County Executive: Cluster of COVID-19 cases connected to Riverhead Friendly’s

A small cluster of COVID-19 cases have been tied to employees at the Riverhead Friendly’s and officials are urging anyone who may have been at the restaurant on Nov. 5-6 to monitor for symptoms for 14 days.

Dr. Shaheda Iftikhar, deputy commissioner for the Suffolk County Department of Health, said there have been six confirmed cases. She said the health department believes the cases are isolated at this time.

The restaurant has remained open.

“The owner of the location has been contacted by the Suffolk County Department of Health regarding exposure to COVID-19 at the establishment on Nov. 5-6,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said Tuesday during a media briefing. “This is within 24 hours of the initial interviews of multiple cases being traced back to that location.”

The Friendly’s is located at 949 Old Country Road.

Health officials encourage any person potentially exposed to get tested for COVID-19. Information on testing is available here.

In a subsequent news release, the health department said the information on the Friendly’s is “being shared with the public immediately upon discovery through intensive case investigation that more than one person connected with this venue has contracted the virus.”

The news came as cases continue to climb across the county and Mr. Bellone estimated an additional 400+ cases would be reported Tuesday for the prior 24 hours once the numbers are confirmed from the State Health Department.

He spoke about the need for people to comply with the guidelines in place, particularly pointing to the upcoming night before Thanksgiving that has typically been a popular party night for young people.

“We’re again asking residents for their voluntary compliance with all new COVID-19 guidelines,” he said. “We know how tough this has been. Everyone is exhausted, physically, mentally. What’s abundantly clear is that this virus is spreading rapidly throughout our county once again and we need to protect the health of our communities and we cannot jeopardize our continued economic recovery.”

Current state restrictions limit restaurants and bars from staying open past 10 p.m., except for takeout or delivery. Mr. Bellone said those restrictions may lead to more people gathering at homes, despite the current 10-person limit.

He announced a partnership with the county health department and Partners in Prevention, a health collaborative of nonprofit health and education agencies, to launch a social media campaign to remind people about COVID-19 guidelines as well as the social host law, which allows a homeowner to be held responsible for underage drinking.

“The spread of COVID-19 at these types of parties is very, very real,” Mr. Bellone said. “We all need to take personal responsibility.”

He said it’s important to double down on the common sense measures that can prevent the spread of COVID-19 such as social distancing and wearing masks.

“We’ve come too far to go back now,” he said.