Even as Suffolk County moves closer every day to the possibility of restarting the economy and reopening shuttered businesses amid a steady decline in hospitalizations from COVID-19, the number of positive tests for the county as a hole and for hotspot testing sites for the virus continue to increase.
In the last 24 hours, 889 people tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing the total who have tested positive for the virus that has caused the pandemic to reach 36,974, bringing the total above the number of confirmed cases for Switzerland and about 44 percent of the number of confirmed cases out of China, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
The number of positive tests “should be a little bit of a wake up call for people,” County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said on a conference call with reporters. “We know the margin for error in the rate of transmission is not great.”
Indeed, the county executive said the transmission rate for each positive test is about 0.75. If the county rises to 1.1 on the rate of transmission – meaning each infected person passes along the virus to more than one other person – the virus could “spread out of control,” Bellone said. “We don’t have a lot of room to spare in these numbers.”
Bellone urged Suffolk County residents to understand that reopening “has to be done right.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said during his daily press briefing today that he will work to figure out what is causing the new infections, which would enable a more targeted approach to protecting the population, Bellone suggested.
As New York starts the seventh week of the governor’s New York Pause tonight, the number of people who have died in Suffolk County continues to climb. Over the last day, 29 people have died from complications related to Covid-19, bringing the total number of fatalities in the county to 1,256.
“There is not a person in Suffolk County who hasn’t been either directly impacted or knows somebody who has been affected,” Bellone said.
On the positive front, the number of hospitalizations continues its steady decline, with a reduction of 38 residents in the last day, bringing the total to 813. That is a decline of close to 51 percent from the highest coronavirus hospitalizations, which the county reached April 10. If the numbers decline over the next two days, Suffolk County will have reached 14 consecutive days where the net number of hospitalizations from the virus came down. That would meet the guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to start a phased reopening of the economy.
The number of people in Intensive Care Units also declined by three, to 324.
As of today, the number of people in hospital beds and in the intensive care units hovered around 70 percent, which is also a targeted figure from the CDC for reopening, as the health agency would like hospitals to have enough room for any future increase in admissions if the infection rate increases in the fall or winter.
In hotspot testing sites, the number of positive tests was 1,038 out of close to 2,400 results, which brings the positive rate of testing to 43.2 percent. That is still above the rate of 35.3 percent for the rest of the county, but it is a narrowing of the gap, Bellone said.
Bellone’s office distributed 24,000 personal protective equipment yesterday, bringing the total to 3.2 million since the crisis began. Yesterday, the county received 6,250 Tyvec Coveralls from the Federal Emergency Management Association.
As the warmer weather reaches Long Island, the Suffolk County Police Department continues to monitor the activity of people who have been cooped up indoors for weeks, cooking meals, cleaning their homes, and taking care of their children and, to the extent they can, continuing to manage their jobs.
Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said the volume is up in the parks and outside in general. “Overwhelmingly, people are in compliance” with social distancing guidelines, Hart said. “We’re hoping that’s what we’re going to see moving forward.”
Hart said the police will also continue to monitor any demonstrations in reaction to New York Pause, which is scheduled to end on May 15. She said if the police saw opportunities to provide face coverings to protestors or to remind them to maintain social distancing, the officers would do that.