Health

Stony Brook University Hospital. File photo

Stony Brook University Hospital has created a new triage process for emergency services.

Patients who arrive at the emergency room between 11 a.m. and 11 p.m. should stay in their cars, where a member of the staff will determine the correct emergency care setting. The staff may tell patients to go to the main Emergency Department or to a new coronavirus triage service at the South P Lot testing facility on the main campus, on the corner of Stony Brook Road and South Drive. The triage area will have board-certified emergency medicine physicians and emergency medicine nurses.

Stony Brook medicine has also created a triage phone line, 631-638-1320. Registered nurses will answer calls from 8 a.m. to midnight, Monday through Friday. Nurses will direct patients to the appropriate healthcare location.

The goal of the triage service, Stony Brook said, is to provide patients with a streamlined environment for care and treatment.

Stony Brook said patients should not go to the coronavirus patient triage unless a member of the Emergency Department staff directs them there.

The main Emergency Department will remain operating as usual.

In addition, Stony Brook has established new safety procedures to reduce the amount of time that a caregiver must enter a room. The process is best suited for the Intensive Care Unit or where a patient is non-ambulatory. Stony Brook is following procedures other hospitals are also using.

IV pumps will now be located in the hall. To reach the patient, the IV pumps will use Relocatable Power Taps, which are power strips approved by Biomedical Engineering, and IV extensions sets.

The new process will eliminate the need for staff to go in the room to change IV fluids, drips or medicines or to reset alarms, which will limit exposure while interacting with people who might have coronavirus or with patients who have tested positive for COVID-19.

The tubing is standard bore and can be used for all fluids including blood.

Three sets of IV extension sets can be connected together to reach patients. IV pumps in use can be located in the hall or anteroom.

The hospital ordered 72-inch IV extension sets and will work by themselves in most cases to reach the patient.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has feuded with the federal government about getting resources to New York during the coronavirus pandemic. File photo by Erika Karp

The coronavirus pandemic is going to get much worse in New York State and in Suffolk County in the next few weeks.

That’s the message from Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) and County Executive Steve Bellone (D), who describe efforts to increase hospital beds, change EMS policies, and collect personal protective equipment to help health care workers and first responders.

The state created a viral pandemic triage protocol. By taking a patient’s temperature and screening for a sore throat or cough, EMS personnel will determine whether a patient needs to go to the hospital.

“If a patient doesn’t qualify to be transferred to the hospital, the on-site emergency responder will provide a hand-out with a list of what you need to do and whom to contact should the symptoms worsen,” Bellone said on a daily conference call with reporters.

The new policy shouldn’t create alarm for residents, Bellone said, but merely reflects the current state of the pandemic.

Indeed, on the same day Cuomo created this new EMS protocol, he indicated the need for hospital beds for the state was even greater than anticipated just 24 hours earlier. The number of hospital beds in the state, currently stands around 53,000, with 2,626 beds currently in Suffolk County. Based on the current trajectory of infections and hospitalizations, the number of beds necessary for residents of the Empire State will be closer to 140,000 at its peak, which means that hospitals will need to more than double the number of beds in a short time.

What  Cuomo had requested by doubling the number of beds was a “Herculean effort,” which may not be adequate to the anticipated need, Bellone said.

“The surge may be happening much earlier than anticipated,” Bellone added. “It is a reminder of what we need to do.”

To prepare the health care community and first responders for that increase, Bellone has been urging people to donate personal protective equipment. Two days after his office started collecting the gear in Yaphank, Bellone has received 284,000 pieces of equipment, which includes five van loads from Eastern Suffolk BOCES. Over the next 24 hours, Bellone’s office is working to create additional donation sites on the Western and Eastern ends of Suffolk County.

As testing for the coronavirus Covid-19 increases, so, too, do the number of positive cases. As of this morning, 1,880 residents had the virus among 7,000 who were tested. The number of people in Intensive Care Unit beds has increased to 50 from 38 yesterday.

For the sixth day in a row, Bellone’s office announced additional COVID-19 related deaths, as four people passed away with the virus, all of whom also had underlying medical conditions. A woman in her 80’s died at Mather Hospital on March 19, a man in his 60’s died at Huntington Hospital on March 20, a woman in her 80’s died at Huntington Hospital on March 22 and a woman in her 70’s died at Southside Hospital yesterday.

Bellone extended his condolences to the families. The death toll for the virus in Suffolk County is now 17.

Meanwhile, Stony Brook Hospital is expected to receive 25 ventilators, although the delivery date is undetermined at this time.

Bellone said Amneal Pharmaceuticals, which manufacturers an anti-malarial treatment that the state is testing as a potential treatment for coronavirus called hydroxychloroquine, has donated two million pills to the state.

“We are grateful that a local company is helping to contribute to this effort,” Bellone said. Amneal, which is headquartered in Bridgewater, New Jersey, has a factory in Yaphank.

During the pause in activities in New York that  Cuomo created and that started yesterday, landscapers can continue to perform necessary maintenance functions. Bellone said he was still awaiting clarity from the governor’s office about construction jobs.

Stock photo

In the first day of soliciting donations of Personal Protective Equipment to help health care workers and first responders, County Executive Steve Bellone was pleased with the outpouring of support from the community.

“Today we have seen, in the spirit of cooperation, an outpouring of generosity of people who come together in a time of crisis,” Bellone said on his daily media call with reporters.

Residents and business leaders brought 40,000 gloves of various sizes, 3,000 N95 masks, 1,500 gowns and over 3,000 ear loop masks to the Suffolk County Fire Academy in Yaphank. Bellone is seeking donations from 10 am to 2 pm during the weekdays.

Given the shortage of masks, some people have started sewing homemade masks.

Gregson Pigott, the commissioner of the county Department of Health Services, cautioned people about their effectiveness.

“That’s not advised,” Pigott said on a conference call. The masks need to be “properly tested and certified.”

Stony Brook has started to make face shields with 3-D printers, which hospital personnel has reviewed and determined to be medically compliant. The team that designed these shields, call iCREATE, made some parts of the shield replaceable so health care professionals could change them out.

Today also marked the first day of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s (D) order to pause, as he asked all non-essential businesses to close to reduce the spread of the coronavirus Covid-19. Suffolk County received some clarity from the governor’s office about whether landscapers would be able to continue their work. Landscapers can continue to work for maintenance and the control of pests. These workers, however, cannot do any ornamental planning and are restricted to mowing lawns and protecting the public against health risks that might occur if they didn’t do their jobs.

Meanwhile, the number of people with coronavirus continues to climb, with 1,458 people testing positive. Among those with the virus, 116 are in the hospital, with 38 in the Intensive Care Unit. The County suffered another coronavirus-related fatality, as a woman in her 80’s passed away at St. Catherine’s Hospital. The death toll in Suffolk County stands at 13.

Bellone said he is working with town supervisors and mayors to encourage residents to follow the governor’s order. As with other parts of the country, Suffolk County is working to encourage younger people to maintain social distancing.

Younger people may feel “they are not vulnerable to the virus,” Bellone said. “They [need to understand] that they can not only contract it, but they can also contract it and can transmit it to others around them. They pose a danger to vulnerable populations.”

The county executive added New York Mets pitcher Steve Matz, who is a graduate of Ward Melville High School in Setauket, has been putting out the message.

At the same time, Bellone has been gathering information about the impact of the virus on businesses. Over, 4,000 furloughed or laid off employees have reached out to the County Executive’s office through 311.

These are “some of our more vulnerable employees,” Bellone said. His office is reaching out to the employers, so they can connect with their staff so they “don’t fade into the background.”

In his daily press conference, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) urged the Donald Trump (R) administration to invoke the Defense Production Act, which would allow them to order manufacturers to increase production of much-needed PPE items. The president has signed an executive order invoking the act, but has yet to make a single order. Cuomo said those companies would be “paid handsomely” for the effort, but that it was needed more than ever.

The governor also said he was signing an executive order mandating hospitals around New York State to increase the number of available beds by at least 50 percent, with the goal being to reach a turnaround of 100 percent. Stony Brook University is also the planned site of an additional hospital pavilion to add extra beds to the area, though Bellone said details on that are still being worked out.

At the urging of his wife, Bellone himself contacted the mobile unit at Stony Brook Hospital to seek a coronavirus test. He was exposed to the virus from meetings with one of his deputy chiefs, Peter Scully, who tested positive last week.

Bellone called the mobile unit number, waited half an hour on the phone to speak with a medical professional, and is awaiting a call back for an appointment.

Bellone plans to have a Facebook live town hall on his page tonight at 6:30 pm to provide an update to residents.

“There continues to be a lot of anxiety,” Bellone said. “our lives have been turned upside down.”

METRO photo

By Elof Axel Carlson

Elof Axel Carlson

Humans have known of epidemics throughout recorded history. 

Biblical “visitations” as they were called, include locusts, infectious diseases, fire and brimstone, and other calamities, the worst of which was the Noachian Flood that wiped out most of life that could not survive in the air, in the water, or on Noah’s ark. That is a religious, not secular event.

 Secular plagues go back to Roman, Greek, and Egyptian civilizations. These could have been typhus, cholera, and bubonic plagues. The most disastrous in more recent memory was the bubonic plague of the 1350s which killed one third of the population. 

Our present worry is the coronavirus pandemic. As I write this, it is in its still early stage, with only a few countries imposing a nationwide quarantine and testing program to check its spread. From the early statistics it does not seem to kill more than 3 percent of those infected. That too is skewed by the heavier mortality among the aged population (those over 65) where it is as high as 10 percent of those infected. 

I am 88 so I am aware of my vulnerability and follow the directives about travel, meetings, handwashing and being careful but not obsessed (I have not hoarded food or antiseptics). I am confident this will pass without killing a substantial portion of humanity. 

One reason it is hard to do a Noah-like massacre of all life on land is the nature of our immune systems. It is hard to design or conceive of a protein surface of a virus or bacterium that can penetrate any cell of any organism. In order to enter, a microbe must have a surface protein capable of attachment to the host cell. It must have one or more proteins capable of digesting that surface. It must have one or more capacities, once entering its DNA or RNA, to replicate and produce more of its kind than any effort by the cell or the infected organism to attack it. 

We know this has never happened in the past three billion years of life because we are alive. There is a constant, back and forth, relation of mutations that increase virulence or hosts and new mutations that prevent microbes from entering or surviving in a penetrated cell. The odds are also in our favor because humans can develop vaccines to immunize against infections.  

What this pandemic reminds us, however, is that our governments need to anticipate such events (usually once or twice a century) with public health programs and effective limits of public gathering and isolating those infected.  

At its early stages the temptation is to deny that an epidemic is starting or will be widespread. No one wants commerce to be disrupted by fears that empty our stores and diminish spending. For this reason, people who have spent their careers in public health are more trustworthy than politicians who are guided by wishful thinking that this is just a false alarm.  

Whenever I read of health workers dying from contact with individuals who sicken and die, the biologist in me says listen to the experts in public health, not those who are guided by their political ideologies and instincts.  

Elof Axel Carlson is a distinguished teaching professor emeritus in the Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology at Stony Brook University.

File photo

Hospitals in New York State have to develop plans to expand capacity by 50 percent within the next few weeks, and then, down the road, 100 percent, as the number of coronavirus cases increases.

Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) today announced a State Department of Health Emergency Order requiring the expansion to prepare for the expected rising medical need.

“We’re going to continue to work with the state and with hospitals to do everything we can to help them meet that mandate,” Steve Bellone (D), the Suffolk County Executive, said on a daily conference call with reporters.

Bellone reiterated Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) expectation that the effort to contain the virus is likely a long-term commitment, which could be anywhere from two to eight months or more.

“We know we are engaged in this fight for the foreseeable future,” Bellone said.

Bellone also announced that Suffolk County Transit is implementing policies that are similar to the ones the MTA has created. Riders will no longer have the option of using cash for their payments. They should use Suffolk FastFare, which is a mobile app. The app is available for use on all Suffolk County buses. Riders can use smart phones to purchase tickets.

Starting on Monday, Suffolk County Transit will also do rear door boarding on fixed bus route service and will need to leave the first few rows of the bus empty to create a safe distance between drivers and riders, Bellone said.

“We are continuing to operate critical transportation infrastructure,” Bellone added.

Meanwhile, the number of positive tests in Suffolk County climbed to 1,034, according to the State Department of Health. As of earlier today, there were 89 people hospitalized because of the virus, with 28 people currently in the Intensive Care Unit.

The virus has contributed to the deaths of three more Suffolk County residents, increasing the number of virus-related fatalities in the county to 12. A man in his 80’s died in his home March 18, a man in his 60’s, who was also in a car accident, died at Stony Brook University Hospital March 14, and a man in his 50’s died at Southside Hospital. The man in his 50’s, who had other health issues, is the youngest Suffolk County resident felled thus far by COVID-19.

The Stony Brook University mobile testing site has conducted over 2,000 tests. Bellone cautioned people not to just show up because they wouldn’t receive a test. They need to receive a referral from a doctor or from a source through telemedicine.

Hospitals in Suffolk County currently have beds available, with 644 vacant beds out of 2,626 and 86 beds available out of 275 in intensive care.

As for Cuomo’s order to close businesses that are considered non-essential by 8 p.m. tonight, Bellone said his office was continuing to speak with state officials to determine which industries would be deemed essential.

Landscaping, for example, is “essential in the sense that we are in the growing season,” Bellone said. “We know that there can be public health costs associated with landscaping that is getting out of control.”

The dry cleaning business as well could be an essential service, especially because these establishments are cleaning uniforms for first responders.

Bellone said continued to meet with representatives from the food industry, who indicated that the supply chains remain open. The shortages on shelves are coming from people who are hoarding items, rather than from a reduction in the production of food, toilet paper, or other consumer staples.

“We confirmed with the industry today,” Bellone said. “They are going to continue to bring in those supplies as quickly as they can. [Food supplies] will be coming next week and the week after that. It is not stopping or shutting down.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone has called on residents to donate PPE for health care workers and first responders. File photo by Kyle Barr
As the number of people infected and hospitalized by the coronavirus Covid-19 rises, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) is asking the community to donate personal protective equipment to ensure the safety of first responders and health care workers.

“We are launching a supply drive for personal protective equipment,” Bellone said on a conference call with reporters. “This is an opportunity for all of us to come together to support the men and women who are on the front lines to keep us safe to contain the spread of the virus.”

Bellone is seeking N95 masks, ear loop masks, gloves, and gowns from individuals or businesses. As Governor Andrew Cuomo’s (D) order to shut down barber shops, nail salons and other personal care services takes effect, some of the businesses may have equipment that could save the lives of those people who are helping others afflicted with the virus.

“We are going to be making a direct appeal to those industries,” Bellone said. “We will be doing direct outreach to them so we can ask them to support this effort.”

Starting on Monday, individuals and businesses can bring the supplies from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to the Suffolk County Fire Academy in Yaphank, located at 102 East Avenue.

Bellone expressed appreciation that Cuomo said this morning that Long Island would receive 500,000 masks, but indicated that the need in the coming weeks and months would likely exceed that supply.

“We need to do more,” Bellone said.

Starting on Monday, the Suffolk County Police Department, meanwhile, will require residents to report all non-emergency incidents online or by phone. These include harassing communications, lost property, criminal mischief and vandalism, minor traffic incidents, identity theft, among other non emergency reports.

“The last thing we can afford to do is take the people on the front lines off the battlefield,” Bellone said.

Bellone praised the efforts of schools to provide grab and go meals for students. He thanked Island Harvest and Long Island Cares for their ongoing efforts to meet this growing need.

The number of infected residents has climbed to 662. That includes 55 people who are receiving treatment in the hospital, with 14 of those in Intensive Care Units.

The virus has killed two additional residents. A woman in her 80’s passed away at Huntington Hospital, while another woman in her late 80’s died at Peconic Landing. A total of nine residents have died from the pandemic.

Officials expect the number of infected individuals will continue to climb, especially after the Stony Brook University Hospital mobile testing site started administering tests this week. At this point, the mobile unit has tested over 1,500 people.

Suffolk County Chief of Police Stuart Cameron reiterated the necessity of keeping up social distancing to contain the spread of the virus. He suggested that people aware of someone violating restrictions should call 631-852-COPS. He is aware of 26 such reports, with only one instance of a violation when officers arrived. Officers will attempt to seek compliance first.

“My experience, talking to younger folks, is that they don’t seem to be concerned about this because of reports that they won’t be seriously ill,” Cameron said on the call. “They need to be told that they can affect someone who is vulnerable and that [the person who gets the virus] could die.”

Cameron suggested that officers would start engaging in non-traditional law enforcement roles to protect the public amid this ongoing crisis.

Cuomo, meanwhile, urged seniors to follow Matilda’s law, which is named for his mother. This law provides protection for New Yorkers who are 70 and older and for people with compromised immune systems and those with underlying illnesses. He urged that group to remain indoors unless they are exercising on their own outside, pre-screen visitors by taking their temperature, not to visit houses with multiple people, wear a mask when others are near, ask others to wear masks in their presence, maintain social distancing of six feet and avoid public transportation when possible.

Taking Vitamin D may reduce the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. Stock photo
Cumulative lifestyle changes can improve results

By David Dunaief

Dr. David Dunaief

According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, roughly 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD) each year, and approximately one million Americans are living with PD (1). PD is a neurodegenerative (the breakdown of brain neurons) disease with the resultant effect of a movement disorder.

Most notably, patients with the disease suffer from a collection of symptoms known by the mnemonic TRAP: tremors while resting, rigidity, akinesia/bradykinesia (inability/difficulty to move or slow movements) and postural instability or balance issues. It can also result in a masked face, one that has become expressionless, and potentially dementia, depending on the subtype. There are several different subtypes; the diffuse/malignant phenotype has the highest propensity toward cognitive decline (2).

The part of the brain most affected is the basal ganglia, and the prime culprit is dopamine deficiency that occurs in this brain region (3). Why not add back dopamine? Actually, this is the mainstay of medical treatment, but eventually the neurons themselves break down, and the medication becomes less effective.

There’s a lot we still don’t know about the causes of PD; however, risk factors may include head trauma, reduced vitamin D, milk intake, well water, being overweight, high levels of dietary iron and migraine with aura in middle age.

Is there hope? Yes, in the form of medications and deep brain stimulatory surgery, but also with lifestyle modifications. Lifestyle factors include iron, vitamin D and CoQ10. The research, unfortunately, is not conclusive, though it is intriguing.

Reducing iron in the brain

This heavy metal is potentially harmful for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, macular degeneration, multiple sclerosis and, yes, Parkinson’s disease. The problem is that this heavy metal can cause oxidative damage.

In a small, yet well-designed, randomized controlled trial (RCT), researchers used a chelator to remove iron from the substantia nigra, a specific part of the brain where iron breakdown may be dysfunctional. An iron chelator is a drug that removes the iron. Here, deferiprone (DFP) was used at a modest dose of 30 mg/kg/d (4). This drug was mostly well-tolerated.

The chelator reduced the risk of disease progression significantly on the Unified Parkinson Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS) during the 12-month study. Participants who were treated sooner had lower levels of iron compared to a group that used the chelator six months later. A specialized MRI was used to measure levels of iron in the brain.

The iron chelator does not affect, nor should it affect, systemic levels of iron, only those in the brain specifically focused on the substantia nigra region. The chelator may work by preventing degradation of the dopamine-containing neurons. It also may be recommended to consume foods that contain less iron.

Does CoQ10 slow progression?

When we typically think of using CoQ10, a coenzyme found in over-the-counter supplements, it is to compensate for depletion from statin drugs or due to heart failure. Doses range from 100 to 300 mg. However, there is evidence that CoQ10 may be beneficial in Parkinson’s at much higher doses. In an RCT, results showed that those given 1,200 mg of CoQ10 daily reduced the progression of the disease significantly based on UPDRS changes, compared to the placebo group (5). Other doses of 300 and 600 mg showed trends toward benefit but were not significant. This was a 16-month trial in a small population of 80 patients. Though the results for other CoQ10 studies have been mixed, these results are encouraging. Plus, CoQ10 was well-tolerated at even the highest dose. Thus, there may be no downside to trying CoQ10 in those with PD.

Is Vitamin D part of the puzzle?

In a prospective (forward-looking) study, results show that vitamin D levels measured in the highest quartile reduced the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease by 65 percent, compared to the lowest quartile (6). This is quite impressive, especially since the highest quartile patients had vitamin D levels that were what we would qualify as insufficient, with blood levels of 20 ng/ml, while those in the lowest quartile had deficient blood levels of 10 ng/ml or less. There were over 3,000 patients involved in this study with an age range of 50 to 79.

While many times we are deficient in vitamin D and have a disease, replacing the vitamin does nothing to help the disease. Here, it does. Vitamin D may play dual roles of both reducing the risk of Parkinson’s disease and slowing its progression.

In an RCT, results showed that 1,200 IU of vitamin D taken daily, may have reduced the progression of Parkinson’s disease significantly on the UPDRS compared to a placebo over a 12-month duration (7). Also, this amount of vitamin D increased the blood levels by two times from 22.5 to 41.7 ng/ml. There were 121 patients involved in this study with a mean age of 72.

So, what have we learned? Though medication with dopamine agonists is the gold standard for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, lifestyle modifications can have a significant impact on both prevention and treatment of this disease. Each lifestyle change in isolation may have modest effects, but cumulatively their impact could be significant. The most exciting part is that lifestyle modifications have the potential to slow the progression the disease and thus have a protective effect.

References:

(1) parkinsons.org. (2) JAMA Neurol. 2015;72:863-873. (3) uptodate.com. (4) Antioxid Redox Signal. 2014;10;21(2):195-210. (5) Arch Neurol. 2002;59(10):1541-1550. (6) Arch Neurol. 2010;67(7):808-811. (7) Am J Clin Nutr. 2013;97(5):1004-1013.

Dr. Dunaief is a speaker, author and local lifestyle medicine physician focusing on the integration of medicine, nutrition, fitness and stress management. For further information, visit www.medicalcompassmd.com.  

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Robert Niedig, Robin Hoolahan and Sean Leister deliver bags of food to students who need it. The program is expected to continue as long as the schools remained closed. Photo by Kyle Barr

Though schools in the Port Jefferson area may be closed, districts have been working constantly to get food to the children who may need it now more than ever.

Volunteers and staff help deliver meals at both JFK Middle School and the Comsewogue High School March 19. Photo by Leigh Powell

Port Jefferson Deputy Superintendent Sean Leister and a few volunteers stood inside the high school’s cafeteria Friday, March 20. For the weekend, the district was handing out three meals, one for Friday, Saturday and Sunday respectively. 

The program is based on the district’s previous reduced cost lunch program, but now its being donated to anybody 18 or under free. Nobody has to sign up, and nobody at the door checks if the person lives within the district.

“The program is not restricted, it’s for any child 18 and under that feels they have a need,” Leister said.

When school was normally in session, Leister said the district had 110 students signed up for the program, where around 65 normally picked it up. In the last week or so, the district has been producing around 50 to 60 meals each day. Middle School Principal Robert Neidig has also volunteered to deliver to those resident’s houses who said they were unable to come out to pick their meals up. He said families have been really appreciative, even one young girl who comes to the door so excited to see the meals he’s brought.

“It’s like if I were delivering them candy,” Neidig said.

Each bag comes with a sandwich, bagel or wrap, along with fruit and milk. Any untaken meals are being given to Infant Jesus RC Church for them to distribute any remaining food.

Leister said the district has also applied to New York State to allow them to make breakfast and dinner meals as well. Local residents can get these meals at the Port Jefferson High school from 11 to 1 p.m. on weekdays.

Meanwhile in the Comsewogue school district, staff and a score of volunteers worked Thursday, March 19 at two separate schools to donate around 1,800 meals to children in need within the district.

Volunteers and staff help deliver meals at both JFK Middle School and the Comsewogue High School March 19. Photo by Jennifer Quinn

Comsewogue School District Superintendent Jennifer Quinn said the staff took everything from the schools cafeterias and even raided the faculty food pantry. Originally the district thought they would be able to only give out 1,100, but they went far above what they expected. 

This is one of the toughest things we’ve ever experienced — we will do what we need to do, together,” Quinn said. “We need to make sure our families are fed and our children are educated, and we are as whole as possible by the end of all this.”

Food included in bags were cold cuts, bread, apple sauce, juice, milk, cereal, cereal bars, and frozen hamburgers and meatballs. Staff and volunteers placed the bags inside the cars of those who drove up to the high school and JFK Middle School. Volunteers also drove meals to families who said they were unable to come by the two pickup locations.

There were around 30 volunteers who came by to offer aid. Quinn said they were offered aid by over 100 residents, but she felt she had to turn most away to try and reduce the chance of any kind of contagion.

The Comsewogue district is expecting nonprofit food bank Island Harvest to donate them another 300 meals come this Monday. Quinn added the district is likely to raid the cafeterias in the other schools, and should have another 1,100 meals after they receive aid from a New York State program giving food aid to schools during the mandated shutdown.

The Comsewogue School District is expecting to host its next bagged food drive Thursday, April 2.

 

The coronavirus has so far claimed seven lives in Suffolk County as of March 20. Image from CDC

The number of fatalities from coronavirus Covid-19 more than doubled in the last day, as four more people died, including three people in their 90s in the Peconic Landing Medical Facility.

At the same time, positive tests for the respiratory virus have reached 459.

“Everything we’re doing is to keep that number down and keep it as low as possible,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said on a conference call with reporters.

The positive tests include a member of the Suffolk County Police Department who works in the Highway Bureau, as well as a second member of Bellone’s staff, Chief Deputy County Executive Dennis Cohen. The positive test means that Bellone, who was under voluntary quarantine, is now under mandatory quarantine at his home.

Bellone described the police officer as a male in his 50s who lives in Nassau County. The officer is expected to make a full recovery, he said.

The county executive reiterated the importance for the community to stay home and remain isolated as much as possible.

“Young people may not believe the virus is something that impacts them,” he said, but it has locally as well as nationally.

Indeed, among those with a positive test for the virus, 50 of them are in their 20’s, while 50 are in their 30’s. About half of all the infections are among people who are in their 40’s and 50’s.

To reduce the spread of the virus, Bellone yesterday closed all playgrounds in county parks, even as the parks remain open.

“We close the playgrounds because what we found is that it’s very difficult to keep kids apart,” Bellone said.

Health officials urge people to maintain social distancing of over six feet in those public spaces.

The county also closed dog parks because of the crowding at those areas as well.

“People can bring dogs to parks on leashes and are able to be out there in the open space while practicing social distancing with their pets,” Bellone said.

Even as the new Stony Brook University mobile testing site has increased the ability to test, residents has met some of the pent=up demand to understand the extent of the presence of the virus in their areas. Suffolk, like so many counties others across the nation, is still confronting a potential shortage of supplies of personal protective equipment.

“This has been challenging,” Bellone said. “A lack of supplies or PPE is close behind the testing in something we’ve been lacking on a national basis.”

Bellone’s office is working to accept donations of personal protective equipment in industries that have excess equipment that they can spare. The priority remains to protect people at the front lines in this battle, the county executive urged.

Bellone encouraged residents to go to Newsday’s web site, newsday.com/business, which alerts customers and the community that some businesses remain open. In light of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s (D) decision to reduce businesses to essential services starting on Sunday, those businesses would need to meet that stringent threshold.

Supermarkets have created morning hours when seniors can do their shopping. Seniors can shop at the following morning stores during the following hours: Dollar General, from 8 to 9 a.m., Stu Leonard’s, from 730 to 8, Stop & Shop, from 6:30 to 7:30, Uncle Giuseppe’s, from 7 to 8, Target from 8 to 9 on Wednesday, Giunta’s Meat Farms, from 6:30 to 7:30 on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and Walmart, from 6 to 7 on Wednesday.

Bellone addressed concerns about empty shelves at some of these stores. He assured the public that supplies remain robust and that some shelves are empty as residents horde items they are concerned might not be available during the crisis.

“There is no need to be concerned,” Bellone said. “Critical products will be there on the shelves. I would encourage people not to buy items in bulk.”

In the realm of child care for first responders, Bellone said first responders and health care providers can reach out to the Child Care Counsel of Suffolk to schedule care for their children. The phone number is 646-926-3784.

In the meantime, Suffolk County has reached out to retired first responders and health care providers as the anticipated increase in demand, and potential for more positive tests among those helping the public, triggers the need for more help.

“It’s an all-hands-on-deck situation,” Bellone said. “There’s no part of this government that’s not involved in this operation or response. It’s like calling in the reserves. People will need to step up.”

Meanwhile, Stony Brook University Hospital said in a release it currently had enough personal protective equipment to meet the needs of every staff member coming into contact with a suspected or confirmed case of Covid-19.

The hospital is working to find additional supplies. Hospital officials expect supplies of personal protective equipment to become strained as the pandemic evolves and is reviewing alternative practices to protect the staff.

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory canceled or postponed all programs that invite visitors to campus. The research center has also restricted education, research and administrative operations.

Employees are required to work remotely or adjust their schedules if they support mission-critical research or facilities, to lower the number of people on site. The lab expects the restrictions to last for at least the next month.

The DNA Learning Center has canceled education programs starting March 16 for middle and high school programs on Long Island, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Westchester County. Public programming including campus tours, lectures and concerts have also been canceled since March 8.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has declared a shutdown of all businesses in New York. File photo by Sara Meghan Walsh

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo (D) announced earlier today that he is shutting down all businesses that are not considered essential starting this Sunday evening.

Businesses that will remain open include grocery stores and pharmacies, among others.

At a press conference, Cuomo said, “this is the most drastic action we can take,” adding these provisions will be enforced.

“These are not helpful hints,” he said. “These are legal provisions. They will be enforced. There will be a civil fine and mandatory closure for any business that is not in compliance. Your actions can affect my health. That’s where we are.”

He tackled misconceptions among younger people. He said bad information includes the perception that young people can’t get it or that young people can’t transmit it if they’re not symptomatic. Those are both “factually wrong,” Cuomo said. He cited that 20 percent of coronavirus cases are from people ages 20 to 44, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The 56th Governor of the Empire State said non-essential gatherings of individuals of any size for any reason are canceled at this time.

To protect those most at risk, Cuomo is also announcing Matilda’s Law to protect New Yorkers who are over 70 years old with compromised immune systems. He urges them to remain indoors, pre-screen visitors by taking their temperature, and require visitors to wear masks and remain six feet away from others. He strongly discouraged people in this group from taking public transportation, “unless urgent and absolutely necessary.”

He is also implementing a 90-day moratorium on evictions for residential and commercial tenants.

“I understand that may affect businesses negatively and I’ve spoken to a number of them,” Cuomo said. “I know that we’re going to put people out of work with what I did. I want to make sure I don’t put them out of their house.”

Cuomo said the order was definitely not a “shelter-in-place” order, but rather was a way to “tighten the valve” on the density of the population, reducing the risk of exposure and contagion.