Village Beacon Record

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.

Heritage Center at Heritage Park is used by the trust for its events. Photo by Kyle Barr

During the spring and summer seasons, the community center at Heritage Park in Mount Sinai would see an abundance of residents stopping in to take a break from the park or to join in the plethora of events held there. That all changed with COVID-19, and with no indication on when it can reopen, members of nonprofit Heritage Trust, which oversees the park, say they may need to reinvent themselves in order for them and the center to survive. 

Victoria Hazan, president of the organization, said right now is usually their busy season at the community center. They would normally have a number of classes, events, parties and receptions held in the building. 

People of all ages enjoy Heritage Park for its sizable number of amenities. Photo by Kyle Barr

“We usually have tons of things going on during the week, there’s Zumba, country line dancing, cooking classes, the local church and civic association use the space as well,” she said. “Before COVID-19 we were booked solid through next April.” 

Renting out the community center space is a major revenue source for nonprofit and it helps pay for other expenses. Without that option, it will be tougher to be able to pay for rent and insurance payments. 

Since closing in March, the organization has refunded deposits back to planned renters. 

“Those issues just don’t go away, our insurance on the building is extremely high,” Hazan said. 

The organization was able to get a three-month deferment of its mortgage payments, but that ends in July. 

Another funding avenue that the organization relies on is their regular fundraising events. This year they were unable to put on the annual spring carnival, one of the park’s main fundraising sources. That revenue from the carnival helps them host other events including the Christmas tree lighting and Halloween festival. 

Given the financial strains from COVID-19, the nonprofit may be forced to change how it operates. This year, the trust was planning to celebrate its 20th anniversary since its inception.

Lori Baldassare, the founding director of the organization, said they have looked at consolidating with other local nonprofits, as well as combining resources and staff. They have talked to North Shore Youth Council about possibly sharing some of the community center space. 

In addition, members are still trying to find creative ways to host some type of events for the time being. One idea would be a drive-in movie night or a virtual fundraising concert held at the community center, where only performers would be in the building and residents could watch from their homes. 

“Logistically it would be difficult to pull off but it’s something,” Baldassare said. “The community center fills a void for a lot of people.”

The group hopes the community can come to their aid. One of the issues the trust has faced over the years is that residents don’t necessarily know how they operate and mistakenly think the Heritage Park is run by Brookhaven Town or Suffolk County. Brookhaven workers generously supply general maintenance of the baseball field and grass cutting to the park, but the center and playground are owned by the trust, and all other landscaping, such as the flower plantings, are all done by volunteers.

Members of Boy Scout Troop 454 look at the names of flags in Mount Sinai Heritage Park. Photo by Kyle Barr

Baldassare said it has been a messaging issue but hopes if people learn where the funding comes from and what they’ve been offering to the community, individuals would be willing to make donations. 

The two agreed that the trust may need to change how they operate post-COVID-19. 

“I don’t see us coming out the same way we were before coronavirus,” Baldassare said. “We can’t just think nothing will happen, we want to continue to provide a sense of place for the community and I hope we have a path forward to do that.”

Hazan is concerned of how the community center will fare once the pandemic and shutdown is over. 

“I don’t foresee many people being comfortable at a big event like a wedding or reception,” she said. “There will probably be baby steps along the way.”

Possible capacity restrictions could be another obstacle for the group. 

“Not a lot of people are going to want to rent out a place like the center with just limited capacity,” Hazan said. “We’re worried, we’ve worked so hard over the years to get where we are, and I would hate to see it go away.”

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.

When the initial impact of the coronavirus pandemic truly hit home back in March, after businesses were forced closed from state mandates, many turned to their insurance providers and filed for business interruption insurance, which they expected would be used for just this sort of occasion.

Only many received notifications back that their claims were denied. The reason: Insurance companies put in provisions within their policies that excluded coverage due to damages “caused by or resulting from any virus, bacterium or other microorganism that induced or is capable of including physical distress, illness or disease,” according to the Insurance Services Office, an insurance advisory organization.

Though business owners and small business advocates such as The Ward Melville Heritage Organization President Gloria Rocchio pay the premiums year after year, she said they and so many others were denied coverage despite the fact that small businesses didn’t close because they or their shops were confirmed with the virus, but government orders forced them to close. 

“Very simplistically, [business owners] buy themselves a job for the community, and now they’re made to lay off people, keep their business closed, pay all fixed overheads and maybe they don’t have a reserve at home,” Rocchio said. “Everything the government is putting forth is not helping the small businessman — the one who doesn’t have a million in the bank and is paying fixed expenses.”

Efforts on Local and State Levels

The provision in many insurance policies was instituted little less than two decades ago after the severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, epidemic of the early 2000s. It is only now, almost 20 years later, that owners filing claims learn of the provision despite them having paid premiums for years.

There is a combined bill in the New York State Assembly and Senate to require companies to accept current interruption claims. 

WMHO submitted a public letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) April 22 requesting he supports the Assembly and Senate bill. 

“What we’re saying is to do business in our state, we in the state government do have the power to make sure contracts are fair and equitable.”

— Steve Englebright

“An insurance policy is a contract between the insured and the insurer that clearly spells out those conditions covered and excluded,” the letter reads. “In recent years, because of severe losses, insurers have added exclusions to their policies, slowly diminishing the very purpose of insurance.”

The state Assembly bill is being sponsored in part by Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) and Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor), and there is a concurrent bill in the state Senate. It would require insurance agencies to cover businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, and would renew any policy that would have covered businesses during shutdown if they expired in the meantime. New York is just one state of seven which is proposing bills to mandate coverage.

“Insurance is controlling risk, that’s what insurance companies do,” Englebright said. “What we’re saying is risk transfer needs to occur with this type of policy in a more predictable manner and a more eligible manner than the fine print currently allows.”

The bill is still in the Assembly Insurance Committee, but Englebright, a ranking assemblyman, said it is picking up widespread support in the Democratic-controlled state Legislature. 

He added he does not believe what insurance companies say when they argue accepting businesses claims would bankrupt their agencies.

“What we’re saying is to do business in our state, we in the state government do have the power to make sure contracts are fair and equitable,” Englebright said. 

Multiple local government and industry groups have come out in support of such a bill. The Long Island Builders Institute released a letter supporting the legislation, saying that if a business has been paying for its insurance, it should honor the claims. 

Mitch Pally, CEO of LIBI, said the insurance companies denying these claims will only create a deeper hole in the economy, which will be an even greater burden to the insurance companies if they go under and no longer can pay their premiums. He also predicted dire consequences to many businesses if claims continue to be denied by June 30 “because the people who bought them didn’t assume their business can be interrupted by something that doesn’t apply [to the insurance].” 

The Brookhaven Town Board and Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) also signed a letter asking Cuomo to throw his support behind the bills.

Federal Efforts

There is a bill currently lingering in the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Financial Services, co-sponsored by Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY3) that would require insurance companies in the future from denying company’s claims based on a pandemic, but even that has seen “tremendous pushback from the insurance industry,” he said during a Zoom call hosted by Discover Long Island May 19. “It’s very controversial — I’m getting the crap kicked out of me by certain people.”

Suozzi, who was appointed by President Donald Trump (R) to the economic reopening task force, said he did not believe anything regarding interruption insurance will see the light of day in some of the large stimulus bills Congress is currently working on.

Some policyholders nationwide have sued their insurance companies for denying their claims. A barbershop owner in San Diego has created a class action lawsuit against his policyholder, Farmers Insurance Group, for denying his claim under such virus damages provisions. Several other class-action lawsuits have been filed in the past month and a half against several other insurance companies.

Though such lawsuits take months if not years to get going, and especially with many court systems largely shut down from the pandemic, it will be a while before any cases see a judge.

“By the time those lawsuits get done, those businesses will be out of business,” Pally said.

Insurance Providers Respond

The American Property Casualty Insurance Association has said if governments required the companies process these claims, it would mean companies would have to process over 30 million businesses suffering from COVID-19-related losses. APCIA President David Sampson was quoted on Twitter saying requiring so would “significantly undermine” their abilities to cover such things as wind damage, fire or other losses.

The industry as a whole currently sits on an $800 billion surplus, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. That business group released a report May 15 with statements from 50 experts from the Wisconsin School of Business insurance panel that if local governments force insurance companies to accept the claims, it will “threaten the solvency of the insurance industry.” Though the report is sponsored by the association through its independent research division, most experts on the panel largely agreed the private marketplace could not handle all the losses with the current surplus in the industry. 

“By the time those lawsuits get done, those businesses will be out of business.”

— Mitch Pally

Though in that same study, some experts, 13 percent of the 50, argued the industry could be able to handle the claims, depending on how federal legislation was enacted. 

Industry lobbyists have said the federal government should be providing help, but one example of small business aid, the Paycheck Protection Program, which was supposed to help keep many small shops in business, has been mired in problems since its inception, and many owners are simply refusing to use the funds fearing they will have to pay back the money long term as a loan. 

The Washington Post reported last month that insurance associations and business groups are hiring lobbyists specifically to play out this fight in Washington, D.C.

What some are hoping for is some kind of middle ground, a place where insurers and the federal government’s interests meet. One suggested draft bill, the Pandemic Risk Insurance Act of 2020, would pay agencies losses when those exceed $250 million and capped at $500 billion over the calendar year, though that bill would only cover future pandemics, and more insurance companies have come out saying it should be the federal government which needs to handle such calls for aid, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Suozzi said he agreed most insurance companies would be “wiped out” trying to cover interruption claims during the pandemic, but also put stock in a public-private partnership, including the possibility of using the infrastructure of the insurance industries to funnel money back into these businesses.

“The bottom line is there’s no relief right now — it’s not going to solve anybody’s problems right now — and I don’t want anybody to get their hopes up,” the congressman said. “But it’s something I’m conscious of and other people are working on it — we just don’t know what the right answer is yet to get it done, because there is so much incredible pushback from the other side.”

In the meantime, Pally said it’s best for businesses to continue writing their state and federal officials. Rocchio suggested that owners, despite the fact some agencies are advising not to bother to file a claim, should apply anyway should anything change in the near future.

John Kennedy Jr. (R) and Steve Bellone (D). File Photos

A Suffolk County working group, led by County Executive Steve Bellone (D), has requested an executive order from Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to provide a 45-day extension to property tax payments through July 15 for homeowners suffering financially during the pandemic.

Taxpayers who have lost at least 25% of their income or businesses with less than a million dollars in net income that have lost at least half of their net income can fill out a form that attests to their hardship to receive the extension.

The property tax relief, which the group has been discussing for several weeks, will help families that have not received their unemployment checks yet or small businesses who are waiting to receive PPP loans from the federal government, Bellone said on a conference call with reporters.

This provides “more time while the economy is shut down,” said Bellone. The county executive said he hopes to hear back from the governor’s office by next week.

Working with Comptroller John Kennedy Jr. (R), Bellone and other members of the working group extended the Municipal Liquidity Fund to Suffolk County, which didn’t initially qualify to access these short term funds under the original terms of the Cares Act. Access to these funds has made it possible for the property tax relief efforts to proceed, enabling county and other levels of government to provide residents with the ability to delay their property tax payments without penalties or fees.

Bellone thanked numerous political collaborators at every level of government and from both sides of the political aisle. He expressed appreciation to Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY-1) and Senator Charles Schumer (D) for helping the county borrow money without interrupting necessary services or creating financial hardship for residents.

“Nobody loves paying property taxes [but] it’s how we run government and how we can have things like the Suffolk County Health Department and police services,” while fire departments and schools also receive their funding through these taxes, Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman (R) said on the call.

Schneiderman said the 45 days of relief without interest or penalties “goes a long way to helping those individuals” and that the process of receiving that delay is “fair and easy through a simple attestation.”

Separately, the number of people who tested positive for the virus fell below 100 over the last 24 hours, with 84 positive tests bringing the total number to 38,411. That figure excludes the 10,790 people who have tested positive through the antibody test.

Suffolk County, however, continues to lose residents to the pandemic. In the last day, 19 people have died. At this point, 1,791 residents have died from complications related to COVID-19.

Over the last day, 20 people have left the hospital after battling with the virus. Bellone appreciated that Anthony Greco, a retired New York City police officer and a trustee of the board of the Wantagh Union Free School District, left Mt. Sinai South Nassau Hospital today after battling the virus for 60 days.

“We could not be more excited and thrilled that Anthony is going home today after this long battle with this deadly virus,” Bellone said.

Lock Your Cars and Take Your Keys

Meanwhile, stolen motor vehicle thefts increased 21.3% through the middle of May and thefts from motor vehicles increased by 30% in that same time compared with 2019, according to the Suffolk County Police Department.

Victims not only left their cars unlocked, but left key fobs in sight, making it incredibly easy to open a car, start the engine and drive away.

The SCPD reminded residents to lock their parked cars amid the spate of thefts.

“The increase in thefts of and from vehicles is a direct result of owners not taking the extra step to ensure their cars are secured,” Geraldine Hart, the Suffolk County Police Commissioner said in a statement.

West Meadow Beach at low tide. Photo by Beverly C. Tyler

Brookhaven Town is opening four major beaches for Memorial Day weekend for residents only. The town is reducing parking by 50 percent to ensure social distancing.

The beaches the town is opening are: Davis Park, on Fire Island; Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai; Corey Beach in Blue Point and West Meadow Beach in Stony Brook.

These beaches will open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The town will lock all parking lots at 6:30 p.m.

While residents can bring umbrellas and blankets, they must wear face masks or coverings in areas outside of the water or general beach area.

Lifeguards will be on duty and residents are allowed to enter the water, but they may not swim.

The town will provide restroom facilities that will be cleaned and sanitized every hour by staff.

After Memorial Day weekend, the beaches will have no public restroom facilities or lifeguards on duty during weekdays.

Residents can purchase Resident Parking Stickers from the Town of Brookhaven Parks Department through BrookhavenNY.gov/Stickers. For more information, call 631-451-8696.

Resident parking stickers are required to park in the beach parking lots.

Lifeguards, park employees and town code enforcement will monitor the distance between families.

Viral Numbers

Separately, hospitalizations from COVID-19 continue to fall, dropping by eight to 497, which is the first time the number has been below 500 since the end of March.

The number of people in Intensive Care Unit beds also declined, dropping five to 164.

In the meantime, 30 people have left the hospital in the last 24 hours.

After a drop in deaths on Monday, the number increased again in the next day, with 18 people dying from complications related to the virus, bringing the total in Suffolk County to 1,772.

The number of people who tested positive for the virus increased by 103 to 38,297, which excludes the 10,345 people who have tested positive for the antibody without having a previous test.

In the antibody tested administered by Northwell Health for first responders, about 9.7 percent of those tested have come back positive, which is an increase over the earlier figure when tested first started. At this point, about 2,900 test results have come back for first responders.

County Executive Steve Bellone (D) continues to urge the Veteran’s Administration to allow volunteers to place flags at the two national cemeteries located on Long Island.

Today, Bellone sent a certified plan in place for flag placement that indicates exactly how the county, which is reopening its beaches, can honor the veterans buried on Long Island.

Stock photo

With hospitalizations declining, Suffolk County is nearing six out of seven metrics to reopen its economy.

The county, which has had 230 contact tracers, is hiring additional people this week and plans to reach the 450 contact tracers required soon.

In the meantime, the only unmet metric remains a 14-day decline in hospital deaths.

The number of residents hospitalized with COVID-19 fell by eight through May 16 to 505. At the same time, the number of people who are in the Intensive Care Unit declined by seven to 169. Of those people in the ICU, 129 are on ventilators.

Hospital occupancy remains near 70 percent overall and at 64 percent in the ICU.

Even though the county has experienced a dramatic and healthy decline in the strain on the health care system, officials continue to try to stock up on PPE and other equipment that might be necessary if a second wave of the virus returned in the fall or winter. That would include ventilators.

An additional 47 people were discharged from the hospital in the last day.

Meanwhile, the number of people who tested positive for COVID-19 increased by 107, which is below the average for the last week, bringing the total who have tested positive for the virus to 38,224. That excludes the 9,925 people who have tested positive for antibodies.

This comes as Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced today that Western New York around Buffalo will be able to start the reopening process Tuesday, May 19.

Separately, as the county prepares for Memorial Day Weekend, County Executive Steve Bellone (D) announced that Smith Point and Cupsogue beaches would only be open to residents.

“My priority is to make sure Suffolk County residents will be able to enjoy access to their beaches during this crisis period,” Bellone said on his daily conference call with reporters. “We are looking forward to opening and welcoming people to our beaches with COVID-19 safety rules in place.”

Bellone said the county has distributed 54,000 additional pieces of personal protective equipment to nursing homes and adult care facilities throughout the county over the last day.

The county executive also urged residents to fill out the 2020 census to ensure that the county receives back from the federal government at least as much as it sends to Washington.

The benefits that come from a correct census count not only include accurate representation in the federal government but also provide unemployment insurance, homeland security funding and health care spending, which would help offset the county’s current expenditures during the pandemic.

Bellone urged people to “talk to friends and neighbors. It’s important for homeowners and business taxpayers, if they haven’t done it yet, to visit my2020census.gov. It takes a few minutes. We want to make sure we get everybody counted in Suffolk County.”

Suffolk County has had difficulties coming up with PPE devices during the ongoing pandemic. Stock photo

Suffolk County continues its steady daily decline in hospitalizations from COVID-19, with 26 fewer hospital beds occupied with patients who have the virus, dropping the total through Friday to 513.

At the same time, the number of people in the Intensive Care Unit rose by 10 to 186 through May 15, the most recent day for which the county has data.

Hospital bed capacity remains close to 70 percent, a target metric for reopening the economy.

In the last 24 hours, 42 people have left the hospital, continuing their recovery at home.

The number of people who have died continues to climb. In the last day, 15 people died from complications related to the pandemic, bringing the total to 1,748. Suffolk County accounts for 7.7 percent of the total deaths in New York State from the virus, which is the same figure the county represents in the total population of the state.

Over the last 24 hours, the county has distributed 74,000 pieces of personal protective equipment, bringing the total to 5 million since the pandemic began.

With the Memorial Day Weekend approaching next week, the county is preparing to open Smith Point and Cupsogue. County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said the beaches would have a beefed up staff, which will help people as they are entering the beach to understand protools and the new ways the beach is operating.

When residents are on the beach and socially distanced, they won’t have to wear masks, but when they go to public facilities, like the rest room, they will need to wear face coverings.

The county will have attendants cleaning the bathrooms on a continual basis. The staff will wear appropriate face coverings. Anyone working at the beaches will have their temperature taken each day.

When the beaches reach capacity, the parking lots will close until some residents create openings for additional guests.

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Riley Smith of Miller Place High School and Matthew Campo of Mount Sinai High School were named the 2020 Mount Sinai – Miller Place Chamber Alliance Scholarship Recipients. Photos from MSMP Chamber

The 2020 Mount Sinai – Miller Place Chamber Alliance Scholarship winners this year are Riley Smith of Miller Place High School and Matthew Campo of Mount Sinai High School. Each student will receive a $500 scholarship towards furthering their education or business. Applicants were asked to submit an essay detailing how they would use the award to achieve their goals, a description of any community service or volunteer work they have participated in, and two letters of recommendation. Applications were then reviewed by the Mount Sinai – Miller Place Chamber Alliance scholarship committee.

“My sincerest congratulations to Riley and Matthew for earning this award,” said Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai). “It is important students realize that hard work and determination are necessary to reach your goals, and Riley and Matthew serve as examples for their peers. I look forward to seeing their future accomplishments.”

Riley plans to use her scholarship towards her education at Stony Brook University, where she will be studying to become a research biologist in order to help preserve the environment. Matthew will be using his award to further his balloon art business, which he has done voluntarily through partnerships with Atria Assisted Living in Setauket, Little Flower Adoption and Services Agency, and Angela’s House to bring joy and hope to the elderly, children with special needs, and their families.

For more information on the Mount Sinai – Miller Place Chamber Alliance and its scholarship fund, visit www.msmpchamber.com.

The new front entrance of the emergency room. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

As the number of people who need hospitalization from COVID-19 decreases, Suffolk County health care facilities will be able to engage in hospital procedures that may have been put off for weeks or months.

Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) said today that Suffolk and Westchester Counties were eligible to resume elective surgeries and ambulatory care.

County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said the county was waiting for an executive order from the governor to resume those procedures, which he expected soon.

“This is another indication of opening up and getting back to more normal” activities, which includes the announcement yesterday that South Hampton and Cupsogue beaches would be opening for Memorial Day weekend, Bellone said on his daily call with reporters.

Elective surgeries are “another step forward in this transition away from a pause and to a management of public health concerns,” Bellone said.

The county executive said the surgeries would be helpful for the hospitals, as they return to other procedures and practices beyond caring for COVID-19 patients, while they would provide necessary treatment for people who need these operations.

The number of hospitalizations from COVID-19 decreased by 15 over the last 24 hours, dropping to 539. The number of people in the Intensive Care Units, meanwhile, rose by one to 186.

ICU beds were at 68 percent capacity, while overall hospital beds were right at the targeted 70 percent for reopening.

In the last day, 40 people left the hospital, which is “a very good number,” Bellone said. “We wish all those who have come from the hospital a continued speedy recovery.”

The number of people who have died from complications related to the virus increased by 24 to 1,733.

A Thursday rally in Commack calling for the state to reopen the economy led to multiple protesters acting in an agressive fashion toward Kevin Vesey from News 12, walking toward him with megaphones as he tried to keep a distance from the people who took off their masks to shout at him. That video shortly went viral.

President Donald Trump (R) tweeted about the incident Friday and Saturday, reciting chants from the group of protesters writing “FAKE NEWS IS NOT ESSENTIAL!” in all caps, and calling the protesters “great people.”

Bellone did not mention the president but instead expressed his support for journalists.

“I will make sure and the Suffolk County Police Department will make sure that everyone who is attending a rally like this, which includes members of the media, are protected,” Bellone said.

Separately, Bellone heard back from Veterans Affairs that residents would not be able to place flags at the graves of veterans at Calverton National Cemetery and Long Island National Cemetery. Bellone plans to send another letter, urging that VA Secretary Robert Wilkie reconsider, allowing the county to honor these servicemen and women during Memorial Day.