SUFFOLK COUNTY, NY — Suffolk County has seen a sharp rise in new coronavirus cases after the July 4 holiday, County Executive Steve Bellone said Tuesday, warning residents that the fight against the virus is not over.
"The numbers are moving in the wrong direction," Bellone said.
On Monday, Bellone reported an uptick in the infection rate to 1.9 percent, with 84 new positive cases. On Tuesday, 102 new positive cases were reported, with an infection rate of 2.1 percent out of 4,795 tests. For the last few weeks, the infection rate has hovered around 1 percent.
The new numbers are reminiscent of the last time more than 100 new cases in the county were reported on May 31, he said. "That's when we were still scaling this mountain — and we wouldn't reach the peak for three weeks," Bellone said.
Hospitalizations were up by one and the number of patients in intensive care beds remained at 14, Bellone said Tuesday. No patients died in Suffolk over the past 24 hours.
Ten Suffolk ocean lifeguards recently tested positive for the coronavirus and they are at home under quarantine, Bellone said, adding it is believed they contracted the virus at gatherings at not while working.
He also mentioned a July 4 gathering in Suffolk that New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo referenced on Tuesday. Cuomo said 35 percent of those at the party contracted the coronavirus; Bellone said the number was actually 22 percent and four people of the 18 in attendance tested positive. The group did not exceed the allowable capacity of 50 individuals at the party, Bellone said.
Newsday reported that the gathering took place in Holtsville, but county officials told Patch they could not confirm that information.
As many as seven backyard gatherings could have led to new coronavirus cases, officials said on Tuesday.
Bellone told the public to stay the course. "I have a very simple message today: Wear a mask. Wear a face covering. This is how we are going to beat this virus. We have too much at stake, not to."
A total of 42,214 people have contracted the coronavirus in Suffolk and 20,822 individuals have tested positive for antibodies.
If residents wear face coverings and follow social distancing protocols for the next four to six weeks, Bellone said: "We will drive this epidemic to the ground. We have come to far to move in the other direction now."
Those who went to a July 4 gathering and are not feeling well should get a test and isolate, Bellone said.
He also addressed young people who feel that the virus won't impact them: Since June 24, 42 percent of the positive cases are reported in people 30 and under he said. And even if they are not impacted, they can spread the virus to the vulnerable population, Bellone said.
Coronavirus has also "devastated" the economy, he reiterated.
"If you somehow thought this fight was done, look at what's happening around the country," he said. "This isn't going to be over until we have a proven, effective vaccine or drug treatment."
If the infection rate climbs to 5 percent, schools will not be able to open and additional lives will be lost, he added. "This is not acceptable," Bellone said.
Residents should wear face coverings, social distance, stay home if sick, wash their hands and use hand sanitizer, he said. "Stay smart and use common sense and we will be fine," he said. "This is not over. The fight is not done. We need to do everything we can to keep this virus stamped out."
Bellone added: "This virus is still out there and if we are not vigilant and using common sense it will come roaring back."