Bellone: ‘Disturbing numbers’ reported as COVID-19 cases surge above 3.5% in Suffolk County

There have been 1,122 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported in Suffolk County since Saturday as positive testing rates have now risen above 3% for the first time in six months, numbers County Executive Steve Bellone called “disturbing” Tuesday.

In response, Mr. Bellone said the county is increasing contact tracing resources and he urged the public to get tested.

“These numbers are surging,” the county executive said. “We want to reverse that and that will only happen if we ramp up testing.”

Mr. Bellone said that while positive testing rates remained below 2% on all but one day between June and November, it rose to 3.8% Monday and 3.6% Tuesday. He attributed much of the rise in cases to small gatherings that took place across the county on Halloween.

“This is exactly when we would expect to see those spikes,” he said.

Mr. Bellone said he believes most of these events were within state gathering limits of 50 people, underscoring the importance of exercising precautions when meeting with a group.

“We are now indoors,” he said. “People are not outdoors at events anymore.”

Of the new cases reported in Suffolk this week, county health commissioner Dr. Gregson Pigott said 27% were with people between the ages of 25 to 40 and 32% more were in individuals aged 41 to 65. Mr. Bellone said the county has been fortunate the recent spread hasn’t affected a greater percentage of the older, more vulnerable population and no deaths have been reported in one week. He said he worries if the aging population will be impacted when families gather later this month for Thanksgiving. He added that people should limit the size of holiday gatherings and wear masks.

The county is currently training public health nurses in an effort to double its number of contact tracers from 50 to 100. Mr. Bellone said he fears the county’s economic recovery will be disrupted if the recent surge in cases is not quickly under control.

Nationally the total number of COVID-19 positive tests has now exceeded 10 million, with New York accounting for more than 529,000 of those cases.

The total confirmed cases in Suffolk County has surpassed 50,000.