Suffolk: ‘Superspreader’ Event Should Serve as Warning

A Sept. 25 Sweet Sixteen party at the Miller Place Inn has proven to be a “super-spreader” event for Suffolk County, with 37 people associated with the event testing positive for the virus and 270 people quarantined, including people affiliated with 35 school districts, said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.

Mr. Bellone made the announcement in an Oct. 13 briefing on the pandemic, the first Covid-19 briefing he has held in several months, as the positivity rate in the county has hovered around 1 percent of people tested.

The Suffolk County Health Department received notice of the first positive case of the virus associated with the party on Sept. 30, as part of a number of positive cases at Sachem High School North.

Mr. Bellone said there were 81 people on the party’s guest list, which the host willingly provided to the health department, even though New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Covid-19 executive orders limit public gatherings to 50 or fewer people, or 50 percent of a venue’s capacity, whichever is less.

All 81 attendees were placed under quarantine by the Suffolk County Health Department, and the Miller Place Inn received a $10,000 fine “in violation of New York State Executive Orders and public health law,” in addition to $2,000 in fines for violations of the county’s sanitary code.

Mr. Bellone said this is the first time the health department has initiated an enforcement action against a business for Covid-related violations.

“Our focus has been on education and providing information to businesses,” said Mr. Bellone. “The action in this case involves a location that has had several visits and warnings. We have never seen a case like this in Suffolk County before, with this great of an impact with regard to spread. There’s no precise definition of a super-spreader event but this is a super-spreader event for Suffolk County, without question.”

In all, 28 students and nine adults were found to have the virus, including students in eight separate school districts, said Mr. Bellone. Twenty-nine of the positive cases were among people who attended the party, seven were household contacts of people who attended the party and one was a “close contact” of someone who attended the party. The investigation involved 334 total contacts, 183 of which were affiliated with schools.

Mr. Bellone added that there was “not widespread compliance with face coverings and social distancing” at the party, though the primary issue was the size of the gathering.

“The situation is under control, and there is no community spread at this time,” said Mr. Bellone, who added that the county has continued to maintain a positivity rate of about 1 percent over the past two weeks. “We need to make sure, as we move into the colder weather, we are being very clear that we cannot have these kinds of activities happening…. As people move indoors and shut their windows, that is when the real possibility for a second wave or surge in cases happens. We do not want to be moving backwards.”

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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