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Protesters Call For Swift Reopening On Long Island As Coronavirus Hospitalizations Decline, But Local Leaders Urge Patience

COMMACK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- On Long Island, calls to reopen parts of the economy are getting louder.

Business owners say they won't be able to survive much longer unless people can start getting back to work.

RELATED STORY: Coronavirus Hospitalizations Down For 15th Day In A Row In Nassau County

Protesters came out in force at a closed mall in Commack on Friday, rallying to reopen New York swiftly, not gradually.

They claim they're in a fight to survive.

"There are more people being hurt by this shutdown than the virus could ever hurt," North Shirley resident George Pritchard said.

Their downtowns are dead, restaurants are shuttered and small business owners find it hard to stay afloat.

"These politicians that are forcing stores like mine to shut down, they need to trade places with us," Suffolk small business owner Paula Evangelista said.

RELATED STORY: 'Where Are They Helping The Small Businesses?' Long Island Dress Shop Owner Seeks Financial Help To Keep Her Business Afloat

Many are seeking federal payroll protection loans that have not yet come through.

"I understand the frustration that the protesters feel, I get it, however the last thing we want is a spike in infections," Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said.

"The worst thing that could happen here is that we start to reopen the economy and then we see a surge in cases," Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said.


The virus is challenging the ability of once-vibrant areas to spring back to life after the pandemic.

On Friday, there was an unprecedented show of cooperation among all town supervisors on Long Island. They are united in plans and public health policies to safely reopen beaches, parks and playgrounds once they get the go-ahead from Albany.

"This is unique, all 13 of us know and interact with each other, but we've never done this in a collective fashion," Babylon Town Supervisor Richard Schaffer said.

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ Health Dept. | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211

Long Island Association's Kevin Law is charged with leading a regional approach to rebuilding the state.

"The immediate need is to focus on reopening and helping businesses comply ... Then, what can we do now longer term to strengthen our economy?" Law said.

Business group leaders have a message to protesters: the economy will not truly reopen until everyone feels safe to be out in public again.


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