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By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Disclaimer: The following column is intended to provide a lighthearted response to the ongoing pandemic. In no way does it diminish or ignore the suffering or the unimaginable horror for people who have lost loved ones or who are on the front lines of the crisis. I continue to be grateful for all the help, support, and work everyone is doing to keep us safe, fed, and cared for (see last week’s column). This latest column, however, is designed to offer comic relief.

I was thinking about how life has changed in small, and largely insignificant ways. Please find below some “before coronavirus” and “after coronavirus” trivial differences for those of us fortunate enough to be inconvenienced and not irreparably harmed by the virus and when we’re not focused on the anxiety of shuttered businesses and lost income.

Where should we eat?

BC: Do you want to go to the Italian restaurant with the cool music and the frescoes on the wall, or the Chinese restaurant, with the incredible dumplings and the endless supply of hot tea?

AC: Should we go back to the kitchen, the dining room or the bedroom, where there are so many leftover crumbs that we could eat those for dinner without going to the refrigerator?

What should we wear?

BC: We could take the newly pressed suit that’s back from the dry cleaner, the slightly wrinkled suit that we wore a few days earlier, or the jeans and casual shirt that works on a casual Friday.

AC: We could take yesterday’s sweatpants, the ripped jeans that don’t smell too bad, or stay in the pajamas we wore to bed.

What should we do when we see people we know on the sidewalk?

BC: We slow our walk, smile, shake hands or hug and ask how they are doing.

AC: We run across the street, yell in their general direction and wave as we make the same joke we made the day before about the need for social distancing.

How do we start emails?

BC: We might dive right in, ask an important question or ease into it, hoping all is well.

AC: We often start emails by hoping the person we’re writing to and their family are safe.

How should we check on our college-age children?

BC: We can call them or FaceTime to see how they are doing and listen attentively as they share the excitement about school.

AC: We can call or FaceTime them from behind their locked door in our house and ask them how they are doing.

What do we do about the polarizing president?

BC: If we love him, we can find others who admire him. If we hate him, we can blame him for climate change, relaxing regulations, and changing the tone of discourse in Washington.

AC: If we love him, we can thank our lucky stars that he’s leading us and the economy out of this pandemic. If we hate him, we can blame him for our slow reaction and hold him to account for everything he and his administration haves said or didn’t say in connection with the COVIDcovid-19 response.

What do we do if someone sneezes?

BC: We offer a polite “God bless you” or, if we’re fans of “Seinfeld,” we say, “You are so good looking.”

AC: We drop anything we’re carrying and race across the room. When we’re a safe distance, we turn around scornfully, particularly if the person didn’t sneeze into anhis or her  elbow.

What do we think is funny?

BC: We follow our own sense of humor, reserving the right to laugh only when we feel compelled.

AC: We look at a picture of Winnie-the- Pooh and Piglet. We see Winnie telling Piglet to “Back the f$#@$ off,” and we laugh and send it to everyone who won’t get in trouble for receiving an email in which someone curses, after we ask if they and their family are safe.

Stony Brook University Hospital. File photo

The Army Corps. of Engineers has awarded a $50 million contract to New York-based Turner Construction Company to begin building a hospital extension to handle the expected surge in hospital demand in the next few weeks amid the coronavirus pandemic.

With assistance from Suffolk County contractors and sub contractors, Turner will begin building the facility immediately and is expected to complete construction by April 18.

Stony Brook University Hospital and other area medical care facilities will use the hospital extension for patients who have come to the hospital for health care issues that don’t involve COVID-19, freeing up bed space in the main hospital and in other centers to treat patients with the virus.

The construction of the 1,000-bed facility is part of a Governor Andrew Cuomo’s (D) effort to double the number of hospital beds throughout the state within the next few weeks.

Construction on the hospital extension will start “right away,” said U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1). The Army Corps. of Engineers has been “getting a running start on this project,” Zeldin said.

Zeldin was pleased that Anthony Ciorra, a senior program manager for the Army Corps. of Engineers, would be working closely on the project.

Ciorra is someone Zeldin has “interacted with very frequently, ” he said, adding the man is “intimately familiar with the First Congressional District. He has been a great resource throughout the years” and is able to cut through the red tape and get the job done.

Ciorra will be working under Col. Thomas Asbery, who is the commander for the New York District.

“Both of them have played an instrumental role in getting this to the point where it’s at right now,” Zeldin said.

The congressman said he expected local companies to contribute to the new construction.

“It would very much be my hope and expectation that Turner would be utilizing local businesses for supplies and labor to complete this project,” he said.

Separately, Stony Brook University said Batelle has added its Critical Care Decontamination System, which will allow the university to reuse N95 masks, among other personal protective equipment. The Batelle system will start decontaminating up to 80,000 masks per day by the end of this week. Before decontaminating the masks, people will inspect them to make sure masks with rips, tears, makeup, or other fluids don’t go through the process.

SBU team member Steve Forrest scales the rock face as chinstrap penguins look on. Photo by Christian Åslund

By Daniel Dunaief

The canary in the Arctic coal mines, chinstrap penguins need more ice. These multitudinous flightless birds also depend on the survival and abundance of the krill that feed on the plankton that live under the ice.

With global warming causing the volume of ice in the Antarctic to decline precipitously, the krill that form the majority of the diet of the chinstrap penguin have either declined or shifted their distribution further south, which has put pressure on the chinstrap penguins.

Indeed, at the end of December, a team of three graduate students (PhD students in Ecology and Evolution Alex Borowicz and Michael Wethington and MS student in Marine Science Noah Strycker) from the lab of Heather Lynch, who recently was promoted to the inaugural IACS Endowed Chair of Ecology & Evolution at Stony Brook University, joined Greenpeace on a five week mission to the Antarctic to catalog, for the first time in about 50 years, the reduction in the number of this specific penguin species.

The team boarded Greenpeace’s ship, the Esperanza, for a five week mission. Photo by Christian Åslund

The group, which included  private contractor Steve Forrest and two graduate students from Northeastern University, “saw a shocking 55 percent decline in the chinstrap on Elephant Island,” Lynch said. That drop is “commensurate with declines elsewhere on the peninsula.”

Elephant Island and Low Island were the targets for this expedition. The scientific team surveyed about 99 percent of Elephant Island, which was last visited by the Joint Services Expedition in 1970-1971.

The decline on Elephant Island is surprising given that the conditions in the area are close to the ideal conditions for chinstraps.

In some colonies in the Antarctic, the declines were as much as 80 percent to 90 percent, with several small chinstrap colonies disappearing entirely.

“We had hoped that Elephant Island would be spared,” Lynch said. “In fact, that’s not at all the case.”

While many indications suggest that global warming is affecting krill, the amount of fishing in the area could also have some impact. It’s difficult to determine how much fishing contributes to this reduction, Lynch said, because the scientists don’t have enough information to understand the magnitude of that contribution.

The chinstrap is a picky eater. The only place the bird breeds is the Antarctic peninsula, Elephant Island and places associated with the peninsula. The concern is that it has few alternatives if krill declines or shifts further south.

“Chinstraps have been under-studied in the last few decades, in part because so much attention has been focused on the other species and in part because they nest in such remote and challenging places,” Lynch explained in an email. “I hope our findings raise awareness of the chinstraps as being in serious trouble, and that will encourage everyone to help keep an eye on them.”

While these declines over 50 years is enormous, they don’t immediately put the flightless waterfowl that tends to mate with the same partner each year on the list of endangered species because millions of the sea birds that feel warm and soft to the touch are still waddling around the Antarctic.

Researchers believe that the biggest declines may have occurred in the 1980s and early 1990s, in part because areas with more regular monitoring showed reductions during those times.

Still, where there are more recent counts to use as a standard of comparison, the declines “show no signs of abating,” Lynch explained.

The evidence of warming in the Antarctic has been abundant this year. On Valentine’s Day, the Antarctic had its hottest day on record, reaching 69.35 degrees Fahrenheit. The high in Stony Brook that day was a much cooler 56 degrees.

“What’s more concerning is the long term trends in air temperature, which have been inching up steadily on the Antarctic Peninsula since at the least the 1940’s,” Lynch wrote in an email.

At the same time, other penguin species may be preparing to expand their range. King penguins started moving into the area several years ago, which represents a major range expansion. “It’s almost inevitable that they will eventually be able to raise chicks in this region,” Lynch suggested.

The northern part of the Antarctic is becoming much more like the sub Antarctic, which encourages other species to extend their range.

Among many other environmental and conservation organizations, Greenpeace is calling on the United Nation to protect 30 percent of the world’s oceans by 2030. The Antarctic was the last stop on a pole to pole cruise to raise awareness, Lynch said.

One of the many advantages of traveling with Greenpeace was that the ship was prepared to remove trash.

“We pulled up containers labeled poison,” Lynch said. Debris of all kinds had washed up on the hard-to-reach islands.

“People are not polluting the ocean in Antarctica, but pollution finds its way down there on a regular basis,” she added. “If people knew more about [the garbage and pollution that goes in the ocean], they’d be horrified. It is spoiling otherwise pristine places.”

Lynch appreciated that Greenpeace provided the opportunity to conduct scientific research without steering the results in any way or affecting her interpretation of the data.

“We were able to do our science unimpeded,” she said.

Counting penguins on the rocky islands required a combination of counting birds and nests in the more accessible areas and deploying drones in the areas that were harder to reach. One of Lynch’s partners Hanumant Singh, a Professor Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at Northeastern University, flew the drones over distant chinstrap colonies. The researchers launched the drones from land and from the small zodiac boats.

The next step in this research is to figure out where the penguins are going when they are not in the colony. “Using satellite tags to track penguins at sea is something I’d like to get into over the next few years, as it will answer some big questions for us about where penguins, including chinstraps, are trying to find food,” Lynch said.

The Riverhead testing facility is located at 1149 Old Country Road at the ProHealth site. Photo from Google maps

Suffolk County is adding two additional testing sites for Covid-19 in the coming days, with AFC Urgent Care in West Islip expected to provide rapid testing with results in less than 15 minutes and ProHealth in Riverhead also offering mobile testing for the coronavirus.

John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson is establishing an emergency fund to help staff. File photo from Mather Hospital

Suffolk County executive Steve Bellone, who announced the new testing sites, suggested that residents need to make appointments prior to visiting the facilities.

“No one should walk into an urgent care center and expect to get tested,” said Bellone on his daily conference call with reporters.

The phone number for the AFC site is 631-983-4084 and the number for ProHealth is 516-874-0411.

Bellone also reported that the crime rate in the county had gone down. In the two week period ending on March 29, burglaries declined by 30 percent, grand larceny fell by 18 percent, and felony assault came down 100 percent.

“We did expect to see a reduction in crime,” said Geraldine Hart, the Suffolk County Police Commissioner. “People are at home and businesses are shut down, taking away the opportunities” to commit crimes, as there are far fewer people on the street.

Separately, the Suffolk County Child Care Consortium has added a 13th site that will provide child care for health care workers, first responders and transit workers, Bellone said. The new site will be in Central Islip at the Cordello Avenue Elementary School and will be run by Youth Enrichment Services. The program will be open from Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m.

For businesses seeking support, Suffolk County has established a new Covid-19 public assistance web page, which residents can access through the web site suffolkcountyny.gov. At the site, residents can use the FEMA public assistance link, where they can fill out a form with any questions.

Amid the ongoing economic strain in the county, Bellone said he spoke with several financial institutions about a number of topics, including the challenge for many people of paying their mortgages once the pause is lifted and business resumes. Bellone said the institutions recognized that people who were struggling to pay their mortgages won’t suddenly be able to provide payments from several months.

Meanwhile, the number of positive coronavirus tests continues to rise, with 6,713 confirmed patients in the county, which is up about 1,000 in the last day. The number of people hospitalized with the virus has risen to 709, with 229 people in the Intensive Care Unit as a result of their infection.

The number of beds continues to rise, with the count adding about 500 beds, bringing the total to 2,803 beds, with 598 available. That includes 397 ICU beds, of which 67 are currently available.

Bellone reported an additional nine deaths from the virus, bringing the total to 53. One of the residents was around 90, with three others in their 80s, two in their 70s, one in their 40s and two in their 30’s. Most of the victims have had underlying medical conditions.

“A lot of people think this is a virus affecting the elderly, and it certainly is,” Bellone said “But is it not just the elderly. People with compromised immune systems, underlying medical conditions, and past illnesses” are all vulnerable to the virus.

The Suffolk County Police Department continues to see an increase in the number of people with the virus. As of today, 35 sworn officers and five civilians had tested positive. None of the county’s finest has required hospitalization. The police force continues to see an increase in the number of compliance incidents, with officers responding to 182 calls. Of those, 15 calls were not compliant. The officers decided that no enforcement actions were necessary as all locations voluntarily complied. The police have also installed intercom systems at the public entrance doors to all seven precincts to allow screening for visitors for potential COVID-19 infection.

While Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) has sought volunteer help from elsewhere in the country to assist with the anticipated need for more health care workers, the Police Department believes the staffing levels are sufficient and has taken measures to protect officers.

Separately, Mather Hospital has created an emergency fund to support hospital staff and patients during the pandemic. The hospital has received donations of food and medical supplies and is asking for monetary donations to the Covid-19 Emergency Fund. People can make donations through the web site: www.matherhospital.org/emergencyfund or they can mail them to JTM Foundation, Mather Hospital, 75 North Country Rd., Port Jefferson, NY 11777.

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Stony Brook University’s Office of the Vice President for Research and the Institute for Engineering-Driven Medicine launched a $500,000 coronavirus seed grant program. The money will fund an expected 10 to 14 awards for up to $40,000 per researcher for scientists and clinicians at Stony Brook who are responding to the needs arising from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Current, full-time, tenured or tenure track faculty at Stony Brook are eligible for these research grants, which will cover areas such as urgent care health care challenges and psycho-social, behavioral and economic impacts.

The deadline for submissions is April 10 and the awards, for up to a year, will start between April 27 and May 8.

Stony Brook described the application process as straightforward with a quick turnaround.

“This Covid-19 Seed Grant Program will unite our diverse research communities to develop engineering-driven medical solutions that could change the trajectory of Covid-19 response,” Joel Saltz, the Cherith Foundation Chair of Biomedical Informatics and Director of the Institute for Engineering-Driven Medicine, said in a statement.

The Office of Proposal Development will provide support to research submitting applications.

The Institute for Engineering-Driven Medicine is a combined effort of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Stony Brook Medical School. The Institute was created last summer to address a range of medical challenges that might have engineering solutions.

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Suffolk County continues its race against time to have enough hospital beds, medical equipment and health care providers as the county and New York State move closer each day to the ongoing surge in demand.

As of today, the county had tested close to 16,000 people, with 5,791 people testing positive for the coronavirus Covid-19. Close to a third of the people have received their tests at the Stony Brook University mobile testing site.

At the same time, the number of hospitalizations continues to climb. Suffolk County had 601 hospitalizations, which is up from 409 two days ago. The number of people in the Intensive Care Unit climbed by to 181, up 19 from the day before.

Dr. Gregson Pigott, the commissioner of the Department of Health Services, said on the call that the test results take anywhere from two to three days, up to five to seven days.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) reiterated Governor Andrew Cuomo’s (D) plea for additional health care workers, who will be needed as the number of cases climbs.

“The governor put out a call for help for people across the country where they are not seeing the kind of cases we have in New York,” Bellone said. The state and the county would like people to “come and volunteer and join in the effort. In return, New York, as we have been time and again, will be there for other parts of the country to help them.”

Bellone said he has been speaking to hospitals and executives who are on the front lines and that help is “needed, they are doing heroic work.”

The County Executive confirmed four additional deaths, with three of the residents ranging in age from the 40’s to the 90’s. The family of the fourth victim hadn’t yet been notified, so Bellone couldn’t provide specific details. The total number of deaths in Suffolk County stands at 44.

The Suffolk County Police Department reported 166 cases where they received calls about violations of social distancing or Cuomo’s New York Pause efforts. The department found 16 violations and hasn’t issued a citation yet in connection with violators.

“Even when somebody may be out of compliance, there is immediate voluntary compliance,” Bellone said on his daily conference call with reporters.

The police department also has seen an increase in the number of people infected with the virus. As of today, 29 officers and three civilians had tested positive.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. Photo by Alex Petroski

Amid a changing landscape during New York Pause, the requirement by Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) that non-essential businesses close or go to remote locations, businesses like construction have been unsure of their ability to continue working.

The installation of individual advanced septic systems can continue, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said on his daily conference call with reporters.

“It’s a critical issue for us because of the water quality challenges we face,” Bellone said. “Public health and safety is our top priority.”

Meanwhile, three more residents of Suffolk County died from complications related to the virus that has crippled world economies and led to thousands of deaths and hospitalizations. All three fatalities were men who had underlying medical conditions. A man in his 60’s died at home in Southampton March 26, another in his 70’s died at Southside Hospital on March 27, and a third man in his 30’s died at St. Joseph’s hospital in Nassau County yesterday. The total number of Covid-19 related deaths is now 40.

The man in his 30’s, who was a resident of Babylon, is the youngest Suffolk County resident who has died from the pandemic.

“We know this virus attacks seniors. We’ve seen that, but we also know it is attacking those with underlying medical conditions,” Bellone said.

The number of positive tests for the virus increased to 5,023 people, which is an increase of an average of 36 positive tests per hour over the last day. Additionally, the number of people hospitalized rose to over 500, with 160 people in the Intensive Care Unit.

On the positive side, Bellone reported that the first officer who tested positive for the virus, who works in the Highway Bureau, returned to work today.

The Suffolk County Police Department has received over 160 reports of noncompliance with social distancing and a pause in business activity. Of those, the police determined that 14 merited police involvement. In every one of those cases, Suffolk County residents complied with the requests to comply with the request to change their behavior and limit the spread of the virus.

Peter Scully, a Deputy Suffolk County Executive who tested positive for the virus, has returned to work. On the call, Scully indicated he is, “feeling fine.”

Bellone continues to encourage people to donate personal protective equipment. He said his sense at this point, however, is that the equipment that’s available for donation has “probably run its course.” While he will continue to encourage people to donate, he may shift from three sites for donations back down to one.

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The numbers of people infected and affected by the coronavirus COVID-19 continues to climb.

This afternoon, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D), who himself was finally out of a two-week home quarantine, reported a climb of 753 in the number of people who have tested positive for the virus. The total number stands at 4,138 people, which is more than the entire country of Australia, according to a tracking site at Johns Hopkins University.

The virus also continues to affect the Suffolk County Police Department, with 23 officers testing positive.

Suffolk County health care providers continue to test more residents, as over 12,000 people have been screened. Of those, Stony Brook University’s mobile testing site has administered about 5,000 tests.

“Our major concern and focus has been on the vulnerable population,” Bellone said on his daily media call with reporters. Indeed, 16 percent of the positive tests were among people who were over 65 years old.

Hospitalizations also continued to climb. The number of people in hospitals throughout the county stood at 409, which includes 139 in the Intensive Care Unit.

For the 10th consecutive day, Bellone reported additional fatalities associated with the virus. Seven people died who had the virus, bringing the total to 37 for the county. Those who passed away were: a man in his 60’s who died in his home on March 24, a woman in her 90’s who died at Good Samaritan Hospital March 26, a man in his 70’s who died at Long Island Community Hospital on March 22, a man in his 50’s, who died at St. Catherine’s Hospital March 23, a man in his 60’s who died at Southampton Hospital yesterday, a woman in her 90’s who died at Eastern Long Island Hospital, and a man in his 90’s who died at Mather Hospital on March 26. Underlying medical conditions continue to contribute to most of the deaths.

The police have responded to 140 reports of violations of social distancing. In the last day, there were 28 new reports and the officers found that four of the businesses were non compliant. That includes a vape shop, a hair salon, and a house party.

“All of the individuals involved complied voluntarily when the police and county officers were there,” Bellone said.

Suffolk County Police commissioner Geraldine Hart alongside Steve Bellone. TBR News Media file photo

Without the usual fanfare, 60 cadets graduated from the police academy today and have become sworn members of the Suffolk County Police Department.

The officers, which include six people who are fluent in Spanish, will be a part of a group called Together Ensuring Compliance, or TEC, according to police officials. They will be “visible on the street” and will have increased foot patrols and will be in parks and shopping centers to ensure that businesses that are supposed to be closed, while making sure they educate the population about maintaining social distancing. Geraldine Hart, the Commissioner of the Suffolk County Police Department, made the announcement on County Executive Steve Bellone’s (D) daily call with reporters.

At the same time, Bellone announced the launch of the Suffolk Childcare Consortium, which is a free childcare program for first responders, medical professionals transit workers and, where space permits, other essential workers. The program will be open Monday to Friday, from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and enrollment for those battling the coronavirus outbreak will be on a first come, first served basis and will be limited based on space and staff.

Residents with questions about he consortium should call 311.

The new childcare program is available to the following districts:
  • Babylon School District — Babylon Elementary School
  • Commack School District — Sawmill Intermediate School
  • Connetquot School District – Cherokee Street Elementary School
  • Deer Park School District – John F. Kennedy Intermediate School  
  • Harborfields School Districts – Thomas J. Lahey Elementary School
  • Hauppauge School District — Pines Elementary School
  • Huntington School District — Jefferson Primary School
  • Lindenhurst School District — Albany Avenue Elementary School
  • Middle Country School District – Jericho Elementary School
  • Miller Place School District — Andrew Muller Primary School
  • Northport School District — Pulaski Road Elementary School
  • Sachem School District– Nokomis School Elementary School

To qualify for the program, children must be between pre-K and sixth grade. Students in the program can work on their school’s long distance learning requirements during the day. The program is run by SCOPE education services and will have trained childcare. The staff will check on the health of the children regularly. Anyone with a fever or who demonstrates any sign of illness will not be allowed in the program.

Parents can register their children through www.scopeonline.us.

Meanwhile, the numbers of cases of the virus, hospitalization for it, and fatalities associated with it continues to climb. There are 3,385 cases, which is up by 650 in the last 24 hours. As of this morning, there were also 331 hospitalizations of people with the virus, with 119 in the Intensive Care Unit.

For the ninth straight day, Bellone reported fatalities connected with the virus. Eight people, all of whom had underlying medical condition, passed away. Those who died were: a man in his 80’s at Stony Brook Hospital, a woman in her 80’s at Huntington Hospital, a woman in her 90’s at St. Catherine’s hospital, a man in his late 40’s at LIJ, a woman in her 80’s at Huntington Hospital, a woman in her 80’s at Huntington Hospital this morning, a man in his 60’s at Stony Brook University Hospital, and a woman in her 80’s at Good Samaritan Hospital.

The total number of people who have died from coronavirus related issues in the county is now 30.

Bellone shared his thoughts and prayers with the families.

“This drives home the point of why we have to do this, why all of us have an important role to play in helping to reduce that number,” Bellone said. “Our actions will determine how high that number goes.”

The county executive said the governor’s office, which requires the closure of non essential businesses, provided new guidance on construction work. He said non-essential construction must now cease. Everything except emergency construction, like bridges and transit and hospitals or that protects the health and safety, will stop.

Stony Brook Trauma Center staff member Colby Rowe and Wang Center Building Manager Scott LaMarsh accept donations for the COVID-19 Donation Center. Photo from SBU

Grateful for donations ranging from chapstick to gum to tissues and coveted personal protective equipment such as gloves, masks and goggles, Stony Brook University is asking for residents to donate iPads, which they plan to repurpose to provide more telehealth services to the community.

Stony Brook Trauma Center staff member Colby Rowe and Wang Center Building Manager Scott LaMarsh accept donations for the COVID-19 Donation Center. Photo from SBU

The university asked for donations starting on Sunday and has received a constant stream of email requests to deliver goods to help the medical staff that are offering vital comfort and care during the coronavirus crisis. Interested donors can contact Joan Dickinson, the Stony Brook University Community Relations Director at COVID19donations@stonybrookmedicine.edu or call (631) 219-0603.

Stony Brook is asking donors to clean the device, reset it and place it in a ziplock bag with a usable power chord.

Telehealth medical services will “reduce the need for personal protective equipment,” Dickinson said.

Dickinson has requested that interested donors make an appointment before bringing any items to support the busy medical community. Community members can make donations between 10 am and 1 pm.

“Even though we’re asking the public to respond, we are very diligent about social distancing and everyone’s safety,” Dickinson said.

For anyone who might get the urge to make a home cooked meal or bring in cookies made from scratch, Dickinson said the school appreciates the gesture but can’t accept any such personalized dishes, as they seek to protect staff. The school can is accepting pre-packaged food.

People who don’t have access to medical supplies or comfort items they can donate can send in video messages. Indeed, numerous community members have shared messages of thanks.

The variety of home-made donations has delighted and surprised Dickinson. People have sent in knitted stress balls and crocheted blankets, as well as hand-made masks.

“All the donations are evaluated by folks from environmental health and safety,” Dickinson said. A mask that’s “not surgical grade wouldn’t make it into an operating room, but there are other uses.”

The donation channel started because community leaders eager to help reached out to Dickinson, whose job in community relations has put her in touch with these groups over the years.

“We decided we better put a process in place so everybody stays safe and we know what’s coming in,” Dickinson said.

Donors can bring their contributions into the assigned building or can leave it in the parking lot if they want to minimize contact or don’t want to enter a building.

When Dickinson logs off each night, she comes back to her computer the next morning to find over 100 requests for donation times in her email.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” she said.

The Three Village Civic Association and numerous Facebook groups have reached out to her on a regular basis to see what else she might need.

Dickinson said one of the many people who reached out to her expressed her appreciation for how Stony Brook reacted when she had an issue with the university. The resident was frustrated with equipment on campus that was causing a humming noise in her house.

“We were able to modify how much sound came out” of the equipment, Dickinson said. As the university manages through a crisis that strains their staff and resources, the resident said she wanted to return the favor.

The resident told Dickinson, “you were so helpful to me. Now, we want to help you,” Dickinson said.