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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The first day after the Stony Brook University mobile testing site started administering tests for the coronavirus Covid-19, the number of positive tests continued to build.

Earlier today, Suffolk County had 239 confirmed cases, according to County Executive Steve Bellone (D). That includes 64 in Huntington, 39 in Islip, and eight in Smithtown.

Among those with the virus, 27 are in the hospital, with 7 in the intensive care unit. Public health officials said the majority of the cases remained adults.

The current treatment involves supportive management, which includes maintaining oxygenation through ventilatory support, and maintaining fluid balances, Dr. Gregson Pigott, Commissioner of the county Department of Health Services, said on a conference call with reporters.

Bellone suggested that the number of cases climbs as testing increases, adding that the virus is here throughout the county and is spreading through community transmission.

Bellone urged people to keep practicing social distancing and to keep their children, who might otherwise want to congregate in larger groups amid the warmer weather and the time off from school, from gathering.

Suffolk County has tested over 1,500 people to date. Those with symptoms can call 888-364 -3065 to set up an appointment for drive thru testing at Stony Brook University’s South P Lot. Bellone has heard that people have complained about the time they need to wait for an appointment, but he asks for patience amid the growing need. He also reminded residents that they won’t necessarily get a test without medical authorization from a doctor or telephone reference.

The county’s text alert update, which residents can receive by texting CovidSuffolk to 67283, now has 26,000 people signed up, while 5,500 people have signed up to create a Smart911 profile.

The county executive said the county delivered personal protective equipment to hospitals yesterday and is continuing to make similar deliveries today.

Bellone reiterated that “experts have made clear that this virus may not reach its peak for four to five weeks. When it does, we will see the need for hospital beds to rise and potentially rise dramatically. That is an issue of great concern.”

At the same time that hospitals have been able to increase the number of beds in the county by 300, Suffolk County officials are working to identify potential spaces for future sites to treat residents who are battling the virus.

As of earlier today, Suffolk has 479 beds available, including 74 in the intensive care unit.

“The question is not what’s available now, but it’s a question of what’s going to be needed in three to five weeks,” the county executive said.

The county has considered a site adjacent to the jail in Yaphank. They have also spoken with Suffolk County Community College about evaluating space for potential future patients as well.

Despite murmurs that New York City officials are considering a shelter in place order, effectively asking residents to not leave their homes, Suffolk officials said they have no expectations of sheltering in place.

In the meantime, Suffolk County law enforcement have an adequate supply of personal protective equipment, although they are seeking additional equipment in the future, according to Suffolk County Police Chief Stuart Cameron. The police are also modifying some of their procedures and are considering altering some interactions with the public.

“If we can, we are asking members [of the public] to come outside to meet our officers,” Cameron said. “We are much more able to maintain social distance outdoors and are muc less apt to be exposed to surface contamination.”

Additionally, the police department is considering requiring the public to make some routine reports by phone or through a citizen-based online reporting, instead of making it optional.

Setauket Presbyterian is among the houses of worship offering services online. File photo

While local religious leaders hold on to their faiths, they are still practicing an abundance of caution during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a March 16 email, the Diocese of Rockville Centre directed all parishes to suspend or postpone all Masses, meetings and nonessential activities until April 14. The suspension tentatively will end after Easter Sunday, which is April 12. The postponements also include confirmations and first communions, while funerals, weddings and baptisms will be permitted if necessary and must be limited to less than 50 people.

“We are encouraging everyone to pray from home and to use this opportunity to develop our personal connection with G-d.”

— Rabbi Motti Grossbaum

Worshippers will be able to pray at local Catholic churches at the discretion of the pastor. However, the number of people must be under 50, in accordance with the New York State mandate.

The diocese said in the email that the Catholic Faith Network will provide televised and online Masses, and alerted Catholics that local parishes may also offer live streaming.

Other faiths are following suit.

Village Chabad Center for Jewish Life & Learning in East Setauket last week canceled several events and programs, according to Rabbi Motti Grossbaum. While last week’s service incorporated distancing of worshippers with 6 feet of space in between each of them, the Chabad has now canceled services until further notice, Grossbaum said, “as health and well-being supersede everything else in Judaism.”

Grossbaum said Chabad’s preschool and Hebrew School have also been closed in line with the state’s two-week mandatory shutdown, and the center is offering online classes and videos for children and adults during the temporary closure.

“We are encouraging everyone to pray from home and to use this opportunity to develop our personal connection with G-d,” Grossbaum said in an email.

“We felt like the best thing was not to have people gather, especially since technology allows us to do something where we can still reach people.”

— The Rev. Kate Jones Calone

The Rev. Kate Jones Calone, interim pastor of Setauket Presbyterian Church, said services have been moved online. On March 15 she said it was just her, a liturgist and a couple of musicians live streaming from the sanctuary using Facebook Live.

She said the board, which consists of congregants, took into account recommendations from the town and health organizations.

“We felt like the best thing was not to have people gather, especially since technology allows us to do something where we can still reach people,” the reverend said.

Setauket Presbyterian is also using Zoom, a video conferencing platform, for church meetings and confirmation classes.

“This is something that I think we are all dealing in a very unprecedented way,” she said.

Jones Calone added the staff is reaching out to parishioners to see if there is any help that they may need as far as running errands and are hoping to identify other ways they can help the community at large.

“From a theological standpoint, we know that connections are there whether we’re together or physically apart,” she said.

The reverend likened following the current health guidelines as similar to loving our neighbors, and she said she hopes everyone will reach out to their loved ones and neighbors as best as they can.

“Not only are we taking care of ourselves but also social distancing and things like that help us make sure we’re loving our neighbor,” she said.

“I will miss worshiping with you all on the Sundays ahead, but hopefully with these measures we will all remain safe and able to continue worshiping together well into the future.”

— Pastor Chuck Van Houten

Stony Brook Community Church Pastor Chuck Van Houten emailed members March 14 saying all churches in the New York Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church were requested to close for at least two weeks.

Van Houten said in the email that SBCC would make worship services available on its website. The services would most likely be recorded the night before and only a few people would be on hand. The church also plans to set up a Zoom account to continue meetings over video conferencing.

“I will miss worshiping with you all on the Sundays ahead, but hopefully with these measures we will all remain safe and able to continue worshiping together well into the future,” Van Houten said.

Rabbi Aaron Benson of North Shore Jewish Center said in an email the synagogue will be operating remotely like other institutions in the area.

“Perhaps one of the more interesting developments has to do with prayer life,” Benson said. “As communal prayers require being in person, Jews nevertheless can continue to pray individually.  The opportunity then, to develop one’s personal spiritual practices and closeness to the Divine may be one of the only positive outcomes of our current state of affairs.”

When it comes to the current situation, Benson said it’s important to remember to have a thoughtful, grateful and kind attitude toward others.

“‘Receive every person with a smiling face.’ This piece of ancient rabbinic wisdom might seem out of place in a time of social distancing and quarantines, but I can’t imagine a more germane piece of advice,” Benson said. “If you’ve been in the stores lately, it can be a bit of a madhouse. If you’re stuck at home for days on end even with your family, if you’re dealing with poor internet connections for your remote meetings — patience and thoughtfulness can be at a premium. This is why in trying times like these remembering to have a thoughtful, grateful, kind and caring attitude toward others can make even more of a difference than an extra roll of toilet paper.  So whether it’s in person or just in your voice over the phone, be sure to have a smile.”

All houses of worships have asked that congregants check their websites and social media for live streaming of services as well as updates of when they will open again.