The Thanksgiving COVID-19 numbers are here and they are skyrocketing.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) was joined by health and emergency response officials in a media call Dec. 3 to brief the public on the increase in positive coronavirus tests since the holiday last week.
“We are expecting to see more than 1,100 positive cases in Suffolk County, with a positivity rate of about 6%,” he said. “We have not seen a number of 1,000 cases a day since last April.”
To put it in perspective, Bellone said, Suffolk County was averaging below 200 new cases per day last month. The number has now jumped to nearly 500 positive cases on average per day.
The spike in hospitalizations is also drastic, jumping to 57%. Bellone said that 287 people have been hospitalized — an increase of 21 people. He said 50 of those people are in ICUs.
“That is the highest number since the end of May,” he said. “If we continue with this current pace by Christmas, we’ll have over 1,000 people in the hospitals with COVID-19.”
Bellone noted that at Suffolk County’s peak in the spring, when the region was the epicenter of the virus, there were 1,658 hospitalizations.
Kenneth Kaushansky, Dean of the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University, said the number of COVID patients or suspected COVID patients was up to 85.
“Every day for the last week or so, we’ve seen 10 more patients in our hospital,” Kaushansky said on a conference call about vaccinations on Thursday. “It’s coming back at us.”
Kaushansky urged residents to stay away from parties, wash their hands, and to continue wearing masks.
Marilin Dilone, an Emergency Department Nurse at Stony Brook, said the second wave is “slowly happening. We’re seeing it again.”
She anticipates a smooth transition if the numbers continue to rise.
“We know what to expect,” Dilone said.
Dr. Eric Morley, Associate Professor and Clinical Director of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Stony Brook, described the staff as “battle tested.”
The hospital planned to open the forward triage unit, which the hospital used to separate suspected COVID patients during the first wave of the virus, next week.
On Monday, Mather Hospital President Kenneth Roberts said the hospital was at 64 percent occupancy, so it is “nowhere near capacity.” The hospital also has surge plans in place so that it can accommodate many more than 248 patients.
Robert Collins, a nurse at Mather for the last seven years, said the staff has learned from the difficult experiences through the spring.
“The benefit this go-round is that we’ve done it once,” Collins said. “We’re more familiar with treating it.”
St. Catherine Hospital has 30 COVID positive patients, which is 15% of their inpatient volume, while St. Charles has 11 COVID patients, which is 6.5% of the inpatient volume. Mather is still at 64% occupancy, which is the figure from earlier this week.
“The second wave and the post-Thanksgiving surge we talked about, we warned about, is here,” he said. “Luckily, we’ve taken a proactive approach.”
But Bellone said that although maintaining social distancing and wearing a mask outside is essential to staying safe, small gatherings are becoming the new super spreader.
“Now we know that small gatherings among families and friends have the highest transmission rate of all the events that we’ve seen,” he said. “So I cannot stress enough the concern about small indoor gatherings, where individuals and almost naturally let their guard down a little bit.”
Bellone said that Long Islanders must remain vigilant throughout the upcoming holiday season, while a vaccine is on the horizon.
“It is our actions over the next 30-plus days, that will be critical to our continued recovery,” he said. “That will be key to making sure that we keep our kids in school, keep our schools open, and keep our businesses open.”
He added that two new community-testing sites were launched in Huntington and Patchogue. So far, 349 people have been tested at the Huntington site.
Additional reporting from Daniel Dunaief