Suffolk County reports over 1,100 new cases of COVID-19; governor says residents should focus on vaccine

The number of new COVID-19 cases in Suffolk County has soared to more than 1,100 in the past 24 hours, County Executive Steve Bellone announced in a media conference call Thursday. The county is now above a 6% positivity rate.

There are 287 hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Suffolk, including 50 in intensive care units, Mr. Bellone said. He estimated that more than 1,000 county residents could be hospitalized by Christmas Day if the spread continues at the same rate as it has over the past week.

“To put that in perspective, at our peak in the spring, when our region was the epicenter of the virus when we had 1,068 people in our hospitals,” Mr. Bellone said.

In a separate press conference Thursday, Governor Andrew Cuomo said Long Island has more new hospitalizations over the past three days than any other region in New York State.

Mr. Bellone urged residents to wear masks and practice social distancing as the holiday season continues in order to prevent a continued backslide into COVID-19 levels not seen in months. The number of new cases reported Thursday is the most since April.

“We did this in the spring and we can do this again,” the county executive said of containing the spread.

The new cases are believed to be the beginning of the post-Thanksgiving spike officials had warned of, Mr. Bellone said.

In his briefing, Mr. Cuomo announced the state is reopening and expanding its rent aid program. He also showed off just how an upcoming COVID-19 vaccine will be distributed.

The governor urged all New Yorkers to begin talking about the vaccine with their families and to consider taking it when it becomes available to them. The first doses, which will be limited to front line workers, are expected within weeks.

“It is real and we need people to start to focus on it,” the governor said of the vaccine. “We want to get it done as quickly as we can.”

Mr. Cuomo declined to answer when asked by a reporter if a COVID-19 vaccine would one day be mandated for students to take before attending school.