Over Half of the Viral Hotspot Tests Return Positive

Over Half of the Viral Hotspot Tests Return Positive

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Several weeks after viral hotspot testing sites in Suffolk County opened, the percentage of positive tests is coming back higher than for other areas.

After 1,077 people were tested in six sites, including Huntington Station and Wyandanch, 577 people tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19.

“That is definitely a lot higher than the overall number in the county, which stands at 40 percent,” County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said on his daily conference call with reporters.

By testing in these communities, the county hopes not only to get an idea of the rate of infection in these areas, but also to communicate the importance of social distancing and isolating for people who have positive tests.

“By doing the testing, we have the direct one-on-one contact with patients and it is with Spanish speaking health professionals who can have an effective dialog,” Bellone said. The communication is “well-received by the patients.”

For some residents who live in more densely populated areas or who share a home with others who might have underlying medical conditions or whose age makes them vulnerable to the virus, the county has offered housing on a case-by-case bases, Bellone said. That has included hotels and shelters.

These situations could include people who are “coming out of a hospital where there is an issue in a home with vulnerable people,” Bellone said. “It’s not just with hotspot areas.”

Bellone also shared the results of broader testing throughout New York that Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has conducted to determine the rate of infection, which could include people who were asymptomatic or who had mild symptoms that dissipated quickly enough not to merit testing.

Based on preliminary data, Suffolk County could have about 250,000 people who have the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

If that’s the case, “that tells us that there are a huge number of people who have had the virus and didn’t know they had it,” Bellone said. A scaled up testing program to detect the presence or the virus or of antibodies, along with an aggressive contact tracing program, could enable the county to contain the virus.

That could mean that Suffolk County could “reopen our economy with protective measures in place,” Bellone said. The testing and contact tracing, which former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Johns Hopkins University committed to supporting, are “very good news,” with the caveat that the county needs to “see those full results,” Bellone added.

The number of people who tested positive in the county in the last day was 709, which means that more than 30,000 people have received positive tests for the coronavirus.

The closely-watched hospitalization number dropped again in the last day, falling by 37 to 1,340 residents. The number of people in Intensive Care Unit beds has also declined by five to 494.

For the second straight day, about 10 percent of the population of people with COVID-19, or 131 people, have been discharged from the hospital.

The death toll also continues to climb towards 1,000, with 33 people dying from complications related to COVID-19, bringing the number for the county to 959.

On the supply front, the county executive’s office distributed over 24,000 pieces of personal protective equipment yesterday. The county also received 80,000 ear loop masks from New York State.

The procurement team in Bellone’s office received 27,000 isolation gowns, which have been in short supply and high demand.

The Stony Brook University Hospital extension, which was an all-out effort as the hospitalization was climbing dramatically, is completed. The beds at the facility are not occupied.

“I don’t think there are plans right now” to use those beds, Bellone said. “We are working to prevent a second wave rom happening. We know that has happened in past pandemics.”