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The number of daily new COVID cases in Suffolk County is at a level that makes the outbreak here “severe,” according to a risk assessment group affiliated with Georgetown University, Stanford Medicine and Harvard Global Health Institute.

Suffolk currently has 121 cases per 100,000 residents. Since the New Year, the risk of contracting the virus in Suffolk has been “extreme” — because daily new cases rose above 75 per 100,000 people — under metrics published by the Harvard Global Health Institute.

New York State as a whole crossed into the extreme risk category on Thursday, when daily new cases first exceeded 75 per 100,000. As of yesterday, that number had ticked up to 79 per 100k.

The Harvard institute “strongly urges” the adoption of a suppression strategy — meaning working to suppress viral spread to 1 new case per 100,000 people, the level at which true containment is possible. The institute says a suppression strategy where new daily cases are more than 25 per 100,000 people requires stay-at-home orders — “the most efficient path toward a restored economy without future lockdowns.”

With the economy still reeling from the shutdown last spring, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has not indicated any interest in issuing a stay-at-home order for any part of the state.

As of a month ago, the state has shifted its focus from suppressing infection rates to monitoring hospitalizations, adopting a “surge and flex” strategy to adjust hospital capacity in an effort to prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed, according to the governor.

Suffolk’s 121 cases per 100,000 residents ranks the county fourth highest in New York State, behind the upstate counties of Herkimer, Cayuga and Lewis, according to data collected and published by the nonprofit risk assessment group, the nonprofit group COVID Act Now.

In fact, every county in the state is above the 25 cases per 100,000 level, which the Harvard Global Health Institute classifies as the highest (extreme) risk level for infection.

In the past seven days in Suffolk, there were 12,494 new confirmed cases of the 117,363 COVID-19 tests administered — a 10.6% test percent-positive (or positivity) rate. There were 623 new hospital admissions in Suffolk and 563 discharges.

In Riverhead, there were 257 new confirmed cases in the past seven days, an average of 36.7 new cases daily — and a rate of 105 daily new cases per 100,000.

The Riverhead micro-cluster focus zone test positivity rate climbed from 11.1% to 12.4% in the past seven days.

This week in Suffolk, COVID-19 hospitalizations, which have been steadily climbing since Thanksgiving, exceeded an average of 800 people per day for the first time since early May.

But hospitalizations are increasing at a much slower pace so far this fall and winter than they did last spring, when they more than doubled in a seven-day span beginning March 31 and averaged 1,384 patients per day for the month of April.

In the past seven days, 104 Suffolk residents died as a result of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Fatalities are currently averaging 16 per day on a seven-day rolling average — compared to 2 per day as of Thanksgiving and 11 per day as of Christmas. COVID fatalities rose much more sharply more quickly last spring, when they increased from a handful each day in March to an average of 39 per day in April.

In New York State, there were 86,489 new confirmed cases out of 1,367,407 tests over the past seven days. The average positivity rate was 7.8%. There were 6,991 new hospital admissions and 1,164 deaths.

Four cases of the apparently more contagious UK strain of the coronavirus were detected in New York State in the past week, including one on Long Island, a resident of Massapequa in Nassau County.

>>>More COVID-19 coverage, data and updates

The governor on Friday announced the expansion of the state’s vaccination distribution network to help accelerate the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine to New Yorkers currently eligible for vaccination.

“As part of this effort, thousands of new providers and distribution sites are being identified throughout the state,” the governor said.

Vaccination has so far been available mainly to healthcare workers in hospitals (Group 1A). Beginning tomorrow, people in Group 1B — essential workers and New Yorkers 75 and older — can make reservations for vaccination, though the appointments they receive may not be sooner than several weeks to a few months in the future, the governor said Friday, depending on vaccine supplies.

Public health researchers and health officials urge Suffolk residents to take all possible precautions to avoid exposure.

According to the CDC this includes:

  • Wear securely fitting multi-layered masks, covering both your nose and mouth, even when six feet apart from others.
  • Avoid crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces.
  • Avoid indoor gatherings with people outside of your own household.
  • Wash your hands often with hot water and soap for at least 20 seconds.

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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.