Bellone: Latest numbers on COVID-19 are a ‘wake-up call’ to continue following guidelines

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone waved a symbolic caution flag Tuesday as the latest data related to COVID-19 shows a slight uptick compared to recent weeks.

The county executive said the number of positive COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours surpassed 100 for the first time since May 31. Another potentially troubling data point was the positive infection rate of 2.1%, another increase after a jump to 1.9% one day earlier. There were 4,795 tests in the prior 24 hours.

“We’ve been at 1% for weeks now,” he said during an online media briefing, which he began by wearing a face covering to stress their importance. “These numbers should be a wake-up call today. This is not over. We have not eliminated this virus.”

Mr. Bellone cautioned that a continued rise in the infection rate would derail schools opening in the fall. A plan outlined by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday said schools may only reopen if their region is in Phase Four and the daily infection rate remains below 5% on a 14-day average since restrictions were lifted.

“I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for people to maintain social distancing and when you cannot to wear a face covering,” he said.

A dashboard on the NY Forward website tracks the percentage positive results by region. The latest data for Long Island shows the 2% infection rate is the highest in the state along with Western New York. New York City is at 1.4%, by comparison.

The infection rate for Long Island dipped under 10% in early May and leveled off under 2% in early June.

Mr. Bellone directed a message to younger people during Tuesday’s remarks. Since June 24, he said, approximately 42% of positive COVID-19 cases in the county are coming from people age 30 and under. He urged people in that demographic to “think again” if they feel the virus can’t harm them and to remember they can still spread it to people more at-risk.

“We need everyone to follow the guidance if we’re going to beat this virus,” he said.

He also said the economic recovery is at stake.

While Long Island is in Phase 4 of the NY Forward plan, a continued uptick in cases and infection rate could reverse some of that progress, Mr. Bellone warned.

“We know that will only create further economic strain,” he said. “Following the guidance and doing the right thing is about protecting the economy as well.”

On some good news, Mr. Bellone said there were no additional fatalities in the county linked to COVID-19 for the third straight day. However, any increase in cases will inevitably lead to further loss of life, he said.

“We can’t let that happen,” he said.

He urged anyone who attended a Fourth of July celebration or any other recent large gathering to get a diagnostic COVID-19 test.

“Stay smart and use common sense and we will be fine,” he said.