UPDATE: Early Voting Site Cluster Grows From 10 To 11 Cases; Voters At ‘Extremely Low Risk’

Voters outside the early voting location at the Stony Book University campus in Southampton. Dana Shaw photo

UPDATE Friday, 4:40 p.m.: Early Voting Site Cluster Grows From 10 To 11 Cases; Voters At ‘Extremely Low Risk’

Suffolk County Health Commissioner Gregson Pigott, M.D., said Friday afternoon that one more poll worker from the Southampton early voting site has tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total to 11, but voters who used the site have no cause to be alarmed.

“People who passed through, just went about their business of signing up, getting their little slip, finding out where their actual election district is, and then getting a ballot and then feeding it through — those interactions are very quick,” Dr. Pigott said. “Those people are not in the room long enough to have been exposed to COVID.”

People who voted at the Stony Brook Southampton college campus early voting site on Monday, October 26, Tuesday, October 27, or Wednesday, October 28, are advised to monitor their health, but Dr. Pigott is not instructing them to get tested for COVID.

“We never say that there is no risk, absolutely not, no, zero, nothing is going to happen. I can’t ever say that,” he said. “But we feel it’s extremely low risk. So what we advise people is, if they feel they have some kind of unusual symptoms — maybe cold symptoms, mild cough, sore throat, fever, something like that — then they should see their health care provider and possibly get a COVID test. But I would say, only in that instance, if you become symptomatic with something.”

Through contact tracing, the people who had been in close contact with an infected poll worker have been identified and isolated or quarantined, he said. “There was no other risk to the general public.”

The first case is linked to a poll worker who, while working at the Southampton early voting site on Wednesday, October 28, began to feel ill and left to get tested for COVID-19, Dr. Pigott explained. Positive results came back the same day.

Where that worker caught COVID is unknown. “Most time people have no idea where they got it from,” Dr. Pigott noted.

He said that since then five poll workers and five household members of those poll workers have tested positive. Those 11 people are under isolation.

Contact tracers are in touch every day with nearly 50 people who were in personal contact with a COVID-positive person from the cluster and are under quarantine. Other than those people already under quarantine, no additional spread is anticipated, according to Dr. Pigott. “We think we pretty much put a lid on this cluster,” he said.

None of the 11 infected people have been hospitalized.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone announced on Wednesday, November 4, that a cluster had been linked to the early voting site. Dr. Pigott said an announcement was not made earlier because they do not feel that the cluster poses a risk to the general public.

Dr. Pigott is concerned that cases county-wide will continue to rise heading into winter.
“In terms of overall trajectory of the virus, it’s been going up since, I’d say, the end of September,” he said. “Our daily case counts have been on the rise. This is kind of something we all expected as the colder weather started to hit — that people were spending less time in outdoor environments and more time indoors, and that’s where the virus in more apt to spread.”

He urged county residents to keep their guards up when it comes to social distancing, wearing face coverings and washing their hands.

“It’s a concern especially as we head into the holiday season, and people getting together for gatherings and Thanksgiving celebrations, that kind of thing,” he said. “We just want people to be extra careful.”

At schools, cases have remained low.

“We are doing relatively well,” he said. “We get isolated cases here and there at different school districts, but we haven’t seen a place where we get a whole bunch of cases in a school.”

And when there are cases, they are traced back to events that took place off school grounds, he added. “The schools have been doing a good job of containing the virus so far.”

UPDATE Thursday, 1 p.m.: Voters Who Used College Early Voting Site October 26-28 Urged to Monitor Health

Anyone who cast ballots at the Stony Brook Southampton early voting site from Monday, October 26, to Wednesday, October 28, is encouraged to monitor their health for symptoms of COVID-19 and to contact their health care practitioner if they become symptomatic.

The Suffolk County Department of Health Services reports that it learned on Tuesday, November 3, that a person who worked at the early-voting site tested positive for COVID-19. Five additional poll workers and four personal contacts of those poll workers also tested positive.

The department stated there it does not believe there has been any additional community spread.

Forty-eight people who came into close contact with the 10 people who tested positive are under isolation, County Executive Steve Bellone said on Wednesday, November 4.

Original Story:

The early voting site at the Stony Brook Southampton college campus has been linked to a cluster of COVID-19 infections.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said Wednesday afternoon that there are currently 10 positive cases in the cluster, including six individuals who worked at the polling site.

All 10 individuals who tested positive are under isolation, and 48 people they had been in contact with are under quarantine, Mr. Bellone said.

The site was open daily from October 24 to November 1 so registered voters could cast ballots prior to Election Day on November 3.

Mr. Bellone said the COVID-19 positive test rate has been 1.5 percent on average for a week.

“We have not been below 1 percent since October 21,” he said.

Hospitalizations, which had been as low as the 20s, are now back up to the 40s. Currently, there are 42 patients hospitalized in the county with COVID-19, including four in intensive care. Five people were discharged in the last 24 hours.

“These numbers and the fact that they are ticking up are a concern within the context of where we are, with the cold weather, with the winter approaching, with the virus surging in other parts of the country, with the virus surging literally around the world,” Mr. Bellone said.

He added that the county continues to remain focused on keeping the infection rate down and protecting the county’s economic recovery.