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A local nonprofit that supports the needy on Long Island is anticipating record breaking need come Thanksgiving time.

Lighthouse Mission, a mobile food pantry that services several communities across Long Island, including on weekends in Rocky Point, Centereach and Port Jefferson Station, has come out strong during the pandemic, seeing a huge increase in the number of people seeking aid. Their numbers spiked from around 22 to 2,400 people a week to over 3,000 individuals once COVID-19 hit.

Pastor Jim Ryan, the president of Lighthouse Mission, said this Thanksgiving they could see somewhere around 10,000 Suffolk families coming to them for their annual Thanksgiving food distribution where the donate an entire holiday meal for those unable to purchase one.

“Some of them are just regular people living paycheck to paycheck,” Ryan said.

The nonprofit has seen the number of people looking for help rise while the number of donations go down, and Ryan said they are in need of food, clothing and monetary donations before the large November blitz. Specifically, they are looking for any Thanksgiving food one might find around the family table.

“COVID has been blasting people this year,” Ryan said. “As we start getting closer to the holidays, the concerns for this year is if we can meet need for Thanksgiving.”

The pastor said they have been practicing social distancing at each of their outreach locations, such that it has actually meant a surprisingly better organized day. Volunteers stand masked and gloved behind the food. People are invited forward to select what they need while people are kept separate. Anybody who shows up without a mask is offered one for free.

For more information or on how to donate, visit www.lighthousemission.com.

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The Comsewogue Public Library hosted a food drive as part of the SCLS’s annual Great Give Back event. All those who donated food also got to adopt a pumpkin. The library hosted other activities and community service opportunity, though many were based online due to the pandemic. Photo by Kyle Barr

Though, like so many things, the Comsewogue Public Library’s participation in the annual Great Give Back couldn’t go on like normal, residents and patrons still came out to donate to the needy.

The Suffolk County Cooperative Library System’s annual Great Give Back Event asks partnered libraries to allow patrons a day of opportunities for service-oriented experiences. This year, the Comsewogue Public Library hosted a food drive with all non-perishable food and items going to Long Island Cares. Anybody who showed also got to pick out a small pumpkin spread out on the library’s lawn outside the main door.

Nicole Cortes, the Children’s and Teen Services Librarian/Children’s Program Coordinator said about 30 people came on Saturday and more on Sunday to drop off food. Each were given a pumpkin for their troubles. Those boxes are normally located in the library itself, and Cortes said they are regularly filled by their patrons.

“Sometimes we’ve done fall festivals, other years we’ve done volunteer fairs, this year it was a little bit trickier but we not only wanted to share ways for our patrons to give back, but also to give them something because it has been a hard year,” she said.

In addition to the food drive, the library presented ways for young people to claim community service hours virtually, whether it was sending encouragement and/or gratitude cards to Mather Hospital, becoming a pen pal to a resident of the Atria South Setauket senior living community in Centereach or even spending an hour to draw out a positive message to brighten somebody’s day using chalk.

The library also offered a list of local organizations adults could volunteer with, whether it is the Long Island State Veterans Home in Stony Brook or the Sweetbriar Nature Center.

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Comsewogue Library's Green Team Co-chairs, on ends, and advisor, center, from left, From left to right: Danielle Minard, Debbie Engelhardt, Debbie Bush. Photo from Comsewogue Library

It seems that the trend of going green hasn’t yet stalled, but the Comsewogue Public Library is looking to make itself a model to the larger community, as it was recently certified by Green Business Partnership.

Comsewogue Adult Services & Outreach Librarian Danielle Minard said the certification was a near-two year process, starting when the library was looking to reduce waste, cut down their carbon footprint as well as become a model for the community. The certification process has been completed by multiple businesses, but there is a long list of New York state libraries who have done it as well.

The aim of the certification is to reduce a business’, or in this case a library’s, carbon footprint, reduce waste and increase conservation practices. Comsewogue took a inventory of its energy use and recycling, and took such actions as adding reusable flatware in the breakroom, converting from plastic to paper tablecloths, using copy paper from post-consumer recycled material and started the process of converting any old lighting that dies or breaks into more sustainable LED lighting, just to name a few. 

The library has also tried to clearly label and separate waste into separate bins, including one for paper waste and another for plastic bottles and cans. 

In the future, the library looks to continue reducing their waste and create a so-called public education garden.

“I hope what we’ve done will be a good model for the community,” Minard said.

Library leaders also said there’s a significant economic impact as well for going green. Library Director Debbie Engelhardt said the library could save taxpayers through general reductions in spending, as in saving on electricity costs and generally having to buy less if the focus is on sustainable products. That’s not to say the library won’t have increases in costs due to inflations and benefits increasing, and the scenario from year to year is, by its nature, going to change.

Though the library also received a PSEG Long Island rebate based on the energy efficiency of their new HVAC units, the director noted, which helped offset the initial cost for their green initiative. The library has also received state Library Construction Aid grants for their new roof and HVAC replacements.

“While the Library has always operated in a responsible manner, our team was excited to learn through participation in the Green Business Certification Program that we could achieve even more in terms of financial savings, equitable practices, and environmental impacts,” Engelhardt said in a statement. “The Program’s tools and takeaways have changed for the better the way we think and do things, and that benefits all our stakeholders.” 

The action is also the first step in the process of being certified by New York Library Association’s Sustainable Libraries Initiative, which looks to make most if not all of the state’s hundreds of libraries focused on sustainability in the next few years.

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11th grader Michael Lussos honors Eddie Van Halen during the schools between-period Live at the Fishbowl concerts. Photo from Comsewogue SD

This article is thanks to a combined effort by Andrew Harris, a special needs teacher at Comsewogue, and 5th period life skills students at the high school.

The start of the 2020-21 school year has been a unique challenge for so many school districts, but Comsewogue is rising to the occasion.

Beyond the teachers and all the work they have been doing, even the simplest activities involving Jackie’s Garden at the Comsewogue High School have been improving the days of students, one sprig of lavender at a time.

Students present sprigs of lavender to the guidance department for those who may be experiencing anxiety. Photo from Comsewogue SD

“It ended in what seemed to be such a kind and simple act of students presenting lavender sprigs to our guidance department for students who might be experiencing stress and anxiety; but it was the culmination of some outstanding academic lessons from their teachers Heather Rand and Natalie Rubinstien” said Mike Fama, the principal at JFK Middle School.

Teacher’s Rand and Rubinstien explained it this way: ”Four years ago, we created the garden to honor Mrs. Jackie Rella. We grow vegetables for the school salad bar and just appreciate nature. This year, due to the stress of the pandemic, we read about how school gardens can benefit social/emotional well-being. Students started thinking of ways our own garden could benefit students at JFK. After reading about the emotional benefits of lavender, they decided to create bundles for the JFK guidance counselors to give to students who are feeling stressed.”

On the first day of school Sept. 8, high school students were welcomed by a smiling staff and hundreds of sunflowers that couldn’t help but bring their spirits up. Immediately, partially due to the pandemic, art, photography and all sorts of lessons naturally gravitated towards the garden and outdoors. There in the garden were beaming sunflowers, which were planted in May to honor those graduating seniors. 

“It was amazing how our entire community came to support our Class of 2020,” said high school principal Mike Mosca. “While these gestures could never replace the events they missed out on, it went a long way to show our seniors how much their community cared about their accomplishments.”

Actions like this are a part of the Social Emotional Learning, or SEL, which has become a priority at Comsewogue. If the kids feel safe and welcome, then certainly outstanding learning will follow. We all knew that going back to school would be anything but normal this year but Comsewogue, as it always does, tried their best to make the challenges they faced getting back to school an even better experience this year.

Overall, the district is creating unique and positive things that we have never seen before and are trying our very best to make it better than it has ever been. 

Superintendent Jennifer Quinn said it this way, “We are providing a learning environment that not only makes our student’s health and safety a priority but are continually thinking of newer and better learning activities than we’ve ever tried before.” We aren’t satisfied with the ‘new normal’ but want it to be something even better and keep improving after that.

“Staff and students at Comsewogue as well as our community are a resilient group-perhaps like nowhere else,” Quinn said. “With the help of the community we were ready and added some new and dynamic learning opportunities.”  It’s equivalent to tripling the number of different schools we have. There are remote, virtual, and live classrooms happening all at once. Virtual is when a family made a decision to do all learning at home. Remote is for the students who come in every other day and are doing learning remotely on their days home. 

Technology wise, we prepared our students and staff for a giant leap into the future. 

Students actively take care our the courtyard garden, AKA, Jackie’s Garden. Photo from Comsewogue SD

“This is a big change for both students and teachers educationally. I have definitely learned quite a lot about new programs, Chromebook usage, and how to teach and connect with students using a remote/virtual platform” said special education teacher Cammie Zale. 

According to Don Heberer, the district administrator for Instructional Technology, “I think students, teachers and parents are realizing that teaching and learning with educational technology is no longer optional — there’s no going back. I feel like the technology needle jumped five years forward in a matter of a few months. We were already headed in this direction, but COVID-19 has propelled us forward at warp speed.” 

Mr. Heberer and our Educational Technology Specialist Teacher Frank Franzese hold frequent virtual professional development sessions for the staff to keep them abreast of the rapid changes going on. 

Like many educators, science teacher Shane Goldberg posts many exciting lessons that can involve video comments from her while simultaneously students can view the specific documents that she is using for the class or lab she is covering.

“While distance learning has presented some real challenges for both students and teachers, it has also created new opportunities for learning,” she said.  “By creating videos of my lessons, I can ensure that all of my students are able to access all of my lessons, even if they are absent from school. I have also seen that some students are doing very well learning in a virtual classroom. They have the freedom to work at their own pace. In a live classroom, some of these students may become bored because the teacher will need to slow the pace of instruction to meet the needs of all of their students. Unfortunately, it is the students that need frequent interaction and teacher direction in order to stay on task that may be having the most difficult time adjusting to this kind of learning environment. This is why I make every effort to encourage all of my students to ask questions frequently, using private messages. These students also have the opportunity to meet with me during live meetings several times a week.”

At John F. Kennedy Middle School, families dropping off their kids are welcomed by scores of staff members waving, smiling, and welcoming them into the school.  

“The greeting we get each morning warms my heart every time. We are blessed to be part of the Warrior Family.” said Denise Kline, a mother of an eighth-grade student.

Also beneficial are the many outdoor learning environments and activities established throughout the district. Since the first day of school, students have been seen on the lawn with their laptops doing various lessons while the teacher might be speaking about photosynthesis using the real plants right in front of them. If the teacher wants them to go more in depth, they can do research, watch a video, or take a test outside on a beautiful autumn day.

Elementary teacher Melissa McMullen’s students all bring their own yoga mats.

”In addition to the typical subjects we will stop for a moment to do some breathing or movement activities,” McMullen said. “It’s been shown that this helps stimulate our minds so why not?” 

2020 Graduate Alyssa Esencan receiving her Sunflower. Each graduate had their name read and were planted by staff members. Photo from Comsewogue SD

Taylor Zummo, a Social Worker at the high school, added, “The students have been enjoying the activity of Mindfulness in relation to their social and emotional learning. Simply taking time to reflect and be present in the moment has been so helpful for many students to feel less overwhelmed with school. This is a practice that can be done anywhere, which makes it so versatile. Using the practice of mindfulness outdoors is a way that students can pay attention to their feelings, as well as focus on the sounds of nature in order to find themselves some quiet and restful relaxation.”

Nicole Kidd’s physical education students can be seen doing much more outdoor activities as well. 

“We have been super lucky with amazing weather,” Kidd said. “My wellness classes have really enjoyed their yoga and meditation practice outside. We have been taking our mats out to the tennis courts and practicing there. It has felt so good to be in the fresh air and sun.:”

At JFK, science teacher Steve Nielsen can be seen walking through the halls with his puppy who the students adore. It benefits both the students and the dogs because one of the best places for these dogs to get used to is the atmosphere and activities at large institutions such as schools, according to the Guide Dog Foundation. 

“I never knew how profound an impact animals, especially dogs, can have on people,” Nielsen said. “Students and adults alike are drawn to this year’s JFK school mascot Named Pear. She is a delightful black Labrador guide dog in training and brings smiles to all that pass her by in the halls. Everyone wants to pet her.” 

Throughout September, Sunflowers blooming in the garden were given to many of the 2020 graduates.They were planted in May in their honor. Once they were gone, a generous local landscaper, Frank Prinzevalli, who operates Prince Landscaping and Design Corp., contacted us and said he is looking to help out our students and community. He felt that replenishing the beautiful flowers might bring everyone’s spirits up, so he decided to purchase and donate over 100 pots of mums. The was an overwhelmingly abundant amount to make our students and staff smile every time they  walk the hallways or look out into the flourishing courtyard throughout the Fall, 

“I have children of my own and we need to continue to keep them on a positive and happy path in these challenging times,” said Prinzevalli.

Recently, a mini concert series called Live at The Fishbowl was implemented at the high school courtyard. For the first one, a student musician entertained between periods while students scurried to their classes slowing down for a moment to take in the sounds. Students and staff enjoyed a timely tribute to Eddie Van Halen. It was broadcast live online, where many in the community were astounded at how good his rendition was. 

“We were excited to have Mikey Lussos perform for the school,” Mosca said.  “We have so many talented students who are unable to showcase their skills because of this pandemic. It was great to have him rocking out in our courtyard. We’re constantly looking for different ways to give our kids opportunities like this and Mike certainly made the most of it” 

Comsewogue, always one of the leaders in education. hopes to inspire not only their own staff and students, but continue to lead Long Island, if not the whole country, and continue to be better and more resilient and come up with more wonderful and unique learning experiences this year.

“The district is consistently reevaluating to ensure that we provide the best atmosphere for students in these unprecedented times,” said Assistant Superintendent Joseph Coniglione. “Our goal is now as it always was to make sure we offer students the best opportunities we can, even during a pandemic.” 

The Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce and the Port Jefferson Business Improvement District hosted Pumpkin Mania, a fun Halloween event featuring professional pumpkin carving demonstrations by Ian Cinco of Maniac Pumpkin Carvers LLC and a carved pumpkin contest on East Main Street in Port Jefferson Oct. 17.

Photos by Barbara Ransome and Kyle Barr

The Greenway Trail runs between Port Jefferson Station and East Setauket. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

Suffolk County Police detectives are investigating an incident during which a woman was attacked by a man while walking on the Port Jefferson Station to Setauket Greenway Trail Tuesday.

Police said a 54-year-old woman was walking on Greenway Trail around a quarter mile from the eastern entrance in Port Jefferson Station, at around 11:30 a.m. Oct. 21 when a man tackled her from behind. The woman was knocked to the ground and the man put his hand over her mouth and made comments that were sexual in nature. The man fled toward the trail entrance when the woman screamed as they were approached by another walker.

The man was described as Black, in his 30s, approximately 5 feet 10 inches tall and heavyset. He was wearing a black sweatshirt with green sweatpants with a black stripe down the side. The woman was not injured.

Detectives are asking anyone with information on this incident to call the 6th precinct at 631-854-8652 or anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS (8477). All calls will be kept confidential.

Volunteers from the Coastal Steward Long Island group getting ready at Cedar Beach to set sail and plant oysters in Port Jefferson Harbor. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Not only are they delicious, but they’re good for the environment, too. 

On Sunday Oct. 18, several volunteers from Coastal Steward Long Island who work at the Mount Sinai Marine Environmental Stewardship Center planted 400,000 oysters in and around the harbor.

Oysters are one of the best natural ways filter local waters. Photo by Julianne Mosher

“Fifteen years ago, there were no oysters in Port Jefferson Harbor,” said Bruce Folz, CSLI director of shellfish restoration. “When my kids were little, we were walking down the beach and they were picking up oyster shells, but there were no live ones. … We want to change that.”

According to Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), Long Island used to be a saturated with shellfish. 

“There was a time 50 years ago when you could just walk down the beach and grab oysters or clams,” he said. 

But because of poachers and pollution, clams and oysters that once covered the sands have become difficult to find.

Every year, in a collaborative effort with local groups and the town, shellfish are grown in netted cages with the expectation to plant them back in the local waters, north to south, including Mount Sinai Harbor and Bellport Bay. Back in August, the town announced the supply of 50,000 seed clams for planting in the South Shore. Earlier this year, the town finished several upgrades to the Mount Sinai mariculture facility, thanks to a $400,000 state grant.

“We make sure the seeds are distributed to other groups to plant and spread them out,” Romaine said. 

CSLI originally got started restoring the shellfish population back in 2000, and now it has a steady group of volunteers who come to the mariculture facility in Mount Sinai Harbor every two weeks, May through October, to maintain both the facilities and the seed beds. As they have done every year, volunteers come down to the harbor early in the morning to head out by boat and drop the oysters into the water with hopes they survive and thrive. 

“We put them in cages and bags, or as I like to call them ‘condos,’ then every couple of weeks we check up on them,” Folz said. “They have an 80-to-90% survival rate in the cages, but only 10 or 15 while in nature.” 

By planting the shellfish, they won’t only be harvested for commercial use, but will help clean up the water as a natural ocean vacuum. The shellfish program is becoming ever more important for water quality, as locations as close as Stony Brook Harbor have experienced hypoxia, or a lack of oxygen in water, just this year, according to the annual Long Island Water Quality Impairments report. Shellfish such as oysters and clams are great for filtering out organic particulates.

The Town of Brookhaven has seeded over 1 million oysters since it started its program. Photo by Julianne Mosher

“Adult oysters can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day,” Folz said. “We’ve talked to a couple of baymen and I’ve gotten the feeling it’s become a viable product — it’s increasing the oyster count.”

Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R) said that organizations like the Coastal Steward have played an important role in bringing shellfish back to local waters. 

“The Town of Brookhaven has beautiful and bountiful waterways that are so much a part our economy, community and the environment,” she said. “We must do everything we can to take good care of these natural assets, so generations to come will benefit by our actions to preserve and protect them.”

Since the planting program began, well more than one million shellfish have been planted in Port Jefferson and Mount Sinai harbors, helping the ecosystem and cleaning things up.

“We’re not giving up, we believe in our environment and that’s crucial,” Romaine said

Caravan goers and Counterprotesters Butt Heads in Setauket

For close to an hour, hundreds of President Donald Trump’s (R) supporters rolled through the North Shore and parts of the Middle Country area during a huge caravan Saturday, Oct. 17.

Members of the Trumpalozza event, organized by right-wing online group Setauket Patriots, leaned on their horns and shouted “four more years” and “Trump” while people lined up at the corner of East Broadway and Main Street in Port Jefferson shouted their support as well. Some cars sported bull horns that blasted their support into the cool fall air. Many cars and pickup trucks were hung with flags supporting Trump’s reelection campaign, as well as many pictures and even some blow up representations of the president.

Some cars also used tape to cover up their license plates, which is a violation of New York State law. Many of those gathered to cheer on the caravan were not wearing masks.

In a previous article, James Robitsek, the event organizer for the Setauket Patriots, said they did not ask participants to block their license plate numbers but added people had been doing it to avoid being outed online.

The Setauket Patriots also brought an impersonator  of the president to lead the caravan. The actor’s name was Thomas Mundy, aka TOMMY Trump45, who is listed as a comedian on his Facebook page.

The caravan originally organized at the LIRR parking lot in Port Jeff Station a little before noon, where the actor portraying the president, speaking in Trump’s voice, called Port Jefferson Mayor Margot Garant “evil.” The Patriots were issued a summons earlier this month for hosting a parade on 9/11 without a permit. The village put a moratorium on any new parade or march permits in June, citing fear of spreading COVID-19. A Black Lives Matter march was held in June, followed by a Setauket Patriots-held car parade for Fourth of July. Village officials have said they are the only group to have attempted a parade since the moratorium was put in place.

Robitsek has previously told TBR News Media he feels he and his group are being targeted by local Democrats in the area. The original date for the summons was moved to November, but Setauket Patriots had planned to protest in front of Village Hall.

While many supporters saw the event as a success in getting the word out about their support, some felt they were harassed by participants if they shared any dissent.

Andrew Rimby, a doctorate student at Stony Brook University and Port Jeff resident, said he was called a gay slur by a member of the caravan as he walked in the village.

“There were those of us who expressed our dissent, who said we don’t agree,” he said. “A woman started to call me a gay slur, and I had a lot of time to talk to her. I was, like, ‘Why are you insulting me like this?’ And she said, ‘You don’t support our president.’”

Rimby sent a letter to Garant voicing his and 14 other local residents’ concerns about the caravan that went through the village. The letter complained about the caravan violating noise codes as well as how people harassed him and anybody else who showed dissent.

During the village board meeting Oct. 19, Garant made a statement about the weekend’s events, saying they have received multiple complaints from residents though none of those issues were addressed specifically. Police were on-site as they could issue citations for traffic or moving violations, though she commended both them and code enforcement for keeping things organized in a tense situation.

“I want to reemphasize the Village of Port Jefferson does not condone lawless or disrespectful behavior regardless of any messaging a person or group is attempting to convey,” Garant said. “We’re hoping that with each day that ticks off the calendar that we may return to somewhat of an existence of peaceful and quiet enjoyment in our community. … I just wanted to let everybody know it was a tough day for everyone here in the village.”

Once in St. James, the caravan stopped at Patio Pizza, which had come under several bouts of controversy after people threatened to boycott the establishment after it was shown with a Trump flag. Trump’s Twitter account has previously tweeted about the St. James pizza parlor.

The parade traveled a circuit first through Port Jefferson up into Setauket, down through St James and going through Centereach and Selden before eventually coming up Route 112. In Setauket, members of the North Country Peace Group stood in front of the caravan, blocking its path. Some caravan goers got out of their cars to confront the people blocking their path. One woman yelled into a megaphone, “Liberals go home.”

Police said three people were arrested for disorderly conduct, namely Deborah Kosyla of Setauket, Anne Chimelis of Setauket, and Myrna Gordon, a Port Jefferson resident and leader of the peace group. A video from the Setauket Patriots Facebook page shows peace group members standing in front of vehicles clenching fists in the air and holding signs. In that same video, the Trump look-alike also called the people assembled in front of them “evil people.” A man in the car with Mundy apparently makes a crack about how the “Secret Service is going to take out the machine guns.”

Gordon, speaking on behalf of the peace group, said they were unable to release a comment at this time, citing it being an ongoing police issue.

Separately, Suffolk County police are investigating a hit-and-run crash that occurred at the corner of Route 25A and Bennetts Road in Setauket that same day. Police said the call came in at around 1 p.m. for the crash, which they said occurred some time around 12:45 p.m. They did not release details on whether the crash involved a member of the caravan or a protester.

The Setauket Fire Department confirmed they did take one person to a hospital for minor injuries around that time, but department officials declined to offer further comment.

There was not much in the way of counterprotesters, though at one point during the parade a driver threw up the middle finger to supporters assembled on the sidewalk. One counterprotester stood at the turn into the Port Jeff train station parking lot holding a sign that read Black Lives Matter. He was later seen down at the corner of East Broadway and Main after the caravan had already gone ahead. There was also a separate protest held by progressives next to the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber train car about the ongoing controversy over Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Supreme Court replacement.

The Trumpalozza event ended with many caravan goers returning to Port Jeff to participate in a rally across from Port Jefferson Village Hall, in the Town of Brookhaven-owned park for locals who died on 9/11.

Stock photo

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, raised a red flag about the safety of annual family gatherings during Thanksgiving last week on an interview on CBS.

People may have to “bite the bullet and sacrifice that social gathering unless you’re pretty certain that the people that you’re dealing with are not infected,” Fauci told CBS.

Richard Gatteau, SBU Dean of Students. Photo from SBU Website

Doctors at area hospitals and officials at Stony Brook University are offering guidance to residents and students over a month before an annual holiday that often brings people from several generations, cities and states together.

Before they send some of the 4,200 on campus students at SBU home, the university plans to test them for the presence of the virus that causes COVID-19.

The week of Nov. 16, “every resident will be tested,” said Dean of Students Richard Gatteau. “Any positive cases would remain on campus” until the university knew they were negative.

Students remaining on campus would receive meals and would get the same level of care through the holidays that students would normally get if they tested positive during the semester.

Stony Brook expects the student population to decline after Thanksgiving, when all classes and final exams will be remote through the end of the semester.

For the students who plan to return to campus, Stony Brook realizes the logistical challenges of requiring viral tests during the short holiday and will provide tests in the first two days after these students return to their dormitories.

Even before the holiday, Stony Brook expects to increase the frequency of viral testing from bi-weekly to weekly.

Gatteau said the student government plans to educate students who plan to join family during the holiday about procedures to keep everyone safe. This guidance mirrors school policies, such as wearing masks inside when near other family members, keeping a distance of six feet inside and washing hands regularly.

The dean of students recently spoke with Dr. Deborah Birx, head of the White House’s coronavirus task force who visited Stony Brook to speak with officials about the school’s COVID response. Though Birx was pleased with the measures the university took, she was reportedly more worried about the behavior of extended family than with students during Thanksgiving.

“Her concern is with the older generation not following the rules,” Gatteau said. She wanted students to encourage their grandparents to follow the same procedures because “grandparents will listen to their grandkids.”

Types of Tests

Dr. Michael Grosso, Chief Medical Officer at Huntington Hospital, urged everyone to plan to get tested before coming together for Thanksgiving.

Dr. Grosso said two types of tests are available for students and parents. The first is an antigen test and the second is a PCR, for polymerase chain reaction, test. Grosso suggests that the PCR test is more reliable as the antigen test “misses more cases.”

The test technique is critical to its success. Some false negatives may result from inadequate specimen collection, Grosso said. The deep nasopharyngeal specimen “requires a little skill on the part of the person doing the test.”

Additionally, people getting tested before a family gathering need to consider the timing of the test. They may receive a negative test during a period of time in which the virus is developing in their bodies.

Active testing may have helped reduce the severity of the disease for people who contract it. People are coming to the hospital in some cases before the disease causes as much damage.

In addition to getting tested and monitoring possible symptoms, Grosso urged residents to continue to practice the new, healthier etiquette, even when they are with relatives during the holidays.

“Families need to have conversations” about how close they are prepared to get before they see each other, Grosso said. People need to “decide together what rules [they] are going to follow, and make sure everybody is comfortable with those.”

As for Thanksgiving in the Grosso home, the Chief Medical Officer said he and his wife have five children between them, two of whom will be coming for the annual November holiday. The others will participate, as has become the modern reality, at the other end of a zoom call. Typically, the entire family would come together.

Stony Brook’s Gatteau said he and his partner typically have 20 to 25 people over for Thanksgiving. This year, they are limited the guests to seven people. They plan to keep masks on in their house and will crack a window open so there is air flow.

Stony Brook University baseball player Nick Grande slides into third. Photo from SBU Athletics

Stony Brook Athletics launched its latest fundraising campaign asking people to “Believe in the Seawolves” as the university sports program faces an uncertain future.

SBU Athletic Director Shawn Heilbron accepts the 2019 Commissioner’s Cup from America East Commisioner Amy Huchthausen. Photo from SBU

On Thursday, Oct. 8, the university’s Giving Day, Director of Athletics Shawn Heilbron held a virtual town hall through Facebook Live to answer questions surrounding the status of Stony Brook Athletics for this school year and for the future. 

“Let’s have the Stony Brook Athletics story of 2020-2021 be the greatest story in our history,” Heilbron said during the town hall. “I think we’re going to do that.”

One of the major concerns, he said, was the financial standing of the university since revenue dropped throughout the COVID-19 crisis, calling it a “dramatic financial impact.”

He mentioned that the program lost nearly $700,000 from basketball, alone, and when the school closed in March, students were reimbursed their student fees which neared a $2 million loss. 

“Ticket sales, donations, corporate partnerships … you could imagine the impact there,” he said. “The trickle down comes from the state to the school to us, and many universities across the country are dealing with it.”

He said it was close to $5 million in revenues lost. 

“We’ve made some tough decisions, many staff positions are being left unfilled,” he said. “We’re very concerned about our future … schools across the country are cutting sports, these are difficult decisions that are hard to come back.”

The new fundraising campaign coined “Believe In the Seawolves” comes from asking people to do just that. “Believe in our value and commitment to this university,” Heilbron said. “If we can get people to get behind that we can come out of this stronger … It’s more than a campaign, I want it to be a movement.”

But just because COVID-19 guidelines aren’t allowing sports to be played as of right now, Heilbron they are not cancelled, just postponed. He added that fall sports were moved to the spring, which will make for a very active season. 

“It’s going to be quite an active period for us,” he said. “We’re just starting to look at what those schedules will look like and will be announced very soon.”

He said that utilizing this time now will be a springboard for next fall, and are keeping safe in doing so.

The athletes who are participating in practices now, like basketball, have a regimented screening process before hitting the court. 

“Student athletes come through one entrance, have their temperature checked and then they get a wrist band,” Heilbron said. “They can’t come in if they don’t have the wristband.”

Although it is an uncertain time for the student athletes who worked to play at Stony Brook University, Heilbron said the first day of fall semester was a good one. 

“It literally was an energetic lift in our department that they needed,” he said. “It was good to have the family back together.”

The university announced after Thursday’s Giving Day campaign, more than 240 donors combined to contribute gifts exceeding $200,000 to go towards athletics. The campaign will continue to fundraise throughout the remainder of the year.