Covid-19: County test site details; Local governments adapt to Omicron

Pictured above: A handwritten sign at the Mattituck CVS on Tuesday advising customers that the pharmacy does not know when it will receive more Covid-19 home test kits.

In the wake of the Christmas holidays, Covid-19 positivity rates in Suffolk County skyrocketed to levels not seen since December 2020, driven by the highly contagious new Omicron variant of the virus, as residents rushed to rush to find test sites and at-home test kits that were scarce.

Suffolk County’s Covid-19 positivity rate reached 13.5% on Monday, December 20, the highest positivity rate reported since “the early days of the pandemic,” according to Suffolk County Director Steve Bellone , who held their first Covid-19 briefing in a month on December 21. As of that date, 1,670 people have tested positive.

But the positivity rate continued to rise throughout this week, and even an increase in the number of tests performed as people planned to visit relatives for Christmas did not dampen the positivity rate – the December 23, 3,759 people tested positive for Covid, 15.8 percent of the 23,825 tests performed.

As of Sunday, December 26, the positivity rate was 17.5%, with 2,098 Suffolk residents testing positive for the virus, out of a total of 11,997 tests.

“We had hoped, of course, that the wave we saw last year around this time could be the last big wave we saw with the Covid-19 virus,” Bellone said on December 21. “Even though the cases were soaring, we knew there was a vaccine on the horizon. This gave hope that we would get the virus completely under control.”

But as the virus mutated and the vaccine’s effectiveness waned over time, Mr Bellone and Suffolk County Health Commissioner Gregson Pigott urged members of the public to get vaccinated.

But with many double and triple vaccinated people still positive for the virus, even with fewer and milder symptoms, many vaccinated residents have turned to testing and isolating the people they love, a method proven control of the spread of the virus.

The problem? Tests were extremely difficult to come by, with emergency care centers booked days in advance or, in some cases, closed to protect their staff, and home tests flew off drugstore shelves hours afterward. their arrival in stores.

Mr Bellone had announced on December 21 that three test sites across the county, including one at Gabreski Airport in Westhampton Beach, were due to open this week and next.

On Tuesday, December 28, the county provided details and changes to testing locations, with testing sites slated to open at Hecksher State Park on Wednesday, December 29, at Red Creek Park in Hampton Bays on Monday, January 3, and at Cathedral Pines County Park on Tuesday, January 4.

The Rapid Antigen Covid-19 tests will be administered at these sites by Baseline Health and Reef Technologies on a first come, first served basis.

The Hecksher State Park site will be in Field 8 at 1 Heckscher State Parkway, East Islip, Monday through Thursday 8 am to 4 pm, where up to 1,000 tests per day can be performed.

The Red Creek Park site at 102 Old Riverhead Road in Hampton Bays will only be open on Mondays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., where it will be able to perform up to 500 tests per day. The Cathedral Pines County Park site at 116 Yaphank-Middle Island Road will be open Tuesdays and Fridays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and can perform up to 500 tests per day.

“What we’ve learned so far is that the Omicron variant is highly transmissible and causes our daily positivity rate to spike,” Mr. Bellone said. “Testing is one of the best tools we have to contain the spread of this virus. As the New Year approaches, these three new sites will provide quick and convenient results for our residents so they can protect themselves and their loved ones.

Home test kits were scarce in the days leading up to Christmas, and they had not improved in the days after Christmas, while White House promises to deliver test kits to Americans were still in the works. weeks.

A hand-scribbled sign inside the entrance to the Mattituck CVS on December 27 read “We are currently outside of stock of Covid test kits !!! (we do not know when we will bring them in) !! Sorry. ??

Riverhead’s Peconic Bay Medical Center also announced the opening of a drive-thru test site on Tuesday, December 28 – the entrance is on the north side of the former Mercy High School, now owned by the hospital, on Middle Road. Appointments are mandatory, tests are free and the site will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. until Monday, January 3. Appointments can be made online.

Covid-19 testing is also made available by East Hampton Town through CareOne Concierge at the East Hampton Center for Humanity (former CDCH School) at 110 Stephen Hand’s Path in Wainscott.

In addition to saliva and nasal swab PCR tests, rapid tests are regularly offered at the testing site, but may not be available due to high demand. During the holidays, the city warns that PCR results can take at least 36 hours. PCR tests are free; rapid tests cost $ 109, or $ 59 for city or town workers. Exam hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. No appointment is necessary, but you can pre-register online.

PCR and rapid tests are also available Monday through Friday 7:30 am to 6:40 pm and Saturday 7:45 am to 3:45 pm at Parrish Memorial Hall at Stony Brook Hospital Southampton, corner of Lewis Street and Herrick Road. Registration is online.

Omicron is estimated to be responsible for 54% of Covid cases in the CDC region which includes New York and New Jersey as of December 18, down from just 25.4% a week earlier, on December 11, according to the Centers for Disease Control. As of December 25, Omicron accounted for 88.4% of cases here.

It’s not just the positivity rate that is on the rise. There have been 349 people hospitalized with the virus, with 40 new admissions on Monday, December 21, and 53 intensive care patients.

A week later, on December 26, 470 people were hospitalized with the virus, including 80 in intensive care. The county reported 12 new deaths on December 26, bringing the death toll here since the start of the pandemic to 3,783 people.

For comparison, on November 30, 2021, there were only 153 people hospitalized with Covid in Suffolk County, including 27 in intensive care. Between that date and December 26, 95 Suffolk residents had lost their lives to the virus.

Hospitals here have increased their bed capacity – there were a total of 3,033 hospital beds in Suffolk on November 30 and as of December 26 there were 3,101.

As of Dec. 26, 1,031 beds were available, or 33 percent, and there were 373 intensive care beds in the county, of which 105 were available, or 28 percent.

“We see with this increase all the capacity tested once again, and it needs to be increased, but we’ve been through that before. It’s no surprise and we know what we need to do, ”said Mr. Bellone.

Local governments in the East End have also heeded the warnings, reverting to Zoom meetings and canceling the scheduling of the assembled seniors, at least until they can safely meet again.

East Hampton Town halted most in-person social service programs for the elderly in mid-December, in an effort to protect the health of some of the most vulnerable residents. The suspension of nutrition programs for seniors in Montauk and East Hampton, activities and classes for seniors such as meditation, yoga and bingo, and home services will continue for four weeks, until January 14, 2022 , date on which the situation will be reassessed. To continue to help those in need, meal services will move to a “take out” system, with packaged meals available for pickup. The city will continue to transport seniors to medical appointments. For more information call 631.329.6939.

The town of Shelter Island announced on December 21 that it was ending all face-to-face public meetings in an effort to protect the public health and the health of town employees. All scheduled meetings will be conducted by videoconference. Details of the meeting will be posted on the Shelter Island Town website, individual council / committee pages and the town calendar. Shelter Island calls on all members of the public who do business with the city to make an effort to conduct business from a distance. by e-mail and telephone.

Shelter Island Seniors Center is suspending all in-person gatherings. The nutrition program will continue in a modified version. The Recreation Department is suspending all programs except its after-school program and the FIT Center will be closed until at least January 3, 2022. The two are reviewing their procedures and will keep the public informed via the city’s website, shelterislandtown .us.

Anyone in need of an in-home meal in Southold Town can call 631.298.4460. All other requests for assistance with groceries or other essential needs should be directed to Denis Noncarrow, Government Liaison Officer at 631.765.5806.

Southampton City Council held its meeting on Tuesday December 28 via video conference in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.

This is a fluid situation that we plan to change throughout the month of January. Stay tuned here for updates throughout the month.

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