COVID-19 Update: Hospitalizations up in Suffolk, fatalities reported at Riverhead nursing home, local deaths doubled in March and April

For the second straight day, the number of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 in Suffolk has increased, County Executive Steve Bellone reported Tuesday.

The slight spike — 835 patients on Tuesday, up from 813 on Sunday — follows a period of nearly two weeks of steady decline in hospitalization.

Mr. Bellone said the increases is something he is definitely “concerned about.”

“It’s not the direction we want to be going in,” Mr. Bellone said during his daily media briefing Tuesday. “We’d been on a downward trend and it’s important that we see that trend continuing.”

A 14-day decline in the three-day average of hospitalizations is one of seven metrics New York State is using to reopen the economy. As of Tuesday, it’s one of only two metrics Long Island has met, less than any other region in the state.

In Nassau County, hospitalizations once again declined, however, and Long Island continues to meet that key objective.

Mr. Bellone described the hospitalization increase of 18 patients reported Tuesday and four on Monday an indication of a plateau.

“We are plateauing at a high level right before we reopen the economy,” he said.

Of the 835 hospitalized patients, 310 are being treated in intensive care units, a decline of seven patients in the past 24 hours. Fifty new patients were admitted to Suffolk hospitals in that time period and 37 were discharged. Another 20 deaths have also been reported since Monday, bringing the county’s death toll to 1,296.

Nursing home deaths in Riverhead

This week also brought about a change in the way nursing home deaths have been reported. 

The state has begun to release totals for facilities with fewer than five deaths, putting an end to a previous practice that kept some nursing homes off the list of fatalities, while still counting those deaths in the totals. The change saw the Acadia Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Riverhead, with two deaths, added to the rolls for the first time. Acadia has not issued a public statement about the deaths.

The state is also now reporting not only confirmed COVID-19 deaths in its nursing home reports, but deaths “presumed” to be caused by the virus as well. 

There have been 631 confirmed and presumed COVID-19 deaths at Suffolk County nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, according to the state.

North Fork deaths doubled

The number of March and April deaths doubled on the North Fork this year as COVID-19 cases spiked, according to records obtained from Riverhead and Southold towns.

In total, clerks in the two towns issued 201 death certificates during the two-month stretch, up from 101 in 2019. Suffolk County does not break down its COVID-19 fatalities by town.

Southold Town Clerk Elizabeth Neville said COVID-19 only recently became a cause of death listed on death certificates, so just six of the 52 deaths reported in her town in the previous two months were classified as such.

Riverhead had seen its overall number of deaths decline in the first quarter of 2020, before a dramatic spike was reported for April. In total, 103 death certificates were issued in Riverhead last month, more than any other one month period between January and April in the past four years.

The 99% increase in death certificates in the two towns echoes an analysis published last week in Newsday, which showed death certificates were up 102% across Long Island between March 1 and April 21. The analysis concluded that the number of death certificates issued across towns and villages in Suffolk and Nassau counties suggests Long Island’s total COVID-19 fatalities are likely higher than what has been reported by New York State.