Supervisor: ‘Remain vigilant’ as Riverhead nears micro-cluster status; voluntary testing at schools to begin Friday

Riverhead Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said on Wednesday that Riverhead has been identified as a potential micro-cluster for COVID-19.

New York unveiled the Cluster Action Initiative in October as a way to identify small outbreaks of cases and to mitigate the spread “within a limited and definable geographic area.” The micro-clusters are identified as either yellow, orange or red zones, with increasing restrictions in each group.

“Suffolk County officials are working with us to identify and monitor clusters, and will be providing rapid testing in an effort to slow the uptick of positive cases in our area,” Ms. Aguiar said. “It is crucial not to become complacent, as COVID-19 positivity rates are increasing dramatically across the United States.”

Christine Tona, interim superintendent for the Riverhead Central School District, said Wednesday evening that a voluntary in-school testing program will start over a two-week period to test approximately 20% of the school population, including students, faculty and staff. She said a rapid test would be administered in schools by trained staff with the Suffolk County Department of Health. The tests are provided at no cost to the district.

Testing will start Friday.

“Testing is voluntary and I hope you will consider allowing your child to be tested,” Ms. Tona wrote.

Parents can consent to their child receiving a rapid test by completing a Willingness to Test Survey. She said the response does not bind a family once testing begins.

“We are also working Suffolk County to create a community testing site for those who are not exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19,” Ms. Tona said.

Two webinars are scheduled Thursday where Ms. Tona will be available to answer questions. The first is at noon in English and Spanish and the second is at 4 p.m. in English.

She added that Riverhead could be designated as a micro-cluster, which would require testing for schools to remain open for in-person instruction.

“In order to keep schools and businesses safely open for as long as we can, we need to work together to figure out the cause of our high community positivity rate,” Ms. Tona said. “In order to do that, we must increase the sample size of the tested population.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week urged New Yorkers to continue to follow the guidelines in place on wearing masks and social distancing.

“Our micro-cluster strategy and testing capacity will help us through this new season, but ensuring we don’t go back to where we were in the spring is going to depend on our behavior,” he said.

Areas that become identified as micro-clusters are subject to “pausing of non-essential economic activities, transition to remote education, limiting mass gatherings and attendance at houses of worship. In addition, increase community testing access and improve compliance enforcement mechanisms,” according to the governor’s office. Current micro-clusters are in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, Rockland County and other areas.

Residents can type in their specific address here to see if they are in a micro-cluster. More information on the micro-clusters is available here.

The statewide test positivity rate is at 3.4%, Mr. Cuomo said Wednesday. The rate for Long Island is at 3.3% on a 7-day average and up to 3.4% in Suffolk County on the 7-day average. Statewide hospitalizations have climbed to 2,202, an increase of 78 over the prior day.

Ms. Aguiar encouraged everyone to be tested for COVID-19, which can be done at the following Riverhead locations: CityMD Urgent Care, ProHEALTH Urgent Care, Suffolk County Riverhead Center and CVS Pharmacy.

“We expect a local outdoor testing site to be operational in the
immediate future,” Ms. Aguiar said.

There have been 1,038 positive COVID-19 cases in Riverhead over the duration of the pandemic, according to the county health department.