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New coronavirus cases hit a six-week high in Suffolk County on Monday, prompting County Executive Steve Bellone to issue a stark warning yesterday.

“This is not over. We have not eliminated this virus and if we’re not remaining vigilant and we’re not using common sense, it will come roaring back,” he said.

Suffolk had 102 positive test results out of 4,795 tests given — a 2.1% positive rate, according to New York State health department data.

Suffolk’s positive rate had been hovering at about 1% since the first week of June. On Sunday, it jumped to 1.9% and then to 2.1% on Monday.

“This is a wake-up call,” Bellone said.

“If you somehow thought the fight was done, that this was over, think again. Look what’s happening around the country. Look what’s happening in Texas and Florida. They essentially declared victory.”

The virus is surging in 41 states and in Washington D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, forcing some states, where restrictions had been eased or even lifted, to impose new restrictions and shutdowns.

There were 62,879 new cases reported nationwide yesterday and 736 new deaths. Since the beginning of the outbreak in March, there have been 3,431,574 confirmed cases and 136,466 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

COVID hospitalizations in the U.S. climbed to 55,509 yesterday, more than double the 27,948 low on June 21. Hospitalizations neared 60,000 in mid-April, at the peak of the outbreak in New York, the epicenter of the pandemic in the U.S. this spring.
Hospitalizations in New York on Friday dropped below 800 for the first time since the outbreak began, but yesterday the number of hospitalizations in the state ticked back up to 820.

Bellone yesterday urged residents to “stay smart and use common sense.”

“Put on a face covering. Socially distance. Stay home if your’e feeling sick. Wash your hands and use hand sanitizer,” said Bellone, who, to drive home the point, wore a black face mask at the start of his video conference with reporters yesterday.

Bellone urged young people especially to take the threat of this virus seriously and follow the guidelines.

“You feel invulnerable, that it doesn’t affect you,” Bellone said.

Since June 24, approximately 42% of the new positives are people 30 and under, the county executive said.

“The truth is, this virus impacts all of us,” he said. “Young people spread it and it can affect more vulnerable people that they know and love. And it affects our economy.”

“If this number continues to climb we will see more sickness, death and economic devastation,” Bellone warned.

Should the positive rate hit 5%, schools will not be able to open this fall, Bellone noted, referring to the state guidelines announced by the governor this week.

“We have too much on the line to let up now,” he said.

The county executive urged anyone who attended a large Fourth of July gathering to “be extremely sensitive to how you are feeling and when in doubt, go get tested.”

Bellone said 10 ocean beach lifeguards have tested positive for the coronavirus, which he attributed to their attendance at a gathering while off-duty. They are now in quarantine, he said.

Across the state, only the Long Island region and the Western New York region were at a 2% positive rate, according to data reported yesterday on the state’s regional monitoring dashboard. All but two regions — North Country and Southern Tier — had climbed over 1%.

There were 912 positive tests in New York Monday, a 1.5% statewide positive rate. New York’s Rt (rate of transmission) value remains above 1 (1.04 as of yesterday). An Rt above 1.0 means the virus will spread quickly, according to public health officials.

The COVID-19 pandemic won’t be over until there’s a “proven, effective vaccine or drug treatment,” Bellone said yesterday.

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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.