Medical personnel preparing to test for COVID- 19 at Huntington...

Medical personnel preparing to test for COVID- 19 at Huntington High School in Huntington Friday April 10, 2020. Suffolk County has opened another testing site as part of a program targeting minority communities that are seeing a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Despite a sharp rise in coronavirus cases around the nation, the number of new cases remained stable in Suffolk and declined in Nassau, according to a Newsday analysis of recent health data.

The average number of new cases per day in Nassau dropped to 37 for the week ending June 22, down from 44 the prior week. In Suffolk, the number of cases remained the same at 45 cases per day. At the virus' peak, the numbers were about 24 times larger,  with about 1,100 new cases identified per day.

Health experts praised New Yorkers for curbing the once-rampant spread of COVID-19 but warned that this might be a lull in a long storm.

“I’m not surprised because people here have been relatively compliant” with social distancing measures like mask-wearing and other precautions, said Anthony Santella, a Hofstra University assistant professor of public health, about the latest Long Island numbers.

It will be impossible for Long Island to maintain low numbers of new virus cases until there are treatments, Santella said.

"We’re still in the early days of COVID-19,” he said.

Jaymie Meliker, a professor of Public Health at Stony Brook University, said New York’s measured, phased-in approach to reopening businesses and other activities is responsible for keeping a lid on new cases. “Those other states opened up way before we did,” Meliker said, adding that those states didn’t adequately prevent the virus spread.

Meliker said so long as Long Islanders maintain social distancing measures, especially staying outdoors when possible, “we’ll remain stable. But I don’t know if that will remain the case.” He expressed concern that cases might rise later this summer, particularly if people stop being vigilant. 

 After weeks of challenges brought on by the state's move to a new data system used for contact tracing, Suffolk County has provided Newsday with historical data detailing the number of cases per day for each community. Suffolk's data can now be matched with data from Nassau County, which also faced challenges due to the state's switch to the new system.

The most recent week of community data available for Newsday's analysis ended June 21 in Nassau and June 22 in Suffolk.

Twelve communities in Nassau and 15 in Suffolk saw an average of one case per day or more over the most recent week of data. Three communities in Nassau — Freeport, Hempstead and East Meadow — saw more than two cases per day on average, including four cases per day in Freeport. Only one community in Suffolk — Brentwood — saw more than two cases per day on average during the most recent week of data. It had three per day.

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Minority communities continue to be the hardest hit on Long Island. Four of the five communities with the largest number of new cases per day in both counties are predominantly black and Latino.

 In Nassau, the five communities with the largest number of cases per day on average were Freeport with four, Hempstead with three, East Meadow with three, Elmont with two and Uniondale with one. In Suffolk, the five were Brentwood with three, Central Islip with two, North Bay Shore with two, West Islip with two and Wyandanch with one.

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