As confirmed coronavirus cases continue to rise at an alarming rate in the downstate New York region, governments on every level are marshaling resources to meet the demands on an already-strained health care system.

Suffolk County today reported 2,735 positive COVID-19 cases — up 475 since yesterday — and two new COVID-related deaths, both elderly males on the East End.

As of this afternoon, there were 287 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Suffolk, County Executive Steve Bellone said during his daily online press briefing.

“Two days ago, that number was 163,” Bellone said.

COVID patients in ICU increased by 36 since yesterday.

“ICU patients have more than doubled” in two days, he said. “The number was at 50 two days go. It is 103 today.”

The increase has worrisome implications for the capacity of the county’s health care system. Today, there were just 543 out of 2,649 hospital beds available. Only 63 out of 309 ICU beds remained available.

COVID patients who become critically ill often require ventilators to assist their breathing and keep them alive as their bodies fight the virus. Patients who are “vented” are places in intensive care units.

The state has been in a race against time for procuring ventilators and expanding hospital capacity before the anticipated arrival of the peak of the pandemic in New York — projected by state officials to be 14 to 21 days from now.

“We need to flatten the curve to make sure our health care system doesn’t get overwhelmed,” Bellone said. As he has every day since Gov. Andrew Cuomo implemented “N.Y. Pause,” ordering the closing of “nonessential businesses” across the state, Bellone urged all Suffolk residents to follow the guidance of the State Health Department and “stay home.”

The county executive asked residents to call 311 to report businesses that are not complying with rules regarding closures or social distancing controls — as well as people who are not obeying the prohibitions against gatherings.

Bellone said residents must pull together to ensure that everyone follows State Health Department guidelines in the hope of ensuring the health care system does not become overwhelmed.

“What happens in the next week and the week after will be absolutely critical,” Bellone said.

The governor said today the state is scouting additional new sites for temporary hospitals, with a goal of having a 1,000-plus patient overflow facility in each NYC borough as well as in Westchester, Rockland, Nassau and Suffolk counties.

These new additions, together with the temporary hospitals that are being built at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center and locations at SUNY Stony Brook, SUNY Old Westbury and the Westchester Convention Center, are aimed at building thousands of new beds to bolster existing hospital capacity, Cuomo said, with the goal of being open to patients in early- to mid-April.

The state is also preparing college dormitories and hotels for emergency beds.

Cuomo today confirmed an additional 6,448 cases of novel coronavirus, bringing the statewide total to 37,258.

New York City had 21,393 confirmed cases, an increase of 3,537 over yesterday.

Nassau’s tally grew by 629 to 3,914.

Suffolk’s 2,735 positive COVID-19 cases were distributed throughout the county as follows:

Islip – 461
Huntington – 423
Brookhaven – 330
Babylon – 306
Smithtown – 130
Southold – 111
Riverhead – 47
Southampton – 40
East Hampton – 13
Shelter Island – 2
Township not known – 148

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.