Just as many areas in the rest of the country are experiencing a rise in positive tests for the coroanvirus, Suffolk County has now completed a week in which the numbers have climbed quickly.
The seven-day moving average of new cases is over 300, compared with an average of 119 the prior week.
“For a full week, we’ve seen an alarming spike in new COVID-19 cases,” County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said on a conference call with reporters.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has issued new guidelines starting this evening for restaurants, bars and fitness centers. Starting at 10 pm, each of those businesses is required to close from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Restaurants are allowed to offer curbside dining for pick up only after 10 p.m., but they can’t serve alcohol after that time.
At the same time, gatherings are limited to 10 people, in part because smaller collections of people have contributed to the rise in positive tests.
Starting today, the county will also deploy six teams, consisting of one fire marshal and one staff member from consumer affairs to boost ongoing compliance.
These teams will speak with businesses about new restrictions. The first focus will be on gaining compliance and informing and educating the public. These new teams will have the authority to issue citations if they “detect or observe egregious violations,” Bellone said.
These new restrictions are the first in the county since the spring.
“We don’t want to see new restrictions take effect that will slow the recovery more,” Bellone said. “That will all be dependent on what we do in the next couple of weeks.”
The county has a “short window” in which to get these numbers under control, the county executive continued.
The county has activated 200 additional case investigators and has 1,000 contact traces following up on positive tests within the county.
The goal is to get index cases as quickly as possible within a 24-hour period, Bellone added, to reduce the spread of the virus.
Bellone urged people to avoid gatherings this weekend to the greatest extent possible.
“We are entering a dangerous period for this virus,” Bellone said. “We have long talked about the possibility of a second wave in the fall. It very much feels like that’s where we are.”
With two weeks left until Thanksgiving, Bellone reminded residents that the time to quarantine is limited.
People need to follow best practices, which includes social distancing, mask wearing and hand sanitizing, even as the weather gets colder and residents spend more time indoors.