Times of Middle Country

Suffolk County has created a new website to connect jobless residents with shops that need workers.

And so it begins.

The Suffolk County economy, stalled for over two months as Long Island tried to contain the spread of a deadly virus, has restarted, entering Phase One of a gradual reopening process today.

Calling the reopening a “new beginning,” County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said on his daily conference call with reporters that the county was “up to the test in every way imaginable.”

To bring employers and employees together, Bellone announced the start of a virtual career and talent portal that is part of the Department of Labor. The portal will link job seekers with Suffolk County businesses that need workers.

Bellone called the site a “one stop shop” that will do everything virtually, enabling employees to see job postings in real time. Veterans will get first priority for these jobs, as the county wants to honor those who have served the nation with a 24-hour hold on these postings. Residents can access the site through SCNYForward.info.

Amid the opening, the viral numbers continued to move in a positive direction for the county.

Hospitalizations declined by 30 to 305 as of May 25. The number of people in the Intensive Care Unit also declined by 12 to 94, which is the first time since March that the number of people in the ICU with COVID-19 was below 100.

Hospital capacity remained well below 70 percent, with 65 percent of beds available in hospitals and 60 percent available in the ICU.

In the last day, nine people have left the hospital to continue their rehabilitation and recovery at home.

The virus continues to claim the lives of residents. In the last day, 10 people died from complications related to the coronavirus as the number of people who died from COVID-19 in Suffolk has reached 1,861.

On the first day of reopening, the county executive said he hadn’t had any negative reports about people violating any ongoing restrictions on businesses or social distancing rules.

With contact tracers in place and the county monitoring public health, Bellone didn’t anticipate the county backsliding into another version of New York Pause.

The contact tracers should “give us the ability to target our response,” the county executive said, “rather than what we had to do at the beginning of the outbreak.”

Bellone said the county had learned important lessons on the other side of the viral peak, which should put it in a solid position to monitor any pockets of positive tests.

“I’m certain we are going to do this safely as we open up,” Bellone said.

Separately, Bellone urged the federal government to invest in infrastructure projects on Long Island, including a sewer project.

The county has one of the largest infrastructure projects for sewers in the region in decades, Bellone said.

“With federal investment in infrastructure, we would create jobs, boost our economy, improve water quality, a win-win for everybody,” Bellone said in a statement.

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With Suffolk County expected to hit the final two metrics to enter Phase 1 of an economic reopening, businesses including construction, manufacturing and curb side retail, will open tomorrow.

One of the final seven metrics the county needed to reach was the hiring and training of contact tracers, who can help follow the link between positive testing among residents and the people those with the virus interacted with while they were infectious.

The county is training 1,368 employees in contact tracing, and will have more than enough contact tracers, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said, which will allow officials to call in additional people, even if it’s for a short time, to handle any sudden increase in positive tests.

“Everybody is anxious to get this going,” Bellone (D) said on his daily conference call with reporters. The county needs to “get the economy reopened again.”

The county executive described the contact tracing work as a “Herculean task,” which will require buy in from residents.

Bellone planned to speak with community-based organizations to make a point to address the issue of supporting contact tracers and encouraging residents who test positive to understand the public health role these people are playing in preventing the spread of the virus. The county executive said he has had conversations with businesses as well about supporting the contact tracing effort.

Bellone will be asking other community leaders to “reach out to their network to spread that word even further,” he said. “We are putting that ask to them, to reach out to their networks to spread the word about contact tracing for people to cooperate.”

In some homes, where isolation or quarantine may not be possible after a positive COVID-19 test, Bellone said the county planned to provide separate housing where those infected with the virus could recover until they are no longer infectious.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said these counties that are starting to reopen need to keep on top of any kind of COVID-19 resurgence.

“I said to the county executives, watch the numbers, when you see a cluster of cases, jump on it,” Cuomo said. “Those regional control groups have to be disciplined.”

With some retail businesses opening for curbside as a part of Phase 1 reopening on Long Island tomorrow, the police and county officials are supportive of creative ways to use what might be limited curb space for shoppers.

“We will work with the Police Department and their partners and enforcement teams to coordinate” on efforts to restart businesses, he said. “People understand, in an unprecedented situation, [that the county is] trying to give businesses that need to reopen the ability to do that. To the extent we can assist businesses doing curb side retail in creative ways, we would be supportive of that.”

While Bellone awaits word from Cuomo on his request for an executive order supporting a 45-day suspension of temporary property tax relief, he did receive word from the governor’s office that pushes the tax collection back 21 days.

“That takes the pressure off any immediate issues,” Bellone said. Residents to not need to sign a form attesting to the hardship created by the pandemic to receive that 21-day extension.

As for the viral numbers, an additional 126 people tested positive in the last day for the virus.

The number of people in the hospitalized declined by 8 to 335 as of May 24 The number of people in Intensive Care Units fell by five to 106.

Hospital beds are at 64 percent capacity, with 59 percent capacity in the ICU.

Over the last day, an additional 20 people left the hospital after a battle with the coronavirus.

At the same time, 11 people died from complications related to the virus, raising the total killed in Suffolk County to 1,851.

In terms of the next phase of reopening, which could start as late as June 10, Bellone said Governor Cuomo has spoken about the possibility of a shorter duration between phases.

“Nothing is set in stone,” Bellone said. “Everything about this is new.”

The county will continually monitor the metrics and will look for any changes or spikes in those numbers.

Amazing Olive in Port Jefferson village is just one of many businesses which has turned to online orders as nonessential shops have been closed. Photo by Kyle Barr

After the pandemic caused New York state and Long Island to shutter businesses for months, Long Island moved within two days of entering phase one of reopening.

Hospitalizations continued to fall, with the number of beds occupied with COVID-19 patients dropping 31 to 343 in the period ending on May 23rd, the most recent date for which the county had figures. The number of people in Intensive Care Units battling the virus also declined, by eight to 111.

In the last day, an additional 18 new cases of residents with COVID-19 have required hospitalization.

At the same time, 38 people have left the hospital in the last day, continuing their recovery at home.

An additional six people died in the last day from complications related to the virus, raising the total in Suffolk County to 1,840.

Patients with COVID represented 64 percent of total hospital bed occupancy and 61 percent of ICU bed use, well below the 70 percent required for reopening.

“We are looking forward to hitting that first phase this Wednesday,” County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said on his daily conference call with reporters.

So far, the attendance at the newly opened beaches has been light due to the weather during the three-day weekend.

“We are determined to make sure families and kids will enjoy a summer, even in the midst of this global pandemic,” Bellone said. “We believe we can do this safely.”

Bellone was also pleased that the area was able to hold a Memorial Day ceremony at the American Legion Post in Patchogue. The ceremony, which didn’t include the typical parades and moments to honor the service men and women who died for their country, was streamed live on FaceBook.

Bellone was especially eager to recognize the fallen service men and women this year, on the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II.

“It was a pleasure to be there with all my colleagues, democrats and republicans,” Bellone said which included Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY-1), who, is a U.S. Army Veteran and also spoke at Calverton National Cemetery. “It is a time for all of us to be reminded of the fact that what unites us is so much more important than petty disagreements.”

Bellone added that, “we are all Americans and we are all in this together.”

Separately, as the county and Long Island prepare to enter Phase One of a reopening plan, officials cautioned residents to continue to practice social distancing and to wear masks when they can’t remain at least six feet away from others.

Suffolk County Police Chief Stuart Cameron said he was in his office today, on Memorial Day, to continue to prepare enforcement plans for the area.

“I’m not certain how people are going to react,” Cameron said on the call with reporters. “I hope they are going to react with good judgment. We are prepared to act if necessary.”

Cameron added that the police department has been successful in educating people and asking for their compliance. He said officers have been able to convince residents and business owners to continue to follow guidelines that protect public health.

“If necessary, we will move to an enforcement phase,” Cameron said. The SCPD has issued summonses to a few businesses and to individuals.

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Reacting to a stirring front page of the New York Times that included the names of people felled by COVID-19 the day before Memorial Day, County Executive Steve Bellone (D) took stock of all the county has lost, and protected.

The New York Times is a “reminder, when you look at it, of the fact that these are not just statistics we are reporting every day,” Bellone said on his daily call with reporters. The losses families, friends and caretakers have felt these losses keenly each day, causing an untold impact on the county, the state and the country.

Amid all the death and loss, Bellone said he takes comfort in the way Long Islanders have abided by social distancing and face covering restrictions, which has kept the unimaginably high death toll in the county — which increased another 12 to 1,834 over the last day — from being even higher.

“Thousands of people are alive today because of the extraordinary efforts” of everyone from first responders to business owners who have closed up their shops to reduce the spread of the virus.

Bellone urged residents to “continue to be smart.”

Bellone cited an incident in Patchogue at Dublin Deck on Friday night that included numerous videos of people crowding around a bar in clear violation of social distancing rules.

The owners of Dublin Deck have apologized on their Facebook page, saying said they had invited people in because of the rain. They acknowledged they were wrong and that it will not happen again.

“What we saw in those videos is unacceptable and not smart,” Bellone said. “Police are aware of that and will continue to follow up.”

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart explained that the owners were vocal and apologetic and that 85 precent of the patrons had cleared out by the time the police arrived. An officer stayed at the location until everybody had cleared and responded at other times to make sure it was in compliance.

Dublin Deck posted an apology to its social media site and indicated “there are no excuses when it comes to public safety.”

As for the viral figures in the county, the number of people who tested positive in the county in the last day were 162, bringing the total to 38,964. That figure excludes the 12,272 who tested positive on an antibody test.

Meanwhile, the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 fell by 35 through May 22 to 374. That is the first time since Marcy 27 that total hospitalizations were below 400.

The number of people in Intensive Care Unit beds declined by six to 119.

With 3,031 total hospital beds, the number of available beds was 1,041, which keeps the county on track to start opening on Wednesday. Similarly, with 230 ICU beds available from a total of 595, the number of beds occupied with COVID-19 patients is below the 70 percent maximum.

Over the last day, 45 people have been discharged from the hospital.

The county executive said four sites would be reopening for residents to purchase green key cards. The cost of the cards is $30 and they are valid for three years. The sites are at the east booth at Smith Point Park, at Indian Island County Park in Riverheads, at Blydenburgh County Park in Smithtown and at Sears Bellows County Park at Hampton Bays.

Bellone urged residents to practice social distancing at these sites and to wear face coverings.

Planes from the 106 National Guard Rescue Wing flew over St. Charles and other local hopsitals May 16. Another flyover from the Bayport Aerodrome Society is planned for Memorial Day. Photo by Brendan Duffy

After 66 days stuck in New York Pause, Long Island is expecting to start phase one of its economic reopening on Wednesday.

“If we continue on this track, and we believe that we will, we are looking to reopen Long Island” on Wednesday, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said on his daily conference call with reporters. “That is great news.”

Phase One includes construction, agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, retail (which is limited to curbside or in-store pick up or drop off), manufacturing and wholesale trade.

Bellone urged residents to continue to wear face coverings when they are indoors or when they are around other people and can’t maintain a reliable six feet of social distancing. He also acknowledged that the reopening of the camping reservation web site did not go as planned last night, when it reopened at 7 p.m.

The site crashed amid a high demand which was built up by the long layoff from recreational and leisure activities.

Bellone expects to get the site up and running this week and indicated he would provide plenty of notice for when it is reopening so that people can book their reservations for periods starting after July 15.

This morning, Bellone joined residents at Babylon cemetery, who came out to place thousands of flags at the graves of veterans across the county.

Volunteers placed flags at the graves of former service men and women, thanking veterans across the generations and centuries who are all “part of this great American story that gives us and has given us our freedom,” Bellone said.

As for the COVID-19 update, the number of residents who tested positive for the virus in the last 24 hours was 130, which brings the total to 38,802. That doesn’t include the over 12,000 who have tested positive for antibodies to the virus.

As of May 21, the number of hospitalizations from the virus declined by 16 to 409, while the number of people in the Intensive Care Unit declined by six to 125.

Bed capacity fell below 70 percent usage, with 993 beds available out of a total of 3,035 and 212 ICU beds available out of a total of 547.

Over the last day, 43 people left the hospital. An additional eight residents from the county died from complications related to COVID-19, which raises the terrible death toll to the virus to 1,822.

To honor the veterans and health care heroes, the Bayport Aerodrome Society, which is the last remaining public grass airfield on Long Island, will do a flyover with eight World War II era planes on Memorial Day.

Starting at noon on Monday in Brookhaven, the planes will fly over Long Island Community Hospital, Mather, St. Charles, Stony Brook, St. Catherine’s, Huntington Hospital, and Good Samaritan. The planes will end their flight over South Side Hospital in Bayshore.

Three of the pilots are veterans.

Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon speaks during a media event Feb. 9 at the Suffolk County Correctional Facility in Yaphank. Photo by Kevin Redding

While jails and prisons across the country have seen a rise in COVID-19 in their facilities, the Suffolk County Correctional Facilities in Riverhead and Yaphank have seen significantly lower cases. Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon (D) credits early usage of face covering, frequent sanitation and social distancing practices. 

To date, only one inmate has contracted COVID-19 while at the Suffolk County Correctional Facility and one inmate entered the jail already carrying the virus. The average daily inmate population is 515. Less than 2 percent, or 21 correctional staff out of 858 has come down with coronavirus.  

The sheriff also reported four deputies out of 252 contracted the virus and only one civilian employee of 130 was confirmed with COVID-19. They only have nine coronavirus cases of officers. Currently, the facilities have no COVID-19 positives. 

Toulon said that since everyone is required to wear face coverings and that social distancing is enforced throughout the facilities, coronavirus hasn’t spread inside the two jails like it has elsewhere. He added it “should serve as an example” for the general public that COVID-19 can be controlled by following the advice of public health officials.  

“I think if more people knew how we have controlled the spread of COVID-19 inside the jails by wearing face coverings and maintaining physical distance from others, that people would understand that they do have some control if they take personal responsibility,” he said. “The mixed messages have put too many people in danger, led to further spread of the virus, and it has caused immeasurable damage to the economy.”  

In April, a state court denied the Legal Aid Society of Suffolk County’s request to free around 120 inmates over coronavirus fears. The State Supreme Court Justice Mark Cohen claimed the decision was, in part, because of the jail’s success in halting the spread of the virus. The legal aid society was, however, successful in securing release of many other inmates held on noncriminal parole violations. 

The numbers are significant, especially compared to other jails in New York. The New York Times reported May 20 that 1,259 of New York City’s 9,680 correction officers and their supervisors have caught the virus, while at least six have died. To note, however, there are thousands more inmates in city jails compared to Suffolk County’s facilities.

Amazing Olive in Port Jefferson village is just one of many businesses which has turned to online orders as nonessential shops have been closed. Photo by Kyle Barr

As Long Island continues to take steps toward reopening and some sense of normalcy, municipalities are aiming to help small businesses and their financial futures. The Town of Brookhaven has created a post-COVID-19 task force for economic recovery in an effort to revitalize the downtown areas and help small businesses affected by the pandemic, many of which are receiving no income at all during this time.

The Small Business Recovery Task Force is made up of business owners, chamber of commerce representatives, business experts and other officials. 

Barbara Ransome, executive director of the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, said the task force gives them the opportunity to come together and be on the same page on how to help these small businesses. 

“We all have similar concerns and it’s important that we rally together and have a unified plan,” she said. 

The task force has continued to comply with feedback from local business owners. A complaint they have brought up is the state’s process of phasing in business reopenings.

“They could come up with a formula that could be based on square footage of a business and safety measures.”

— Barbara Ransome

Ransome said the state’s plan favors big box stores. While large retailers like Target and Walmart have been able to stay open, smaller merchants, who sell many of the same products, have been forced to close. =

“Those businesses don’t have that ability right now [to reopen],” she said. 

Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and the Suffolk County Supervisors’ Association has sent a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) calling on him to come up with a consistent way of judging businesses. 

“They could come up with a formula that could be based on square footage of a business and safety measures,” she said. 

The group has also called on elected officials to help with insurance coverage issues.

Educating business owners, merchants and customers on social distancing and other best practices is another area the task force is focusing on. 

“It’s all our responsibility to make sure we are on the same page,” said Charlie Lefkowitz, the president of the Three Village Chamber of Commerce,. 

One idea they’ve proposed is creating a public service announcement in coordination with the town. Lefkowitz said it would inform the public on safety measures, social distancing compliance and other information. They would also use it as an opportunity to send out a positive message of unity. 

“The hardest thing we will have to figure out is how we are going to social distance,” he said. “We are trying to help these main street and small businesses.”

In addition, the task force is looking at ways to ease the reopening process for owners. Capacity and the number of customers a business can serve could play a huge role in how they do so, given the state’s COVID-19 guidelines. 

Lefkowitz said he has been working with the town officials on a way to allow business owners to temporarily extend their store space either by permits, tweaking town code or drafting new legislation. 

“Some businesses might be able to use walkways and put merchandise outside, or they could set up a tent outside in the parking lot,” he said. 

The chamber of commerce president has a draft legislation proposal that would increase the floor area ratio of a business, which would help in making more selling space. 

Lefkowitz said restaurants were just one type of business that could benefit from increase in space. 

“They can be more efficient with indoor and outdoor space,” he said. “Whatever the capacity is, you may have customers that might not feel comfortable going inside.” 

Long Island has taken steps toward reaching Phase 1 of Cuomo’s New York Forward plan for reopening its economy, meeting five of seven benchmarks required by the state. The governor’s plan to reopen consists of four phases which include different categories. Restaurants are in Phase 3. 

“Whatever the capacity is, you may have customers that might not feel comfortable going inside.”

— Charlie Lefkowitz

Michael Ardolino, a past president of the Three Village Chamber of Commerce, said businesses will be facing different challenges when they reopen. 

“How will places like beauty salons and barbershops fare when everyone is in close proximity to each other?” he said. “These owners will want to be able to get their business going.”

Ardolino said he could envision a scenario where those types of businesses take a certain number of customers by appointment only.  

“We will continue to monitor all businesses and may have to plan for what might be a new business climate,” he said.  

Owners hope business reopens sooner rather than later, with summer close by. 

“As the warmer weather gets closer it will be challenging to keep people at bay,” Ransome said. “We have to continue to push government leaders, need to continue to make these phases and hit these benchmarks so we can reopen. We don’t want to be going backward instead of going forward.”

St. James Memorial Day celebration 2018. File photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

After a Memorial Day weekend when beaches will be open under new social distancing rules, Suffolk County is on track to reopen the economy starting next week.

Camp grounds will reopen starting on June 1. Starting tonight, residents can make reservations to visit those camp grounds starting on July 15, which is “a positive sign of the progress we’ve made,” County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said on his daily conference call with reporters.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said today that Long Island was on track to potentially reopen. What that requires is additional contract tracers, which Suffolk and Nassau officials said they were currently working on acquiring, and a 14-day total decline in deaths. The latter is likely the most tentative, and will surely depend on no spikes in numbers in the coming week.

The governor announced he would allow construction staging on Long Island, in anticipation for phase 1 of reopening, which would allow construction companies to start up again.

Bellone said people often think of Memorial Day weekend as the start of the summer season. This year, as the county and state look to loosen restrictions caused by COVID-19, summer will “serve as the unofficial transition to reopening our economy,” Bellone said.

Bellone encouraged residents to participate this weekend in the first of the Suffolk County Veterans runs. Interested participants in the virtual race, which is free but accepts donations to support veterans, can sign up at suffolkveteransrunseries.com.

The Suffolk County Police Department reiterated its plan to enforce social distancing and wearing face masks over the Memorial Day weekend. The SCPD anticipates crowds in downtown areas and said its Together Enforcing Compliance (or TEC) Team would be on foot in downtown areas and parks. Marine Bureau officers also expect more boaters on the water than usual after the end of New York Pause and planned to adjust their staffing levels and patrols accordingly.

Bellone raised the white flag in his ongoing effort to honor veterans who are buried at Calverton National Cemetery and Long Island National Cemetery. After putting together a proposal about how the county could plant flags safely at the cemeteries, Bellone received several rejections, interrupting an annual tradition that began in 1995.

The county executive still plans to plant flags for deceased service men and women at 15 non-national cemeteries tomorrow.

Bellone provided the daily update to the viral numbers.

An additional 119 people tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of residents who tested positive to 38,672. That does not include the 12,013 people who tested positive through the antibody test, which indicates they had the virus at some point.

The number of hospitalizations from the virus decreased by 28 to 425 through May 20. The number of people in the Intensive Care Unit increased by two to 131, also through May 20, which is the most recent 24 hour period for which the county had data.

With 882 beds available from a total of 3,009, the occupancy is just over 70 percent, which is the target for reopening. The number of available ICU beds is 193 out of a total of 547, which means ICU occupancy is at 65 percent.

In the last day, the number of people who died from complications related to the coronavirus increased by 12, bringing the total who died to 1,814.

Separately, the county executive office distributed an additional 30,000 pieces of personal protective equipment.

Bellone said 16 sites at CVS drive-through locations would provide self-administered COVID-19 tests. Residents will drive to the drug stores and will receive instructions with the kit. Someone from CVS will observe the process to ensure it is done correctly. Residents will get results within three days.

The county had six pediatric cases in the hospital as of May 20, which does not necessraily mean they have the rare inflammatory condition the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been tracking.

Gregson Pigott, the Commissioner of the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, said the inflammatory condition caused by COVID-19 was still “very rare.”

Photo by Rita J. Egan 2018

Frustrated by a Veterans Affairs office that has denied his repeated requests to conduct flag planting at Suffolk County’s two national cemeteries over Memorial Day weekend, County Executive Steve Bellone (D) is asking President Donald Trump (R) to get involved.

“I’m asking for his support once again on an incredibly important issue in this moment,” Bellone said on his daily conference call with reporters.

Bellone thanked U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY-1) and Trump for their help in securing personal protective equipment for the county and for helping to ensure that the county can tap into the municipal liquidity fund, which will allow the county to provide temporary property tax relief until July 15.

Without help from the president, Bellone said he is “afraid that a tradition that goes back a quarter of a century will end this Memorial Day weekend.”

Even if the county can’t place flags at Calverton National Cemetery and Long Island National Cemetery, Bellone and the county plan to place flags at 15 cemeteries. The County Executive is still looking for volunteers, who can sign up through his facebook page at facebook.com/SteveBellone. He is also looking for a donation of 3,500 8×12 inch or 12 x 18 inch flags in good condition.

Separately, the county executive indicated that Suffolk County residents shouldn’t expect fireworks displays in July to celebrate Independence Day.

“We know reopening our economy safely and being able to sustain that is directly connected to keeping our curve flat,” Bellone said. “Opening back up to mass gatherings” which would include July 4th fireworks “would undermine our goals.”

Viral Numbers

Hospitalizations continue to decline. The number of people in Intensive Care Units has declined by 29 through May 19 to 129, which is the “largest decline the county has seen” in a while, Bellone said.

The number of people who are hospitalized was 453, which is a decline from two days earlier, when the number was 497.

In the past day, 53 people have come home from the hospital.

The number of deaths due to complications from COVID-19 rose by 11 to 1,802.

The number of people who tested positive for the virus increased by 142 over the last day, rising to 38,553. That doesn’t include the 11,461 people who have tested positive for antibodies to the virus.

Stony Brook Update

Stony Brook is cutting back the hours of its drive-through testing site in the South P lot. It will be open from 8 a..m until 6 p.m. on Monday through Saturday and from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday. Residents must make appointments in advance through the New York State Department of Health Hotline, at 888-364-3065 or at coronavirus.health.nygov/covid-19-testing. The site will not accept walk ins.

Finally, America’s Got Talent Golden Buzzer and Apollo Theater Competition Grand Prize Winner Christian Guardino will perform tonight at 8 p.m. at the entrance to Stony Brook Children’s Hospital.

The performance is for hospital personnel only.

The musical tribute will include a light show.

By Rich Acritelli

Kindness, devotion, hard work, and determination; these are the words to describe the loyalty that the Long Island State Veterans Home at Stony Brook has toward its patients. While the COVID-19 pandemic has made their mission immensely difficult, this facility is carrying out its responsibilities to support our local veterans at this nursing home. This staff has adapted to the hardships of this virus, and they are finding different ways of helping many elderly veterans who have served in practically every military branch.

The vets home has created a multi-faceted program that helps people from Riverhead to Massapequa. Leading the way is Jean Brand, the Program Director of the Adult Day Health Care Program, with their efforts based in Stony Brook and in the homes of these older populations who rely on the services.  Even before the coronavirus changed operations, staff members have provided assistance in cooking, bathing and nutritional aid that allows for breakfast and lunch to be served along with taking home a meals for dinner. They also provided rehabilitation for physical and speech therapy programs. As the veterans ages range from the mid 60’s to over 100 years old, the staff’s devotion also allows the older counterparts to take a brief break in handling the rigors of treating their loved ones.  

From the start of the day, the state nursing home provides transportation to bring citizens that served from World War II, Korean and Vietnam to Stony Brook. Due to this current pandemic, the programs are now more home based. Although these were necessary changes, according to Brand, the organization is finding new ways to help these older citizens. Through a home delivery program, several meals a week are organized and distributed to the elderly. Brand and her staff are currently preparing food that is non-perishable and easy to eat. Deliveries also include necessary items that have been difficult to purchase such as toilet paper, masks, wipes, paper towels and soap. They have also sent home word puzzles and and other games to help keep their minds sharp and to pass the time, as many of these veterans that are spending numerous hours in their houses.

With many longterm relationships built up at Stony Brook, the staff misses these familiar faces and their stories of service of defending our nation during many trying times. Many of these men and women are considered family members to the staff. The entire staff, through expertise and professionalism, has for many years attended to the many diverse needs of these men and women. They have implemented telehealth to boost morale and at the same time to safely utilize social distancing initiatives to keep a watchful eye on the health of their patients. Although sending home food is a primary function of this program, many of these telephone calls are keeping the lines of communication open, and range from a simple hello to necessary inquiries about serious ailments.

Brand spoke about a unique program that was created to connect the patriotic stories of national service to the students of today. The Long Island Museum has worked with the vets home through a pen pal project which has younger men and women reach out to veterans to learn about their lives. Even as this has been tough period, this idea has developed relationships between different generations. Young people have seen and heard the examples of service by our senior population. This writing programs has also allowed younger students to identify the various issues that impacted the mobility and health concerns that have widely plagued older populations. 

Not since the days of the 1918 Spanish Flu has our nation had to handle a health crisis of this magnitude.  The numbers of the people that have been impacted are still staggering, but the efforts of places like the Long Island State Veterans Home continue to adapt and overcome many of these medical challenges that still pose a major concern to this country. This homecare program has completely shown the determination of longtime staff members like that of Brand and her fellow workers to help their patients before, during and after this sickness is finally subdued.

Rich Acritelli is a social studies teacher at Rocky Point High School and an adjunct professor of American history at Suffolk County Community College.