Large social gatherings this month, including one on the North Fork, have led to dozens of coronavirus infections in eastern Suffolk County and hundreds of people are under quarantine as a result, County Executive Steve Bellone said at a press conference in Yaphank this afternoon.

Thirty people tested positive for COVID-19 after an Oct. 17 wedding with 91 guests at the North Fork Country Club in Cutchogue, Bellone said. One hundred and fifty-nine contacts are under quarantine.

Twenty-six people who attended a birthday party in Bellport Oct. 17 have tested positive for COVID-19 and 132 contacts of people at that party have been quarantined, Bellone said. The party did not violate the 50-person limit on social gatherings, he said.

The 300-person party on Middle Road in Riverhead Oct. 9 has not been linked by the county health department to a COVID-19 outbreak to date, a county spokesperson said today.

Bellone said “super-spreader” events are “a threat to public health and to our continued economic recovery” and will not be tolerated.

“If you violate the rules, you will be caught and held responsible,” he said.

Bellone said the county would be seeking $17,000 in fines from the North Fork Country Club for violating the governor’s executive order limiting social gatherings to 50 people and for violating the county’s sanitary code.

The host of the large gathering in Riverhead Oct. 9, identified by Riverhead Police as Julian Harris, 29, of 455 Middle Road, was charged with violating New York State Public Health Law, according to police.

The county executive said health officials do not believe there is any more ongoing community spread from the Cutchogue wedding event or the Bellport birthday party. With the contact-tracing and investigation the county is doing, he said, people infected with the virus are isolating and close contacts are quarantining and that stops the spread of the virus.

“As we approach this holiday weekend we want residents to be mindful” of the virus, Bellone said. “The Bellport party is a perfect example of how this virus can spread, with 26 people leaving there, not knowing they were going home, into their communities, into their places of work and spreading the virus.”

The virus is surging across the country and around the globe. There were more than 73,000 new cases of COVID-19 and 931 new deaths reported in the United States yesterday, according to the COVID Tracking Project. There were 44,212 people hospitalized with the virus in the U.S. yesterday — 8,909 in ICU and 2,287 currently on ventilators. More than 8.7 million Americans have been infected with the virus some the outbreak began and 218,349 Americans have died as a result of coronavirus infection.

New York currently has the second-lowest positivity rate in the nation at 1.4%, according to Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center. To date, more than half a million New Yorkers have been confirmed to have contracted COVID-19; 25,773 have died.

Suffolk County had a 1.9% positivity rate yesterday and a 1.4% rate on a seven-day rolling average. Suffolk has had 49,262 confirmed COVID-19 cases since the outbreak began in March.

There have been 32 new COVID-19 cases reported in Riverhead since Oct. 17, according to New York State Department of Health data, bringing the town’s confirmed total to 872 cases.

There has been a slight uptick in COVID-related ER visits at Peconic Bay Medical Center, deputy executive director Amy Loeb said today. COVID inpatient admissions at PBMC have remained low and stable — an average daily census of two to three patients , she said.

“We are watching this very closely,” Loeb said.

COVID cases in the Riverhead Central School District have closed schools for in-person instruction until at least Nov. 4, with the district’s entire transportation department under quarantine due to confirmed cases among several staff members in the department. In addition, two teachers have recently tested positive for the virus, the district announced 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.