Suffolk County reported a spike in new Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, with more than 100 people testing positive for the disease in the prior 24 hours for the first time since May 31.
County Executive Steve Bellone reported Tuesday that 102 people had tested positive in the prior 24 hours. On Monday, the county had reported 84 new cases, after several weeks in which the average number of new cases had hovered around 50.
At the height of the outbreak in mid-April, there were days when more than 1,000 Suffolk residents tested positive for the disease.
“These numbers should be a wake up call today. This is not over. if we’re not remaining vigilant and we’re not using common sense, it will come roaring back,” said Mr. Bellone, who began his media briefing wearing a black face mask and adopting a stern tone.
“Face coverings work. It’s our major defense to prevent ourselves from getting the virus,” he said. “If all of us put on a face covering now, in the next four to six weeks we would drive this epidemic to the ground. New York has come too far to go in the wrong direction now.”
Mr. Bellone said that many of the new cases had been tied to backyard parties and gatherings at peoples’ houses over the Fourth of July holiday weekend, including a party in Suffolk highlighted on Twitter today by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Mr. Bellone said the county had confirmed that four people became infected with the coronavirus at that party — a total of 22 percent, though 35 percent of the people at the party had been under investigation for possible infection. He added that many of these backyard parties do not violate state guidelines for gatherings, which were limited to 25 people as of the July 4 holiday but have been increased to 50 people since Long Island entered Phase 4 of reopening last week. But he echoed the governor’s sentiment about being vigilant about wearing face coverings.
Mr. Bellone also said that 10 Suffolk County ocean beach lifeguards had recently tested positive for Covid-19. They are believed by the Suffolk County Health Department to have contracted the virus at social gatherings together outside of work.
“Younger people may be feeling invulnerable, but a large percentage of the positive cases we are seeing are coming from people 30 and under,” said Mr. Bellone. “Since June 24, 42 percent of the positive cases are coming from this age group…. Wear a face covering. If you’re not feeling well, get a test and stay isolated to the maximum extent possible…. The truth is this virus impacts all of us. For the most part it will not affect young people physically, but we know they can spread it. And we know this virus has devastated the economy, and that affects them directly.”
Mr. Bellone said 2.1 percent of the tests conducted in the past 24 hours in the county were positive, up from 1.9 percent on Monday. Statewide, the positivity rate currently stands at 1.5 percent.
“If that number climbs to 5 percent, we will not be able to reopen schools,” said Mr. Bellone. “Our economic recovery is at stake.”
Update July 17:
County figures broken down on a town-by-town basis show that, in the 48 hour period between July 13 and July 15, the new cases were widespread throughout the county, but higher in areas where there are more people, with 22 new cases in Huntington; 12 in Babylon; 13 in Smithtown; 17 in Islip; 39 in Brookhaven; 1 in Riverhead; 6 in Southampton; 1 in East Hampton and no new cases in Southold or Shelter Island.
By the end of the week, cases appeared to have stabilized, with 53 cases reported Wednesday, 66 on Thursday and 49 on Friday, with .9 percent of people tested turning up with positive results on Friday.
Suffolk County is regularly updating this information online here. We will continue to monitor the cases throughout the weeks ahead.