Covid Remains Unrelenting as Vaccine Nears

The Covid-19 pandemic is continuing to rear its head higher in Suffolk County, as New York prepares to receive its first 170,000 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine on Dec. 15.

On Sunday, Nov. 29, the county had reported just 604 new cases of Covid-19 here in the prior 24 hours, with 4.9 percent of people tested testing positive which at the time was higher than it had been in months. By midweek, however, those numbers had nearly doubled.

The county reported a whopping 966 cases of Covid-19 in the 24 hours ending Wednesday, Dec. 2, with 5.8 percent of people tested testing positive, and the situation only worsened as the week wore on, with 1,111 new cases in the 24 hours ending Thursday, with 6 percent of the people tested testing positive. By Friday, 1,171 people had tested positive, a 6.5 percent positivity rate, and on Saturday, 1,064 people tested positive, a 6.2 percent positivity rate.

“For the second day in a row, Suffolk’s positivity rate is above 5 percent, an alarming number we have not seen since the spring. With 966 new cases, we are beginning to see the first signs of the post-Thanksgiving holiday surge we had warned about,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone in a statement Wednesday.

“We have been here before, we know how and where this virus spreads, and we have the blueprints needed to once again flatten the curve,” he added. “We know that small gatherings among family and friends have the highest transmission of all events – more than 65 percent of new cases in the state are being traced back to small gatherings.”

By Saturday, Dec. 5, 23 people had died of the virus in the past week in Suffolk, including eight on Friday alone. Three hundred and fifty-four people were hospitalized with the virus in the county, up from 233 on Nov. 29.

The increase in positive cases was being felt statewide, with a 4.99 percent positivity across the state reported on Saturday, along with 69 deaths statewide from the virus on Friday.

Areas within the state’s Micro-Cluster zones, including Riverhead and Hampton Bays, had a positivity rate of 6.17 percent statewide on Saturday, while areas outside the Micro-Cluster zones had a positivity rate of 4.59 percent.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office reported Saturday that the positivity rate in Hampton Bays had been 6.33 percent in the past 24 hours and 5.73 percent on a rolling seven-day average. In Riverhead, those numbers were 5.03 percent in the prior 24 hours, and 3.97 percent on a seven-day rolling average.

Mr. Cuomo said in his Thursday press briefing that the state is turning its focus from infection rates to hospital capacity and vaccine distribution.

“It’s all about hospitalization rate and hospital capacity. In the broad scope of things, we’re dealing with increases in hospitalizations, but we’re doing dramatically better than essentially every other state in the country,” said Mr. Cuomo. “The total number of hospital beds in the state is 53,000 — currently 35,000 beds are occupied, and about 4,000 of those with Covid patients. At our height, we had about 19,000 people hospitalized with Covid to put this recent increase in perspective.”

Mr. Cuomo reported this week that the state is expected to receive its first 170,000 doses of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine on Dec. 15, pending Food & Drug Administration approval for the vaccine from the federal government, which is expected next Thursday, Dec. 10.

Mr. Cuomo showed off a storage box filled with vials used to keep the Pfizer vaccine at super-cold temperatures during his Thursday press briefing.

“Pfizer, which is a great New York company, made the vaccine. Pfizer developed the vaccine without any assistance from the federal government,” said Mr. Cuomo. “They did it all on their own, and we’re very proud to call them a New York company. The vaccine process is a complicated process, and the distribution is going to take a lot of work and a lot of effort.”

“The vaccine is the weapon that is going to win the Covid war, and that is the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s not a short tunnel, but we know the way through this. We just have to get there, and we have to get there with as little as loss of life as possible,” he added.

“The federal government continues to overlook the black, brown, and poor communities in its vaccine plan and hasn’t provided the funding necessary for the states to administer it,” said Mr. Cuomo in his Saturday press briefing. “These are real problems, and if left unaddressed they could undermine the effectiveness of the entire program. While we won’t stop fighting until these problems are addressed, New Yorkers need to do their part too. They already did the best job in the country the first time around, going from the highest infection rate to one of the lowest, and I have no doubt if we continue to stay smart, we will get through this together — stronger, tougher and more loving than before.”

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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