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COVID-19 cases as numbers spike in county

As COVID-19 cases soar across the United States, Suffolk County recorded more than 250 positive tests on back-to-back days this weekend for the first time in exactly six months.

According to the County Department of Health Services, Shelter Island’s number of confirmed COVID cases went up by two, for a total of 13.

In the past seven days, there have been 88 new coronavirus cases in Riverhead and Southold towns, according to data reported Sunday by the Suffolk County Department of Health. The infection rate countywide Sunday was 2.7%, a hair below a statewide rate of 2.8% announced Monday.

“We have definitely entered a new phase with COVID,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a conference call with the media Monday, calling it an “expected” fall increase.

The governor urged people who test positive or are symptomatic to stay at home and distance even from family members, a callback to the early days of the virus. He also said the public has to be careful with small gatherings and to not just change behavior as it relates to larger events.

He also encouraged local governments to make the “politically unpopular” decision to enforce the regulations put into place in March.

“I’ll tell you what’s not politically popular … people dying,” the governor said.

“Let’s get it under control,” he urged at the conclusion of his call.

Nationally the total number of COVID-19 positive tests has now exceeded 10 million, with New York accounting for more than 529,000 of those cases.

The total confirmed cases in Suffolk County has surpassed 50,000. As of Sunday, there were 57 coronavirus hospitalizations countywide. A COVID-19 death has not been reported in Suffolk since Wednesday.

At 42.3, Riverhead hamlet has had more cases per 1,000 residents than any other Suffolk community since the start of the virus. It had 33 new cases last week with nearby Flanders, Riverside and Northampton adding 10 more positives to the overall numbers.

In Southold Town, Mattituck again had the most new cases with 12 last week. There have been 24 new cases in the hamlet since Oct. 24 after about 60 positive tests in the first seven months of the virus.

Vaccine update

In a major announcement Monday, the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced early trial runs of its coronavirus vaccine are producing more than 90% effective.

Gov. Cuomo called that “good news,” but said he does still have some concerns. Mainly, the governor said he had “questions about their distribution methods.”

The governor said he wants to be sure they can get the vaccine to “more people, faster and more fairly.”

Pfizer is expected to ask the Federal Drug Administration for emergency authorization of the two-dose vaccine later this month, according to the New York Times. The paper said Pfizer executives have said they will have manufactured enough doses by the end of 2020 to immunize 15 to 20 million people.

In a tweet, Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) called the Pfizer announcement “huge news.”

Sports update

A reporter asked the governor if a decision had been made on allowing high risk school sports to play this winter and the governor’s staff suggested it’s unlikely.

State budget director Robert Mojica said that given the current trends in new COVID cases many school sports could be in jeopardy.

“We’re not going to expand them at this time,” he said.