COVID-19 positivity rates and new hospitalizations continue to rise in Suffolk County and across New York State, as local hospitals prepare for a continued surge in admissions through the holiday season.

Suffolk’s seven-day average positivity rate — the ratio of positive COVID-19 tests to the number of tests given — has risen by 70% since Thanksgiving — from 3.7% on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26. to 6.3% Tuesday, according to data reported by Suffolk County.

The seven-day average of new daily hospital admissions in Suffolk rose to 44 — a 47% increase since Thanksgiving Day.

Since Thanksgiving, 11,434 Suffolk residents have tested positive for COVID, and 518 COVID patients have been admitted to Suffolk hospitals.

Health officials say holiday social gatherings drove the spike in both metrics and warn the trend will continue and even escalate through mid-January.

Officials urge people to avoid indoor social gatherings this holiday season, even small gatherings. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges people to restrict indoor gatherings to members of their own household. They also urge strict compliance with guidance for mask-wearing and social distancing.

Fearing a large holiday season surge in COVID infections, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has directed the State Health Department to implement measures aimed at boosting hospital capacity and staffing across the state to avoid hospitals becoming overwhelmed by a holiday surge in patients.

According to data provided by the governor yesterday, the Long Island region, on a seven-day rolling average, has 18% of its hospital beds available and 25% of its ICU beds available.

Suffolk had 20% of the total number of hospital beds available and 24% of its ICU beds available as of Tuesday.

Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead, with 140 patients occupying 178 beds, has 21% available capacity, according to information provided today by the hospital.

Thirty-nine of the hospital’s 140 patients are COVID-19 patients, PBMC president and CEO Andrew Mitchell said today. There are six COVID patients in ICU beds.

Mitchell said the hospital’s second ICU unit can be converted to a COVID surge ICU within a few hours if it becomes necessary.

“PBMC continues to treat a growing number of COVID patients, including ICU cases, consistent with the significant increase in community spread,” Mitchell said.

“We have activated our surge plan in a calibrated manner and continue to provide all services, including elective surgery, at this time,” he said.

Mitchell said the surge plan includes converting a currently unfinished first-floor space for patient care.

Riverhead’s confirmed COVID case total rose to 1,317 Tuesday, an increase of 19 cases from the prior day. There have been 181 new cases documented in Riverhead Town since Thanksgiving Day.

The State Health Department does not report the daily number of tests administered on the town or hamlet level, so the town’s positivity rate cannot be calculated.

Statewide, there were 4,993 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 Tuesday, including 747 new admissions, according to data released yesterday by the governor. There were 952 people in ICU beds, with 521 on ventilators, an increase of 28 people.

The state’s positivity rate rose to 5.44%.

There were 95 new COVID deaths in New York Tuesday, bringing the statewide death toll in the pandemic to 27,404.

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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.