 8 at Mount Sinai South Nassau hospital, of complications of Covid-19. He caught it after transporting a patient. He was 59.
Or Jim Adelis. He died April 4, at age 67. He organized Trees for Troops each year at Dees’ Nursery in Oceanside, sending Christmas trees to our troops overseas.
And there are so many more.
We must not forget them. Their memories should haunt us over the coming weeks. If they don’t, we may be tempted to let up on social distancing. We may forget to wash our hands and wear masks. But we simply can’t, or others will die.
Make no mistake: We will be tempted to let up. Warmer weather is almost here, and we’ll all feel spring fever. We will desperately want to get out of the house and spend time with family members, friends and coworkers with whom we have interacted only via Zoom for weeks.
We’ll want to return to our favorite restaurants and bars, shops and museums, ballparks and bowling alleys. We must be smart, however, and heed Cuomo’s warnings. We must understand that the coronavirus is an indiscriminate, remorseless killer. We may no longer want to hide, but until the government tells us it’s safe to return to life as normal, we must stay strong and abide by the rules.
In the end, we will eradicate this disease, but doing so will require patience and diligence — and, yes, a vaccine.
We understand the need to reopen the economy. People fear losing their livelihoods, and worry about paying their mortgages and putting food on the table. A second surge of the virus, however, could be deadlier than the first, and keeping hospitalization and death rates at the lowest possible levels is a bit like balancing a scale.
If too many people fail to socially distance, then we will tip the scale in the virus’s favor. That could lead to a second, longer shutdown of the economy, and possibly a second Great Recession, or even a depression.
The federal government has put in place a number of programs, amounting to billions of dollars, to aid desperate New Yorkers. It likely isn’t enough, and as we have written in recent weeks, more needs to be done — the government must help fund states’ annual budgets to guard against cutbacks to schools, hospitals, and fire and police departments.
There is funding, though, providing at least temporary relief, helping Long Islanders survive the next month and a half. Accessing that money may require persistence and a load of paperwork, but at least Congress allocated the funds, which are only now starting to stream through our local economy.
If you are feeling desperate, understand that you’re not alone. There are tried and true institutions here in Nassau County to aid people in need at times like these.
Where to find help
• The Long Island Crisis Center in Bellmore is a 24-hour suicide-prevention hotline. Its motto is, “Any problem. Any time. Anyone.” It can be reached at (516) 679-1111 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
• The North Shore Child and Family Guidance Center is a nonprofit children’s mental health agency. It can be reached at (516) 997-2926.
• The Nassau County Office of Mental Health, Chemical Dependency and Developmental Disabilities Services can be reached at (516) 227-7057.