With Covid-19 infections rising, there is a high probability that lockdowns will be imposed again on Long Island. There have been more more than 300 positive tests reported each day since Nov. 8, and hospital occupancy is moving upward. The last time the region had similar levels of new cases was in May. Also of concern is evidence that Suffolk’s figures will continue to climb; the daily confirmed infection rate has been near or above 3 percent, also since Nov. 8. Ten days of high rates would automatically move the county back into an “orange” or even “red” zone, meaning nonessential businesses would be forced to close and schools to go to all-remote instruction. Our region appeared near that threshold and could rush past it this weekend. Unfortunately for the East End towns, which have lower rates of infection than in western Suffolk, positive-test-rate data have not been made available at a ZIP code or even townwide level.
Troubling locally is that new cases seem to be popping up all over, even in parts of the East End that had been stable more or less from the beginning of the pandemic. Thankfully, there have been few deaths since the spring peak, but this could change as medical systems again become overwhelmed. Promising vaccines will not be widely available for months. We are told not to travel or gather for Thanksgiving. This is a time for a renewed commitment to vigilance to slow the virus’s spread.
It turns out that small, private gatherings are now a leading cause of new infections. As of late last week, events at which more than 10 people are present were banned and restaurants and bars were to close at 10 p.m., except for takeout food. Public meetings have returned to cyberspace. Further restrictions on indoor restaurant and bar patrons may be next. About a quarter of new novel coronavirus cases are among people who dined out in the two weeks preceding their diagnosis. Work is also a risk zone; people are picking up the virus while on the job and taking it home. This appears to be the explanation for cases discovered among elementary and middle school-age children. So far, there have been no confirmed instances of the virus being passed during school hours in Suffolk. Socializing and work now are seen as higher risk than going to the grocery store or taking a walk. Public health officials warn against multigenerational Thanksgivings meal with guests who had not been in close contact for some time.
By now, advice about masks and hand-washing should have become habit. However, a surprising proportion of the public does not appear to have absorbed the message, especially about masking up when in public. Being responsible about the virus has two key objectives: saving lives and keeping businesses open. It simply makes sense to follow the guidelines.