Peconic Bay Medical Center entrance on Middle Road, where a drive-up testing site has administered nearly 10,000 tests since it opened Dec. 28. Photo: Denise Civiletti

New confirmed cases of COVID-19 have declined statewide over the past two days and health officials are hoping it’s the beginning of a trend.

There were 48,686 new confirmed ca There were 48,686 new confirmed cases yesterday in New York, down from 54,749 on Sunday, Gov. Kathy Hochul said during a press briefing this morning.

Suffolk County reported 3,129 new positive tests Monday, after 3,286 new positives on Sunday — a significant drop from daily new cases over the previous five-day period, when, on four of those days there were nearly 7,000 new confirmed cases reported per day.

The governor, who last week said she had asked for data on the proportion of COVID hospitalizations are actually people hospitalized for non-COVID reasons who test positive upon admission, today said 42% of current hospitalizations statewide are “people not admitted for COVID reasons” but “just happen to test positive.” In New York City, she said, it was even higher — 49%.

In the Long Island region, 37% of the COVID-19 patients currently hospitalized were admitted for reasons other than COVID, according to data released by the governor’s office this afternoon.

That’s where things stand at Peconic Bay Medical Center, according to Executive Director Amy Loeb. She said in an interview today between 30% and 40% of people in the Riverhead hospital “with” coverage are not in the hospital “for” COVID.

The hospital tests all patients upon admission, regardless of the reason for admission. Since the coronavirus is circulating so widely in the community and since many people with the omicron variant are asymptomatic or have very mild symptoms, they don’t realize they are infected prior to admission, she said.

>>> See hospitalization graphs for PBMC, Suffolk County and more

“And so while the numbers of patients that are in the hospital are close to what they were last year, at this time, fortunately, the numbers of patients who are sick with COVID are fewer,” Loeb said.

PBMC had 60 COVID-19 in-patients as of Sunday, with five patients in ICU and all five intubated.

The omicron variant now represents more than 95% of the viruses in circulation in New York, according to the state health department.

While omicron is much more contagious than the delta variant and prior strains of the virus, it also seems to cause less severe disease. Vaccination plays a major role in preventing sever disease, according to the state health department and the CDC.

Outcomes are improved because of advances in treatment options, even when illness is serious enough to require hospitalization, Loeb said.

PBMC is still operating a drive-up testing site. Loeb said the hospital has performed nearly 10,000 tests since the site opened on Dec. 28. The site will be kept operational as long as there is demand, she said. Through the weekend and on Monday, the hospital saw a drop in the numbers of patients who were coming in to get tested, Loeb said. She takes that as a good sign.

“I really have a lot of hope and optimism that we are approaching the end of this, both this surge that we’re facing and COVID as a whole,” Loeb said.

“I think that this particular variant combined with the number of people who have become positive, combined with folks being vaccinated and having the booster shot, that maybe I can see the light at the end of the tunnel here,” she said.

The governor struck a similar note during her briefing today. “The rate of increase is slowing down, but (the numbers) are still high. We are not at the end,” Hochul said. “But I want to say that this is, to me, a glimmer of hope and at a time when we desperately need that.”

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

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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.