COVID-19 Infection Rate ‘One of the Highest We’ve Seen in Some Time,’ Bellone Says

Assistant Dean for Clinical Integration Joshua Miller, MD, MPH instructs medical staff on the procedures to take in screening drive up patients at the COVID-19 drive-thru testing facility.

On Monday, Suffolk County reported one of the largest numbers of positive COVID-19 tests in several weeks — 84. With 4,517 tests being returned in the last 24 hours that gives Suffolk a 1.9 percent infection rate, “one of the highest we’ve seen in some time,” County Executive Steve Bellone said.

The number of positive coronavirus diagnostic tests has been creeping upward over the last week, but had not been in the 80s since June 5, when there were 86 positive cases.

There have been between 40 and 60 new cases each day for more than a month. Then on July 8, there was 69 new cases reported with an infection rate of 1.7 percent. The following day brought 50 cases with a .9 percent infection rate. Sixty-two cases were reported on July 10, followed by 76 on July 11. The number of new cases reported on July 12 fell to 41, but then spiked back up to 84.

Bellone said he felt this was the right time to remind people of the importance of not only practicing social distancing and following all of the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control, but also for people to be mindful of their symptoms, especially if they have been in places where social distancing was not followed. Over the Fourth of July, there were several reports of large gatherings at businesses and private homes where people did not wear masks. Those people, in particular, should pay attention to how they are feeling, get a test, and isolate themselves if symptoms develop, Bellone said.

Testing has ramped up throughout the country and labs are now inundated, Bellone said. The wait time for results is once again five to seven days.

“It’s important while you’re waiting for those results, not to assume you do not have the virus because it may be taking five to seven days to come in,” he said.

Bellone also reiterated how important it is that those infected share necessary information with State Department of Health officials who contact them as part of the contact tracing program. While Bellone denied any large scale problem, he said there have been people who are not forthcoming. “Your identity is confidential, but your information that you provide here is critical to stopping the spread of COVID-19.”

While the infection rate is ticking up, the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 is trending downward. There are now 40 people with the virus in Suffolk hospitals, a number that decrease by 14 since Bellone last reported it in a briefing on Friday. However, based on the number of overall hospital beds and those available — 3,032 exist in Suffolk County and 928 are available — there is a 70 percent available capacity rate, the minimum required under the state’s guidelines. In an answer to a question, Bellone said there has been no discussion about dialing back on elective procedures, which the state allowed to resume back in May, once Long Island hit the minimum available capacity rate.

One issue has been raised about how quickly patients can get a diagnostic test before an elective procedure. Many doctors are asking patients to get one within 72 hours in advance of the procedure.

Asked if Stony Brook Southampton Hospital has experienced any issues with patients scheduled for surgery getting a test, Barbara Jo Howard, a hospital spokeswoman, said, “NY State requires testing to be done within 5 days of an elective procedure and we very rarely experience delays.”

One very positive number is that there are 14 patients in intensive care units in Suffolk hospitals. There are 430 ICU beds in the system and 168 are available, providing a 61 percent available capacity rate, well below the 70 percent minimum required.

Bellone said he was also happy to report another 24-hour period without a COVID-related fatality for the second consecutive day. To date, 1,993 people have died from the virus in Suffolk County.

The county executive said there are no new clusters that officials have found from the numbers.

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