Suffolk County sees highest infection rate since beginning of the pandemic

SUFFOLK COUNTY, Long Island (WABC) -- On Wednesday, Suffolk County saw its highest infection rate since the beginning of the pandemic - 8.2 percent.

"That's a real concern," said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. "While we don't put too much stock into any one day's numbers, it is clear that we are moving in the wrong direction with new cases and hospitalizations continuing to rise at alarming rates."

The infection rate in Suffolk County has been hovering around 6.8 percent.

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As of Wednesday, 512 people were hospitalized in Suffolk County with the coronavirus - an increase of six in the previous 24 hours.

Bellone said at the beginning of November only 40 people approximately were hospitalized across the county.

Officials at Long Island hospitals, though, report that hospital capacity is manageable, unlike last spring.

"We're seeing a surge - patients are coming in, but they're not as sick and we have the treatment regiments that are there, so we're initiating them much earlier," said Susan Knoepffler, Chief Nursing Officer at Huntington Hospital.

Knoepffler said patients' hospital stays are much shorter compared to the spring because of improved treatments, which also helps to relieve capacity.

Knoepffler said currently Huntington Hospital is treating 45 COVID patients and hospital management meets daily in a "command center" fashion to assess whether a surge in patients is presenting itself.
Bellone is urging people to avoid getting together for the holidays.

"We have the vaccine on the horizon now. We have that hope. We know we're going to get through this if we can just remain vigilant now through the holidays," Bellone said.

Mike Gentils, of Islip, said he does not plan on seeing his parents this Christmas.

"Just staying home with the immediate family - that's it," he said. "I don't want to subject my parents to anything, so they're the ones I'm worried about."

Another man, who did not want to be identified, told Eyewitness News he is not changing his holiday plans.

"Family, of course, getting together our family and having a great time," he said.

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