STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. – The coronavirus (COVID-19) didn’t discriminate as it has exacted its grim toll on Staten Island.
Beloved priests, 9/11 heroes, war veterans, a Holocaust survivor, teachers, members of the NYPD, a former FDNY battalion chief, a Special Olympian and scores of others have all succumbed to the disease.
They were fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, uncles and aunts.
They were our friends and neighbors.
And now, more than 1,000 of them are gone.
The devastating cost was brought into sharp focus on Thursday afternoon when the city Health Department reported the coronavirus is believed to have claimed the lives of 1,002 borough residents in just over two months.
The first death on Staten Island was recorded on March 21, according to Advance/SILive.com calculations.
Thursday’s fatality total represents an increase of six from Wednesday afternoon when 996 deaths in the borough had been recorded, according to the most recent figures published by the city Health Department.
The fatalities include 825 Staten Islanders with confirmed coronavirus cases, an uptick of three from Wednesday. In addition, 177 deaths were in the “probable” category, also a rise of three from 24 hours earlier.
A death is classified as “probable” if the decedent was a city resident who had no known positive laboratory test for the coronavirus, but the death certificate lists “COVID-19” or an equivalent as a cause of death.
A Health Department source said the figures reflect totals as of when they are reported to the agency and not when the deaths occur.
*** CLICK HERE FOR COMPLETE COVERAGE OF CORONAVIRUS IN NEW YORK ***
Also as of Thursday afternoon, there have been 13,481 confirmed coronavirus cases on Staten Island since the pandemic’s outbreak, the data said.
That total marked an upswing of 30 from the 13,451 cases reported at the same time on Wednesday.
While many of those infected have recovered, too many others have not.
TAKEN FROM US
Those taken include religious leaders like Monsignor Richard Guastella, 73, pastor of St. Clare’s R.C. Church in Great Kills, and Monsignor Joseph P. Murphy, 91, pastor emeritus of the church.
Also, there were heroes like Rabbi Avraham Hakohen (Romi) Cohen, 91, a Holocaust survivor and member of the Resistance against the Nazis.
Dedicated public servants like retired FDNY Battalion Chief Albert “Al” Petrocelli, 73; retired Firefighter Matthew F. Moore, 52; and Richard Austin, 66, a traffic enforcement agent with the NYPD, succumbed to the disease.
So, too did Sharon Nearby, 52, a much-loved teacher at Barnes Intermediate School (I.S. 24) in Great Kills, and Kristofer M. Russo, 45, a Special Olympic athlete and aspiring chef.
And the long love stories of Arthur Forte, 80, and his wife, Helen Forte, 79, and of Pietro Scarso, 76, and Rita Scarso, 72 ended too soon.
The Fortes died within two days of each other; the Scarsos died a week apart.
Dr. Philip Otterbeck, chief of medicine at Richmond University Medical Center in West Brighton, said crossing 1,000 deaths marks a “grim milestone” for the borough.
“Any loss of life is difficult,” he said, adding there is no way to tell how many more residents might succumb to the disease.
But if any good news could be mined from the data, it’s the fact that the daily number of fatalities has declined in recent weeks, said Otterbeck.
“The rate at which people are succumbing to the disease is much less than before,” he said.
Even so, Staten Island is far from being out of the woods.
“I have concerns have what’s going on in terms of lack of social distancing, and its implications,” he said, referring to reports of large gatherings of people not wearing masks.
Disregarding such safety measures could potentially create a spike in new cases in the upcoming weeks, said Otterbeck.
Consequently, he said it’s essential to continue to follow social-distancing and mask-wearing guidelines.
As the number of deaths have risen on Staten Island, so too have they throughout the city.
Across the five boroughs, the death toll had reached 21,752 on Thursday afternoon, up 64 from the 21,688 fatalities recorded 24 hours earlier.
The deaths consist of 16,992 individuals who were confirmed coronavirus cases, along with 4,760 others whose deaths were deemed as “probable” COVID-19 cases.
A large majority of the deaths in confirmed coronavirus cases which were investigated by the city thus far have occurred in patients with underlying medical issues, said the Health Department.
Underlying conditions include diabetes, lung disease, cancer, immunodeficiency, heart disease, hypertension, asthma, kidney disease and gastro-intestinal/liver disease, said the Health Department.
Citywide, there were 202,319 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Thursday afternoon.
The number represented a spike of 513 from Wednesday’s tally of 201,806.
On a positive note, a total of 3,167 coronavirus patients have been treated at and released from the borough’s two hospital systems since the pandemic’s outbreak.
Staten Island University Hospital’s (SIUH) two campuses have discharged 2,038 patients as of Thursday, said Jillian O’Hara, a spokeswoman.
Richmond University Medical Center has treated and released 1,129 patients, Alex Lutz, a spokesman, said.
Meanwhile, the number of hospitalized coronavirus patients in the borough remained the same over the past 24 hours.
On Thursday morning, 89 patients were being cared for on Staten Island.
The total is a fraction compared to just under two months ago when hospitalizations peaked.
On April 8, 554 Islanders were hospitalized with the coronavirus.
At SIUH, 49 patients were being treated Thursday morning, a drop of seven from Wednesday’s total. All the coronavirus patients are at the Ocean Breeze campus, said O’Hara. No coronavirus patients are in the Prince’s Bay facility, she said.
Richmond University Medical Center was caring for 40 coronavirus patients as of Thursday morning, up seven from Wednesday, Lutz said.