Coronavirus: More Southold Cases, Testing Ramps Up

Pictured Above: Miller Environmental Group was at work cleaning Greenport Harbor Brewing Company in Peconic on Wednesday after the first Suffolk County coronavirus patient was determined to be an employee there.

We will update this post throughout this crisis with more details as they become available.

Update March 12, 6 p.m.

The Peconic Landing Lifecare retirement community in Greenport announced Thursday afternoon that the Suffolk County Health Department has confirmed that a second and third employee have tested positive for the new coronavirus, after one per diem employee who works there was confirmed yesterday to have the new virus, which is particularly deadly for older adults.

“We are in constant contact with the Suffolk County Department of Health and following their direction. The Suffolk County Department of Health is
currently undergoing an investigation to identify individuals who may have had direct contact with these employees,” according to a statement from Peconic Landing Thursday. “The Suffolk County Department of Health will contact these individuals directly. Due to HIPAA regulations we are unable to provide specific information about the employees.”

“As a cautionary measure, we are suspending outside visitation until further notice. We are not under quarantine,” the statement added. “We are, however, identifying additional opportunities to protect our members’ and employees’ safety and well-being. Recommendations from the Governor’s Office, the Suffolk County Health Commissioner, the NY State Department of
Health and the CDC support this approach. At this time, our focus is on ensuring the safety and well-being of our members and our employees. We are communicating all updates to our members and employees via a multitude of internal communication channels. We will be providing on-going updates via our webpage and social media channels for families, media and the greater community. We continue to offer every assurance to our members, members’ families and employees that Peconic Landing will be following all recommendations and will act in the best interests of our entire community.”

Update March 12, 1:45 p.m.

There are now eight confirmed cases of coronavirus in Southold Town, said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone in a Thursday afternoon press conference, along with four in Brookhaven Town, two in Smithtown, one in Islip and one in Huntington.

Mr. Bellone also declared a State of Emergency Thursday afternoon “to allow the county government to more quickly respond to the emergency,” to help the county purchase supplies and “move employees to where they need to be to address the crisis.”

“The number of positive cases is continuing to rise,” said Mr. Bellone. “As of this afternoon, 16 residents [in Suffolk County] have tested positive, double the number we had at the end of the day yesterday.”

Mr. Bellone said 10 of the patients are in the hospital and six are in mandatory home isolation, and that all of them appear to have contracted the disease in the local community.

He added that 49 people who may have been exposed to the patients are under mandatory quarantine. Seventy-six people are still under precautionary quarantine due to their travel history, all of whom are asymptomatic.

Mr. Bellone said all parades scheduled for this weekend, including Cutchogue’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, will be postponed or cancelled, and the county will not be issuing mass gathering permits.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo also announced Thursday afternoon that he is banning gatherings of more than 500 people.

The Congregate Lunch program at the Southold Town Human Resource Center has been suspended through Friday, March 20.  

According to Southold Town, “although meals will not be served in our dining room, frozen meals are available for pick up for seniors over the age of 60 (or participants who regularly drive to the Center for lunch). Currently the Home Delivered Meals Program remains fully operational. The Senior Adult Day Care program has also suspended services temporarily. Seniors with any questions can call the Senior Center at 631.298.4460 for information or for further assistance.”

The Southold School district has announced the school will be closed Friday, March 13 and Monday, March 16.

“Although the district has not received a positive result of COVID 19 for a student or staff member, we have made the decision to close tomorrow, Friday, March 13 and Monday, March 16,” said the district in a message to parents. “This is out of an abundance of caution and will allow the District to complete a deep, thorough cleaning of the buildings. We will remain in constant contact with the Suffolk County Department of Health.”

Greenport Village is urging members of the public to do business with the village over the phone, and has urged its employees to engage in social distancing.

“Staff members may be wearing gloves when dealing with the public, and may also maintain the recommended 6-foot distance,” said the village in a press release Thursday. “We strongly suggest that any business that can be transacted over the phone be done so – i.e. – bill payments, questions, the voicing of comments or concerns, etc.” The village’s webpage is filled with details.

Update 9:30 a.m.

The Times-Review News Group, which publishes The Suffolk Times and News-Review newspapers announced Thursday morning that “We have learned that a part-time member of our staff has tested positive for COVID-19 coronavirus after seeking medical attention at Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital. This employee has not worked since March 3 and we will work closely with the Suffolk County Department of Health, State Health Department and CDC following their recommended protocols. The employee does not interact with the public in their role on our staff, but we have proactively put procedures in place. Our office will be temporarily closed and our employees will work from home until further notice. The good news is our colleague is feeling significantly better and is well on their way to making a full recovery.”

We wish good health to our colleagues in the media industry and a swift recovery for their employee.

Original Story Follows

An employee of the Southold Fish Market has tested positive for the new coronavirus, the market announced on Facebook Wednesday evening.

“As a precaution, we have sanitized the entire establishment and will close tomorrow so the Board of Health can be notified and a protocol be established. Thank you for your understanding,” they said in a statement.

The Sag Harbor School District announced it is closing through March 22 “as a precaution.” According to a letter from the district to families, “faculty and staff will report to school Thursday, March 12 and Friday, March 13. During these two days, they will further develop learning opportunities for students to access while school is not in session.”

The Greenport School District is also closing today and tomorrow “out of an abundance of caution…[to] allow the District to complete a deep, thorough cleaning of the building. We will remain in constant contact with the Suffolk County Department of Health.”

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo also announced Wednesday that “State University of New York and the City University of New York will implement plans to maximize distance learning and reduce in-person classes, beginning March 19, for the remainder of the Spring semester… All campuses will develop plans catered to the campus and curriculum-specific needs while reducing density in the campus environment to help slow possibility for exposures to novel coronavirus. Distance learning and other options will be developed by campuses.”

A growing number East End events have be cancelled due to concerns about the possible spread of the new coronavirus at large gatherings. We’re updating our list regularly.

As public concern over their exposure to the new coronavirus grows, Northwell Health’s GoHealth Urgent Care Centers, which has locations in Bridgehampton, Hampton Bays and Riverhead, announced late Tuesday that “manual testing for coronavirus, available now in all of our centers, allows 75-100 tests to be processed daily. Given the still limited testing capacity at this time, we are reserving the COVID-19 test for patients who are at the highest risk. Once the lab automates the process, it will have the capability to process hundreds and eventually thousands of tests daily.”

“If you have any symptoms and would like to inquire about testing, please visit any of our centers by saving your spot online or just walking in,” they added. “Our providers will consult with you on your situation and provide guidance, including testing if it is deemed appropriate. We ask that if you are experiencing a fever with a cough or trouble breathing, please wear a mask and tell our center staff immediately when coming in.”

Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, where the emergency room has reportedly been overrun in recent days by people concerned they may have the coronavirus, reminded the public Wednesday afternoon that “patients may test positive for COVID-19 but not require hospitalization.”

“In anticipation of an increased volume of patients seeking care, we are moving forward with plans to create a forward triage area in Parrish Memorial Hall and identifying surge areas in the hospital,” the hospital added in a statement.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone echoed Governor Andrew Cuomo Wednesday morning when he said that “no one should have an expectation they can just walk into a doctor’s office and get tested” as of today, adding that a doctor must deem the test medically necessary based on the patients symptoms and contact history. “When that changes, we will provide that guidance.”

Through an emergency use authorization submitted Tuesday night to the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA), the Northwell lab now has approval to move immediately from manual testing to the lab’s semi-automated molecular diagnostic system, developed by GenMark Diagnostics, Inc., according to a statement Wednesday from Northwell Health.

“Since we began manual testing Sunday evening, we processed about 133 tests,” said Labs Executive Director Dwayne Breining, MD. “Moving to this semi-automated system will enable us to increase our testing capacity immediately to about 160 a day, and then to several hundred a day later this week.”

As a next step, the Lab is seeking FDA approval to fully automate the process, which would give it the capability to process more than 1,000 tests daily, he said.

“While the expanded ability to test patients for COVID-19 will greatly enhance Northwell’s ability to manage patients with potential infection, testing will continue to be reserved for those at risk for severe disease or who have had confirmed close contact with an infected individual.”

“Only people who meet that criteria will be tested – and that testing is currently being performed at hospital emergency departments and urgent care centers,” said John D’Angelo, MD, chair of emergency medicine at Northwell, which operates 18 emergency departments throughout New York City, Long Island and Westchester County. “Even as our testing capacity increases, we will continue to screen people judiciously so we can focus our attention on those most at risk for severe COVID-19 infection who require more-immediate and intensive medical attention. All others who are concerned about exposure but who have mild or no symptoms should recuperate at home.” 

We will update this post throughout this crisis with more details as they become available.

A growing number East End events have be cancelled due to concerns about the possible spread of the new coronavirus at large gatherings. We’re updating our list regularly.

Read our prior coverage:

https://www.eastendbeacon.com/coronavirus-east-end-senior-services-circle-the-wagons/

https://www.eastendbeacon.com/coronavirus-hits-home/

https://www.eastendbeacon.com/new-york-gets-ready-for-coronavirus/

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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