Opinion

Photo by Kyle Barr

Small businesses are the Atlas of the economy. Too often attention is paid to the huge corporations, whose employment numbers are cited for why they need stimulus in times of crisis. However, when money circulates at the ground level, it tracks among the small businesses, our friends, our neighbors. 

That’s why it’s so disheartening to see a program meant to support those same small businesses first be shuttled through banks who simply weren’t prepared for it, then being abused by large companies it wasn’t made for, and now is seeing constant changes which may make using the loan a kind of poisoned chalice, one that looks appetizing but may just be a death blow to any who drinks from it.

The fact the Payment Protection Program was shunted through banks in the first place was a misstep. Many small business owners complained clients of the banks were given preference (and even among those, larger companies were prioritized). Smaller-sized banks themselves found they had to establish a whole new infrastructure for handling and dealing out these loans.

And then, companies with many more employees nationwide than the requisite 500 or under had received such loans because of loopholes in the lending requirements. Approximately 94 loans were made to publicly traded companies, totaling around $365 million. Reuters reported that well over 70 of these companies which received aid had months of emergency cash on hand to get them over the hump. The loans of up to $10 million were designed to tide over small businesses for eight weeks, rehiring staff in the process. 

A program that started with $349 billion has grown to $669 billion after thousands were left high and dry after the first round of loans. This program that was meant to support small businesses has contorted into a mess of paperwork that has many concerned it will saddle them with debt long term.

Some owners find they have no reason to take on their furloughed labor if none of them wish to return to work anyway. With many fearing the economic impact could last much longer than eight weeks, even more are concerned they may have to lay off employees once again just a short time after spending the funds.

Some businesses have reported anxiety at using the funds at all, fearing that they will somehow make themselves ineligible for the loan turning into a grant. Many businesses rely on independent contractors, but according to loan rules, none of the money received can be used for contract labor.

Politico wrote May 8 that the watchdog agency of the Small Business Administration (the SBA administers the PPP loans) reported the federal agency has strayed away from the original language of the law in creating new restrictions. PPP requires businesses to spend 75 percent of the loan on payroll to get forgiveness and that the balance must be paid back in two years. Both of these bylaws were absent from the original bill.

But questions still weigh heavily on the minds of business owners. Everything most people understand about the loans can still change. 

All this goes to show PPP was unleashed too hastily and clarifications have been much too slow to roll out. Small business owners need specifics and they need guarantees. Guidelines need to be strict enough to avoid scams while keeping in mind the reality of modern day small businesses. 

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D) has already called for easing restrictions. Our other local federal representatives must hear owners’ concerns, and then relay those fears to the U.S. Treasury Department and SBA.

These small businesses need that help, because if we lose them, some of the best parts of our communities go with them.

Stock photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

I love my neighbors. I never knew who most of them were, but I do now. I see them almost every day and they are friendlier than most of the people I’ve ever worked with. Then again, they haven’t been sitting at their desks, waiting for me to file a story, to fix some error, or to explain how I could have ended the previous sentence with a preposition.

I don’t just love my neighbors. I love the trees that reflect the different types of spring lighting that falls on them throughout the day, as I take my exhausted dog for yet another long walk. The singing of the birds? I can’t get enough of it. In fact, the other day, I heard three birds, all singing their repetitive songs. Meanwhile, a woodpecker was banging his head against a tree, searching for his insect prey while providing a percussion background to the sounds of the other birds chirping. Incidentally, why haven’t clever scientists studied woodpeckers to see how they recover from nonstop concussions? How can they fly straight after all that pounding?

So, my neighbors can’t always update me on their lives, because A. they don’t always have time to chat with the guy who walks his big, white dog too many times a day, and B. they want to make sure they stay at least six feet away from me, which isn’t so easy when said big white dog pulls me and him
towards them.

They do a fantastic job of updating me on their lives with the signs that grace their lawns. I’ve read about birthdays, new babies, graduations, among many other milestones and celebrations limited by our red light, green light, one-two-three game with a virus that doesn’t seem to have turned away long enough for us to do much moving.

Anyway, I was just thinking about the signs my neighbors don’t put on our lawns, but that might reflect their current reality. Here’s a list of a few:

— No one told us we’d be entertaining three kids under 5 years old indefinitely.

— Yes, I’m working on the lawn again.

— Don’t make fun of my makeup. Yours doesn’t exactly look great, either.

— Do you want to buy any knives from our cute and enterprising daughter who just finished college finals and needs something to do (okay, we might put that one on our lawn).

— I see you staring at my house, while you’re pretending to look at the trees.

— I’m celebrating nothing today. How about you?

— If you miss sports too, try to hit this sign with a ball and win a lollipop.

Lord of the Flies might have been fiction. This is real. Don’t, under any circumstances, knock on our door.

— This invisible fence isn’t for a dog. Keep off the lawn.

— Does anyone know what day it is?

— Hopefully, this sign will distract you from the peeling paint on our shutters.

— We’ve been binge watching Stranger Things and can’t come to the door right now because we’re in the Upside Down. Please leave a message.

— No, wrong house. The neighbor down the street and to the left is the happy one.

— We know it sounds weird, but it’s our version of modern music.

Finally, I’d like to share an actual, handwritten sign that from a neighbor who had clearly had enough of the rest of us, with our stupid dogs on stupid leashes every day.

— No poop zone (I can’t believe I have to say this).

Photo from METRO

By Leah Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Zooming has become a verb in the same way xeroxing did many years ago. When a product assumes an important role in daily life, the manufacturer’s name sometimes becomes the name for the process. So it was for many years with photocopying. And now, I don’t know about you, but for those of us who are working remotely even part of the week, participating in calls over the Zoom platform is a regular occurrence.

Who ever heard of Zoom before sheltering in place began? Well, maybe I did, but only as a possible growth stock to invest in, and running at $100 a share, it struck me as too expensive to be interesting. When I googled (another such example) the name, it was described as “an American communications technology company headquartered in San Jose, California. It provides videotelephony and online chat services … and is used for teleconferencing, telecommuting, distance education and social relations.” Until I actually went through “joining a meeting,” it had no relevance to my life.

Enter the pandemic and sheltering in place, and we all discovered that unlike some other high tech stuff, Zoom was easy to use and helpful for work and play. We now have departmental meetings and community board meetings via Zoom, and I enjoy weekly rendezvouses with my children and grandchildren. For now, seeing everybody is free.

Like all technical marvels, however, there are positives and negatives in connection with Zoom. After three Zoom meetings, each for two hours, in one day, I found that I was exhausted and feeling out of sorts. The first such day, I just assumed it had little to do with zooming. The next time, with a similar schedule and the same result, made me realize there was a cause-and-effect taking place, but I didn’t understand why.

Then I read, “Why Zoom Is Terrible,” a column in The New York Times by journalist Kate Murphy, that made a lot of sense. Before I share the particulars, I want to rush to say that I don’t think Zoom is terrible. I think it is what it is, like all new inventions that change one’s life: a miracle. However difficult our lives are today, imagine if there were no video conferencing available to us. Even physicians have embraced telemedicine as a substitute for office visits for now, but surely as a way of communicating with remote patients who cannot get to the office in a life-or-death emergency in the future.

There are, however, some drawbacks, as Murphy’s article explains, and we should be aware of them. The way the video images are “digitally encoded and decoded, altered and adjusted, patched and synthesized introduces all kinds of artifacts: blocking, freezing, jerkiness and out-of-sync audio. These disruptions, some below our conscious awareness, confound perception and scramble certain social cues. Our brains strain to fill in the gaps and make sense of the disorder, which makes us feel vaguely disturbed, uneasy and tired without quite knowing why.”

This explains a lot to me. Just the audio delay alone tends to make me speak more loudly to the screen than I would normally in an unconscious attempt to get my words to the listeners faster and get their responses back more quickly. After six hours of yelling alone, I can feel pretty tired. And when I look at the others on the grid, in a manner reminiscent of the television show, Hollywood Squares, I am not looking them in the eye. There is no eye contact, and often people are actually looking at themselves — checking out their hair and whether their collar is covering their chicken neck.

We are, as the author points out, “exquisitely sensitive to one another’s facial expressions …and [that is] essential to our understanding of one another.” But such subtleties are frozen, smoothed over or delayed on the screen, however hard we might strain to see them, hence our fatigue and even a bit of alienation.

So now you know. And by the way, Zoom is now selling at $164.55 a share. I never bought it.

Johness Kuisel with her granddaughter Caroline

Kyle Barr – Deborah Barr

Kyle Barr, right, with his mom Deborah and his twin brother, Kris

She was working even when she wasn’t. After coming home from her job as a secretary for an attorney in Riverhead, my mom would fret about what my family was going to eat for dinner. It didn’t matter if most of the people left in the house were self-sufficient, Mom was going to make something for everyone, she was going to vacuum the floor, she was going to start the laundry, and by 10 p.m. she would be snoring on the couch, as if her batteries were depleted and no amount of coaxing would get her to restart without a recharge.

I think I’ve got my sensibilities toward work from you, for either good or ill. By your example, I finish what I start, even in times like this. I don’t do things halfway, because each thing should be treated with care.

That is, at work, at least. I know you would still be ashamed to see the way I keep my home.

 

Courtney and Caroline Biondo – Johness Kuisel

Johness Kuisel with her granddaughter Caroline

To us, Johness is Mom and Granny. 

My mom is the driving force not only of my life, but for 44 years has been the heart and soul of Times Beacon Record newspapers. She is the epitome of class. She teaches me to always be my very best and always put forth my very best effort, more importantly as a mother myself.

Our Granny is the one to watch college football with on Saturdays, the NFL on Sundays and basketball during the week. Granny is always up for a trip to the beach to lounge in the sun and collect shells. Granny likes to sit with a cat in her lap after a long day and sip a Bloody Mary. Granny teaches us to never give up, because you’re often closest to succeeding when you want to forfeit. She teaches us to explore through travel and to always be eager to learn new things.

 

Daniel Dunaief – Leah Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief with his mom Leah 

When I was young, my mother started these papers. When I called her at work, Mrs. Kuisel answered, much as she does now. “Can I speak to my mom?” I asked. Mrs. Kuisel asked me who my mother was because so many mothers worked at the papers. The question is one I’m happy to answer every day. I’m proud to say that who I am and who my brothers are begins with being numbers 1, 2 and 3 sons of Leah Dunaief. Sure, my younger brother and I might argue about the order of importance, but we are all grateful to have learned numerous important lessons, including never to wear jeans in the ocean or to use apple juice to clean our faces, from a woman we’re fortunate to call mom. I wish her and all the other moms dealing with the ever-fluid new normal a happy Mother’s Day.

 

Rita J. Egan – Rita M. Egan

Rita Egan with her mom Rita

When I was a kid in Queens, more mothers were beginning to go to work full time, outside of the home. My mother was no different. At first, she worked as a cashier at Alexander’s Department Store, but she knew she needed to make more money, and she soon took a night class to brush up on her typing and shorthand. After a few different jobs, she eventually found herself working for Con Edison in its transportation department. She lived in Queens when she first began working there but eventually moved out to Smithtown. She would be up before the sun, even leaving before sunrise to catch the train, and while she soon became part of a carpool, the more convenient ride didn’t stop the early morning rush to be at the office by 7 a.m. I may not have inherited my mother’s knack for getting up before the crack of dawn, but I would like to think I take after her when it comes to getting up every morning and doing whatever it is that needs to be done, even when times are rough.

While Mother’s Day may be celebrated a little bit differently this year, here’s hoping we can all find some way to celebrate all the special women in our lives.

Stock photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

“When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d” is a poem written by the great Walt Whitman as an elegy for the great Abe Lincoln, who died around this time in May of 1865. For me, it too honors my mother, whom I also regard as great, as I guess we all do our mothers, if in a more personal context. I think of my mother whenever lilacs bloom because she loved the flower, with its heart-shaped leaves and its perfume fragrance, and because she died right around Mother’s Day when, to me also in her honor, lilacs bloom.

My mother grew up in the earliest years of the 20th century in Corona, a then-countrified section of Queens in New York City. She told us that on her way to elementary school, she sometimes had to wait for the cows in front of her to finish crossing the road, which is certainly a different picture than what I saw of the neighborhood when I was shown the house in which she and her siblings, parents and maiden aunt lived. (That last is an expression from a century ago.) She also lovingly described the backyard as “completely filled with lilac bushes whose scent filled the entire block.”

My mother was the bridge for her parents and older siblings between the Ukraine, from which they emigrated, speaking not a word of English, and America, the repository of their dreams. She was probably 4 years old when they arrived and moved into the house on Corona Avenue, and she was sent off to school where she learned the language and brought it home, along with the ways of the new country. That she was bright must have been apparent to the teachers because she was skipped grades twice during those early years and graduated from junior high or middle school when she was 11. Although she yearned to go on to high school and college, her father had suffered a debilitating stroke, and she, along with her older brother and sister, were obligated to work and support the family of nine. She won a scholarship to what was then called a “business school,” where she learned in record time to be a credentialed bookkeeper and was hired as such by a man named Mr. Mosler, a member of the well-known family that made Mosler Safes and Vaults.

My mother worked all her life, arranging her work hours somehow around the responsibilities of caring for my father and three children. She was well ahead of her time, of course, as a “businesswoman,” but apparently neither she nor my father thought it odd that she should have a work life outside the home. It was apparent to me at an early age that she was different from the mothers of my friends. She didn’t bake cakes or cookies, was a terrible cook — except during holidays when she focused on preparing delicious meals — didn’t knit and didn’t seem interested in stylish clothes. Indeed, it would have been strange had she been restricted to the home for all her adult life since she was both worldly and had a manner that I would today call “commanding,” despite her short stature. She was occasionally asked if she were a lawyer.

For all of that veneer, my mother was generous, warm and affectionate with all of us, had a great laugh, had a close and supportive relationship with my father, and together they provided a safe and nurturing home in which we were raised.

My mother reaches the level akin to sainthood, in my opinion, because of the way she welcomed and raised my younger sister, who had Down syndrome. Despite the prevailing attitudes then, in 1942 when my sister was born, of stigma and institutionalization, my mother insisted that my sister had a right to a “normal” life within the family and to learn and grow to the fullest extent of her capability.

Again, my mother was way ahead of her time. 

METRO photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Derek has eaten more pizza in the past six weeks than he has in the previous three years. Heather feels like an insect, trapped late in the night in the electric glow of her screen. Steve drinks too much Coke Zero and Eliene stays up way too late and wears the same pants too often.

In response to email questions, several Long Islanders shared their healthiest and least healthy habits during the lockdown.

Derek Poppe, who is a spokesman for County Executive Steve Bellone (D), has been able to work off some of the pizza he’s eating at lunch by running outside, which he started doing after the gym he has attended for seven years closed seven weeks ago.

“I have also tried my hand at meditation which has been incredible since, really, from the time we wake up to when we go to bed, we are surrounded by all things COVID-19,” Poppe wrote in an email.

Bellone, meanwhile, rides his Peloton stationary bike early in the morning or late at night. The county executive also sometimes runs at 10:30 p.m. before beginning to prepare for the next morning’s meetings and radio calls.

Bellone’s least healthy habits include ramping up his consumption of Coke Zero.

Sara Roncero-Menendez from Stony Brook, meanwhile, walks around her neighborhood on sunny days. When the weather gets rough, she does YouTube yoga. She’s also been crocheting and cross-stitching, getting a head start on holiday gifts.

“It’s been a good way to keep busy and actually have something to show for it at the end,” Roncero-Menendez wrote.

Like many others in New York and around the world, Roncero-Menendez has spent too much time glued to her screens and also hasn’t been sleeping well.

Karen McNulty-Walsh from Islip does 30 minutes of yoga, takes her dog for walks, and gets out of bed regularly between 6 and 7 a.m. each morning.

Pete Genzer from Port Jefferson Station has been cooking dinner every night, which is “good in terms of eating healthy food, and I also really enjoy cooking so it’s mentally stimulating and relaxing.”

Genzer’s least healthy habit is “sitting in the same, non-ergonomic chair all day long doing work and attending virtual meeting after virtual meeting.”

Larry Swanson and his wife Dana, who live in Head of the Harbor, enjoy their daily walks with their aging Chesapeake Bay retriever Lily. Dana is growing food in the yard and has found it a “new, interesting and nice experience being with her grumpy old husband for so much for the time,” Larry Swanson wrote.

Indeed, in the 56 years of their marriage, the Swansons have never spent as much time as they have together during lockdown.

Dana’s unhealthiest habit is watching the news.

Heather Lynch from Port Jefferson said she feels like the insect trapped in the glowing screen. On the positive side, she continues to work out every day, which she describe as more of an addiction than a habit.

Eliene Augenbaum, who lives in the Bronx and works on Long Island, has eaten home-cooked food and had deep conversations with friends. On the unhealthy side, she stays up too late, wears the same pants, and shops for vacations and shoes that are of little use during lockdown.

A friend from New York City, who makes her own meals and walks her dogs, takes her temperature several times a day, has eaten her emergency, huge bag of Chex mix in one sitting and obsesses over why everyone else has medical-style masks on the street while she’s seeking viral protection behind a pillowcase wrapped around her head.

METRO photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

I am a journalist, which means I know a tiny bit about numerous subjects, but I am out of my depth once the questions dive below the surface. Oh, sure, I can play the journalistic game, where I throw around some terms, but I’m certainly not qualified to answer the best questions I could ask. Nonetheless, given the quarantine and the difficulty of getting people who are informed, funny, or funny and informed on the phone these days, I’m going to interview myself about the state of the world.

Question: How do you think we’re doing?

Answer: Well, that kind of depends. If we’re talking about humans in general, I would say we’re struggling. We were struggling before, but this virus has pushed us deeper into our struggles.

Question: Are we any better off today than we were yesterday or maybe last week or the week before?

Answer: Yes, yes we are.

Question: Do you care to elaborate?

Answer: No, no I don’t.

Question: Come on! You can’t just ignore me. I need to know.

Answer: No, you don’t. You’ll read what I write and then you’ll move on to the comment section of other articles, where clever people share their witticisms.

Question: Wait, how do know about the satisfaction I get out of some of the better comments?

Answer: Are you really asking that question?

Question: No, let’s get back on topic. If we’re better off today than we were yesterday or last week, will that trajectory continue? If it does, are we going to be able to live our lives with a new normal that’s more like the older normal, or will we have to wear masks and practice the kind of safe distancing that makes people long for the days when Jerry Seinfeld was annoyed on his show by a “close talker,” who, in the modern era in New York, would probably get a ticket for his close talking habit?

Answer: You had to pander with a TV reference, didn’t you? Don’t answer that! Anyway, yes, the trajectory looks better than it did, but there’s no guarantee it won’t change. You see, it’s a little like the stock market. Just because a company’s past performance is solid or impressive doesn’t guarantee anything about its future.

Question: Right, right. So, do you think my kids will ever get out of the house again?

Answer: You buried that question down low, didn’t you? Well, yes, I think they will return to a version of school that may also be different, but that also has some similarities to what they knew.

Question: Oh, good. Wait, so, you don’t really know, do you?

Answer: I do know that schools are pushing hard to solve the riddle, the conundrum, the enigma, the total ##[email protected]!$ fest that has become the modern world. I know that parents the world over would like to go to the bathroom without someone following them into the room. I know that people would like to talk on the phone without worrying that their kids are listening, that people need adult alone time, and that the Pythagorean theorem isn’t going to teach itself.

Question: What does the Pythagorean theorem have to do with anything?

Answer: It’s out there and it’s on the approved list of things to learn. Are we almost done?

Question: Yes, so what do you think about the election?

Answer: I think it’ll happen in November and it’ll be an interesting opportunity to exercise our democratic rights.

Question: Who do you think will win?

Answer: An old man.

Question: Which one?

Answer: The one who yells at us through
the TV.

Question: They both do.

Answer: Then I’m going to be right.

Stock photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

“It’s May, it’s May, the merry month of May!”  according to the Elizabethan poem by Thomas Dekker and then twisted a bit to “lusty month of May” by “Camelot’s” Lerner and Loewe. I’m willing to believe them, if you are, and there are a couple of items of good news that we can celebrate in our war against the novel coronavirus as the
month begins.

First is the unexpected progress coming from the University of Oxford toward a vaccine. Despite the earliest hopes for such an effective halt to the COVID-19 pandemic involving a 12 to 18- month timetable, which would suggest toward the end of 2021, it turns out that scientists at Oxford’s Jenner Institute are way ahead. 

They have been holding previous clinical trials against an earlier coronavirus that are proving harmless to humans. Having cleared that major hurdle, now they can go to the head of the international race. They will be holding trials involving over 6,000 people with their new vaccine toward the end of the month. Not only do they want to show that the vaccine is safe but also that it works.

Then, “with an emergency approval from regulators, the first few million doses of their vaccine could be available by September — at least several months ahead of any of the other announced efforts — if it proves to be effective,” according to an article by David D. Kirkpatrick that appeared on the front page of this past Tuesday’s The New York Times.

There is evidence from the National Institutes of Health’s Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Montana that this new Oxford vaccine may indeed work. It has been in a limited animal trial there and found to protect against COVID-19.

Other scientists at Oxford “are working with a half dozen drug manufacturing companies across Europe and Asia to prepare to churn out billions of doses as quickly as possible if the vaccine is approved. None have been granted exclusive marketing rights, and one is the giant Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest supplier of vaccines,” according to the Times. The idea of having several is to obtain billions of doses quickly and to avoid anyone making a lot of money from the pandemic.

There are a couple of American companies that are also doing research, along the same lines as Oxford, of altering the virus’s genetic material and conducting small clinical trials. They too must demonstrate both safety and effectiveness. The same goes for a Chinese company.

Another avenue of defense against COVID-19 is the use of blood plasma from the disease’s survivors on other desperately ill patients. Again, according to another article in Wednesday’s The New York Times by Audra D.S. Burch and Amy Harmon, the treatment may work. This involves finding survivors, with the same blood type as the ill patient, who will then volunteer to donate blood. The plasma in that blood, now termed convalescent plasma, is then injected into the gravely ill patient in order to bolster the patient’s immune system with new antibodies, “giving him more soldiers in his body to fight this war,” said Dr. Leslie Diaz, an infectious disease specialist at the Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center in South Florida where there was such treatment administered.

Initially to find such a donor, a frantic search was launched on social media that discovered an appropriate donor some 80 miles away. There is now a national program overseen by the Mayo Clinic, with the approval of the Food and Drug Administration, to use this experimental treatment on 2500 patients in U.S. hospitals. It should be said, however, that it is not clear whether having antibodies that are not their own would ultimately help or harm patients. This is only an experimental treatment under study.

So as we leave April behind, we should salute the American writer, T. S. Eliot, who began his 1922 landmark poem, “The Waste Land” with the words, “April is the cruelest month.” A hundred years earlier, he knew.

METRO photo

As the number of COVID-19 cases rise in minority communities at a higher rate than primarily white areas, North Shore residents may think those numbers don’t affect them, but they do.

The members of these communities are our co-workers, our restaurant workers, our laborers, our neighbors — whether they live next door or in the next town. The pandemic has made it glaringly obvious many of our society’s problems, among them the disparities minorities face on Long Island.

A good deal of information coming out about coronavirus cases shows that black and Hispanic Americans are dying of the disease at rates higher than Caucasians. In Suffolk black residents make up 13 percent of those who have died from the virus and Latinos 14 percent. These numbers are high considering black Americans make up just 8 percent of Suffolk County residents. Latinos are approximately 19 percent of the population, but the number of cases among the immigrant community is likely very undercounted, as crucial information about the virus has had a harder time reaching non-English speakers.

Many from these communities work “essential” jobs in service and blue-collar industries, many of which pay a lower income overall. This can lead to poor or no health care, which would hinder someone from visiting a doctor when they become sick. It also means many who would rather stay home lack a choice but to go out and work, potentially bringing the virus home to their families.

While Suffolk has identified areas where higher populations are testing positive for COVID-19, and in turn are extending testing in those areas, more can be done for these populations. This virus has reminded us that our health care system needs an overhaul — and that these populations are at greater risk due to higher cases of heart disease and diabetes. While it may be too late to make major changes during this pandemic, there are small things we can do right now.

For one, this is no time for one to worry about a person’s immigration status. During a pandemic, as health care professionals and elected officials try to manage the storm, everyone who is currently in the U.S. needs to know they can go to a hospital with no questions asked to receive the care they need. There also needs to be a way to provide alternating housing for those who come down with the virus, whether that means opening up hotel rooms or college dorms. There are many, right here on Long Island, who live in crowded apartments and houses. Situations like those make it difficult for someone to isolate themselves from others to prevent more infections. For those living in houses with multiple generations, this also presents a huge danger to vulnerable populations like the elderly.

Personal protective equipment has been in short supply throughout the country, and it’s up to elected officials as well as business owners to ensure that their employees have the proper amount of gloves, masks and other gear to do their jobs. It shouldn’t matter whether they’re on the front lines at hospitals or cleaning bathrooms in a medical facility, serving as home health aides, delivering groceries or working the fields.

There is always more we can do for our friends and neighbors. One day this pandemic will pass but let’s hope the lessons we’ve learned, especially about those who have suffered because of inequities, will stick with us and inspire us to do better.

Of all the things that have come undone since the start of the pandemic, one of the worst has been the loss of confidence in the systems that have governed us for so long. 

Our local businesses are experiencing untold hardship. People are suffering at home, furloughed or dismissed from their jobs, and many are having a hard time paying the bills or buying food. 

Beyond all that, people are dying. The most vulnerable —the old and those with underlying medical issues — have been the ones most harmed by the pandemic.

We’ve had a long time to come to terms with the issues in our society, but what the coronavirus has made clear is the brittleness of so many of our institutions. There has been more than one report about how the federal government failed to follow the pandemic response playbook present in prior administrations, and how the U.S., in a bid to tighten the financial belt, eliminated people in government whose job was to identify and mitigate such large-scale viral disasters.

We do not know how the end of this virus will play out. Doctors have said the only way for us to truly break away from the restrictions placed on us by SARS Cov-2 is to either develop a vaccine or have widespread, unprecedented testing of practically every U.S. citizen. States like New York have called for such tests, but the federal government has not yet hinted at doing anything close to what would be needed.

What is needed, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said so succinctly in his April 20 address, is less a reopening, but a reimagining of our systems.

“Let’s use this crisis, this situation, this time to actually learn the lessons … let’s reimagine what we want society to be,” Cuomo said.

The governor cited things like the public transportation system, which has for so long been a bane of so many commuters. The Long Island Rail Road has seen a near 95 percent loss in ridership and now faces real financial collapse. With that in mind, flip that picture, and imagine a service that is both fast and efficient in the vein of Tokyo’s or Seoul’s public transportation system. 

Imagine rent prices not being upwards of $1,500 for a studio apartment. Imagine housing prices that don’t restrict all but the middle to upper class affording a home on Long Island. Imagine young people not being pushed off the Island because of its general unaffordability.

This is what happens during a crisis. We see the things that have exacerbated the pandemic, namely a health care system that is simply not built to give the greatest amount of help to the greatest number of people. 

We witness the outsized unfairness that large businesses with thousands of employees nationwide somehow are allowed to apply for loans designated for small businesses. The Washington Post reported close to 70 large companies applied for and got loans through the payment protection program. While a company like Shake Shack actually returned the $10 million small business loan it received, the fact there were many thousands of businesses that could not get a dime despite applying as soon as they were able shows how high current processes are stacked against them.

We can do better, and if we can build upon the lessons made only more apparent during our time in isolation, we will be safer and prepared for a better world.