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coronavirus pandemic

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Leah Dunaief

By Leah S. Dunaief

Would you like to be different? Would you like to change your personality? Perhaps you would like to be more extroverted. Or more open to new experiences. Or even just more organized. Well, thanks to the pandemic, here is your chance. 

People can and do successfully change their personalities even as adults. Now we are about to emerge from the isolation of lockdown and quarantine and rejoin the larger world. The stage is set for a new you. But this transformation will take work. To start, one could embrace the “As If Principle,” proposed by Richard Wiseman, a psychology professor at the University of Hertfordshire in England. This would require one to behave as if one were already that different person, and after a time, the new behavior and the person would sync. Famously, that is the story the debonair Cary Grant told of his early life, which started on the Bristol docks as Archie Leach and wound up at the pinnacle in Hollywood. “I pretended to be somebody I wanted to be until finally I became that person. Or he became me,” Grant said, according to the British newspaper, The Guardian.

An article in the April 11 issue of The New York Times took up this subject. Headlined, “You Can Be a New You After the Pandemic,” written by Olga Khazan, the story states the following. “Researchers have found that adults can change the five traits that make up personality — extroversion, openness to experience, emotional stability, agreeableness and conscientiousness — within just a few months.” 

Another psychology professor, this one at Columbia University, asserts a similar theme. Geraldine Downey, who studies social rejection, has found that “socially excluded people who want to become part of a group are better off if they assume that other people will like them. They should behave as if they are the popular kid. Getting into social interactions expecting the worst, as many socially anxious people do, tends to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.” In another example of change, “people were able to become more extroverted or conscientious in four months just by listing the ways they’d like to change and what steps they would take to get there,” according to the NYT article. If one wants to be more outgoing, one can make a list of upcoming events in which to interact or persons to call for lunches, and after enough such efforts, the act becomes natural.

It can help in this transformation to see a therapist, research recommends. One such example described a person with neuroticism, “a trait responsible for anxiety and rumination.” After a short burst of therapy, in which the “warm, comforting presence” of a therapist encouraged the idea that the client is a valued person, neuroticism receded, and the studies showed the effect lasted for at least a year.

But not everyone can afford a therapist. Mirjam Stieger, a postdoctoral researcher at Brandeis University, and her colleagues developed an app that “reminded people to perform small tasks to help tweak their personalities, like “talk to a stranger when you go grocery shopping,” to prompt extroversion. The app then asks them if they had done that. According to the study, after three months, the change had stuck.

Agreeableness, by the way, involves “greater empathy and concern for others.” And so, being agreeable after this pandemic could mean being gentler toward one another. We now know, for example, how much essential workers sacrificed during the pandemic, many even their lives. That would suggest greater kindness and patience toward someone who, during the pre-pandemic, might just have been dismissed as annoying. We don’t know what exactly has been that person’s recent experience. At least that can be a conscious thought to modify behavior in what otherwise might have been a contentious situation.

For those who wish to change or live differently, as the NYT article says, “your personality is more like a sand dune than a stone.”

Splish Splash Waterpark

The longest offseason in the 31-year history of Splish Splash Waterpark in Calverton will come to an end on Saturday, May 29, as the park reopens its gates to guests for the first time since Labor Day 2019, a 627-day closure caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Splish Splash’s 30th season may begin a year later than initially planned, but with no shortage of excitement for the return of summer fun to Long Island. The first step in this comeback campaign: hiring roughly 1,000 seasonal staffers to provide a clean, safe and fun experience for Splish Splash visitors.

“We’re so excited to get back to the business of fun here at Splish Splash,” said General Manager Mike Bengtson. “Creating opportunities for people to get back to work is an important step in the recovery process, and we will keep safety as our top priority for staff and applicants throughout the recruitment, orientation and training process.”

Safety will be at the forefront of all activity during the current recruiting period and as the water park prepares to open and welcomes guests back this summer. Splish SplashWaterpark will follow recommendations and rulings from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, New York Department of Health, and best practices within the amusement and attractions industries. Recruiters will conduct interviews virtually, and orientation and training will also be virtual for most positions.  Any in person trainings will require facial coverings, strict adherence to state capacity limitations, and social distancing.

Splish Splash recruiters are looking to fill roughly 1,000 openings in departments including Lifeguards, Food & Beverage, Facilities, Retail and Sales. The flexible positions offer part-time and full-time opportunities to high school and college students, professionals looking for a change of pace, and retirees interested in supplementing their income and staying active. Most seasonal positions are available to applicants age 16 and older, with job perks including free admission, team-building celebrations, discounts on park food and merchandise, flexible scheduling, and more. For more information and to apply online, visit the Employment page of Splish Splash Waterpark<https://www.splishsplash.com/employment>.

As a special thank you to its customers, Splish Splash has extended 2020 Season Passes to include the 2021 Season. For more information, call 631-727-3600.

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Splish Splash Waterpark has 96 acres of family fun slides and attractions. Splish Splash is owned and operated by Palace Entertainment, one of the leading leisure park operators in the United States. Palace Entertainment operates 25 entertainment and educational venues across 10 different states, offering a wide range of family-friendly rides, attractions and educational experiences. Palace Entertainment is part of Parques Reunidos, one of the leading global operators, with more than 60 different assets (theme parks, zoos and marine parks, water parks and other attractions), spread out over various countries across Europe, North America, the Middle East, and Australia.

 

Photo from Pixabay

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

This month, we completed our first pandemic year. As we prepare for a hopeful future, please find below the words that reflected the realities of our past year.

— “We were behind the eight ball on testing for a while now,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) on a conference call with members of the National Association of Counties and the press, March 18, 2020.

– “These are not helpful hints. These are legal provisions. They will be enforced.” Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) on a conference call with reporters, describing his decision to shut down businesses not considered essential, March 20, 2020.

– “A lot of us are thinking about staff on the hospital side who are really being tested in an unprecedented way.” Cathrine Duffy, director of HealthierU, an employee wellness program at Stony Brook University, March 25, 2020.

— “I’ve never seen anything like it.” Joan Dickinson, community relations director at Stony Brook University, in response to the over 100 emails she received each night from people eager to donate to the university, March 27, 2020

— “For the N95 masks to come in without a charge helps all those local entities laying out a lot of cash at the moment.” Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1) in response to the announcement that President Donald Trump (R) would ship 200,000 masks to Suffolk County, April 6, 2020.

— “I never imagined being in the position of reporting the numbers on a daily basis of people who have died in our county from anything like this.” Bellone on his daily conference call with reporters, April 12, 2020.

— “We feel that science will solve this problem, and hopefully soon.” John Hill, director of the National Synchrotron Light Source II, who was part of a team coordinating Brookhaven National Laboratory’s COVID-19 research across all the Department of Energy labs, April 19, 2020.

— “We have a hard winter ahead of us.” Bettina Fries, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Stony Brook Renaissance School of Medicine, regarding projected increases in viral cases, April 23, 2020.

— “I always felt an urgency about cancer, but this has an urgency on steroids.” Mikala Egeblad, associate professor at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, in describing her efforts to apply her scientific expertise to COVID, April 26, 2020.

— “Coming to the hospital is still safer than going to the supermarket.” Todd Griffin, the president of Medical Staff and chair of the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Medicine at Stony Brook Renaissance School of Medicine, April 30, 2020.

— “We love you, but you can’t come anywhere near us.” Malcolm Bowman, distinguished service professor at Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, recalls his extended family in New Zealand telling him and his wife Waveney as they left an old car with food at the airport so the couple could live in a camper in New Zealand , May 1, 2020.

— “At a certain point, it’s not just about the patient. It’s about the whole support system. You’re pulling not just for them, but for their whole family.” Amanda Groveman, Stony Brook quality management practitioner, describing the My Story effort to personalize patient stays at the hospital, May 7, 2020.

— “I always knew you were smart, but now I know you are brilliant.” Marna said to her daughter Tamara Rosen, who  defended her graduate thesis at Stony Brook University through a Zoom call, May 24, 2020.

— The death of Minnesota resident George Floyd at the hands of police officers was “an outrage” and was “unacceptable.” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart in a statement on a media call, May 30, 2020.

— Army veteran Gary Degrijze has “truly made a remarkable recovery.” Jerry Rubano, a doctor in Trauma/ Acute Care/ Surgical Critical Care in the Department of Surgery at Stony Brook Medicine, said after he spent seven weeks on a ventilator and twice lost his pulse , June 9, 2020.

— “You couldn’t have found a happier group of people.” Dr. Frank Darras, clinical professor of Urology and Clinical / Medical Director of the Renal Transplantation Program at Stony Brook Renaissance School of Medicine, about a transplant at 3:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning, June 12, 2020.

— “My whole career has brought me to be who I am in this moment.” Risco Mention-Lewis, deputy police commissioner, in the wake of protests over policing, July 3, 2020.

— “When you have untreated mental health and substance abuse disorders, the county will pay for that one way or the other.” Children’s Association Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Reynolds amid an increase in demand for mental health during the pandemic, July 31, 2020.

— “People sent really moving and emotional notes. We saw a lot of good in people” [during a difficult time.] Colby Rowe, Trauma Center Education & Prehospital outreach coordinator who helped coordinate donations to Stony Brook, Aug. 7, 2020.

— “Long Islanders deserve better.” Thomas Falcone, CEO of LIPA, in response to a letter from Senator James Gaughran (D-Northport) questioning LIPA’s oversight of PSEG after extensive power outages and communication failures following Tropical Storm Isaias, Aug. 28, 2020.

— “I tell my patients, I take their hands, I say, ‘Listen, I was in there, too. I know what you’re feeling. I know you’re scared. I know you’re feeling you can die.” Feliciano Lucuix, a patient care assistant at St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center, describing her hospitalization with COVID and then her return to her work in the same hospital, Dec. 14, 2020.

— “As hard and as difficult and sad and heart wrenching [as it was], so many other parts, you just saw such humanity. It was amazing.” Patricia Coffey, nurse manager at the Critical Care Unit at Huntington Hospital reflecting on the challenges and responses of the health care field amid the pandemic, Dec. 31, 2020.

— “When we reach our number, we make an announcement inside.” Michael Connell, who runs the M.A. Connell Funeral Home in Huntington Station, said about alerting people about crowds awaiting a chance to visit with family during a funeral service, Feb. 26, 2021.

Amongst record-breaking turnout for the 2020 election, there is still one lingering issue that Suffolk County needs to correct for the many elections in our future, namely the dearth of early voting locations in the county.

In the midst of a pandemic, providing an opportunity for locals to vote earlier than Election Day made more sense than ever before. It was about keeping the number of people to a minimum to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Accommodating those who didn’t want to vote amongst crowds because they felt they would be at a higher risk to catch the coronavirus should have been at the utmost of priorities.

In Suffolk, past years have seen one early voting site per town, and this year the number of locations was increased to 12. Critics had lobbied for more than a dozen sites in the county, preferably 21, but the calls were met with compromise.

Well, the results are in and the critics were right. The slight bump in polling places wasn’t enough. People found themselves in line at early polling locations for hours. Lines at locations like Brookhaven Town Hall or Nesconset Elementary School snaked through parking lots and twisted around residential streets. As ridiculous as it sounds, people had to bring chairs with them to vote.

According to New York State law, the boards of elections should consider various factors when choosing a site including population density, travel time, proximity to other sites and how close it is to public transportation routes.

In Brookhaven, voters could find locations in Farmingville and Mastic but nothing on the North Shore. Smithtown residents had one location in Nesconset and many, once they discovered they would have to wait hours in line, traveled to Brentwood to vote early. In the TBR News Media coverage area from Cold Spring Harbor to Wading River along the North Shore of the Island — which can vary between 40 to 50 miles depending on what route a person takes — that Nesconset location was the only early voting polling place.

Of course, we realize one of the problems may be a lack of poll workers and volunteers. Hearing the concerns of many residents who are now shouting voter fraud and the like it’s ironic how more people aren’t willing to participate in one of the most important processes in America. Our suggestion to the Suffolk County Board of Elections: Make more of an effort in getting the word out that people are needed to help voters.

The long lines of people to cast an early vote proved that Suffolk residents wanted their voices to be heard. Those lines proved that the county and country need to rethink the early voting process.

Suffolk County needs to work out a funding stream that is dedicated to early polling places come Election Day, and the nation needs to have a serious conversation about standardized processes for mail-in ballots or early voting. At the same time, why not make Election Day a national holiday?

While the hope is that future election procedures won’t need to adhere to pandemic guidelines, offering a more flexible schedule enables people more than 15 hours on Election Day to have their say, no matter what their workday schedule or other responsibilities entail.

To have one day to vote may have worked in the early days of our country, but with the U.S. population increasing massively over the centuries, and people of color as well as women gaining the right to vote along the way, it’s time to expand to make sure every adult in America can vote no matter what their circumstances may be.

METRO photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Jill has been cutting hair for 38 years. She has owned a few salons, but these days she has been scheduling hair cutting appointments at people’s homes.

She wears a mask, asks her customers to do the same and does her work outside or in the shelter of a garage, where the wind isn’t as strong.

An immigrant from Lebanon, Jill is completely professional, asking for extension cords through the garage, setting up a chair for her customers, and carrying her sterilized scissors, electronic clippers and comb.

Reflecting on the decades she’s spent chatting with customers while she works, she has an easy, purposeful manner about her efforts, while she rolls her “r’s,” sharing linguistic hints on her life.

These days, she lives with her daughter, son-in-law and her three grandchildren. She has her own space in the house, but is hoping, before too long, to rent or buy a small place where she can call the shots.

She shared a story with me that offers some perspective about life and our reactions in the moment to our wins and losses.

Back in February, Jill had decided it was time to own a salon again. She pooled all her savings and placed a bid on a property. She was excited about the prospect of serving more customers, hiring staff and growing a business that would help her make money and increase her savings towards retirement.

She knew she was close to winning the bidding and had started imagining how she’d reinvent the space and the people she’d hire. But, then, the people selling the property informed her that they had chosen another bidder, who had deeper pockets and was a part of a larger chain. She was incredibly disappointed and felt as if she’d lost out on a business she knew she could run. She spent several weeks irritated by the situation.

A month after she lost the property, she joined the rest of the world in the pandemic-triggered lockdown. Initially, she couldn’t get out much.

As the days stretched into weeks and the weeks into months, she realized how lucky her loss on that property had been. She would have had to carry a $4,000 monthly mortgage for a location that was producing no revenue for months.

She considers herself an incredibly lucky loser. Back in February, of course, a mere month before the virus changed the United States, she had no way of knowing that her loss would save her from a mountain of unmanageable debt.

She feels as if a force from up high was looking out for her, protecting her from a financial burden and responsibility that would have been hard to manage, even with whatever government program she might have turned to for help.

Down the road, when the world returns to something resembling the experiences of 2019, she may, once again, consider buying a salon. Until then, however, she’s perfectly happy without the debt and the uncertainty of managing through a difficult small business and economic environment.

In the meantime, she will continue to show up at people’s homes, brushes, clippers and scissors in hand, ready to provide on-site haircuts to people who prefer, or can’t, leave their properties.

The challenges and obstacles that disappoint also sometimes protect us, even if we can’t see that in the moment, particularly when we know how much we want something.

Many of us will confront those frustrations in the future over which we have no control. Sometimes, we may gain perspective on what, at first, appears to be an unfortunate outcome.

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Mount Sinai High School. File photo by Barbara Donlon

Mount Sinai Union Free School District recently changed its phase two reopening plan, tasking some teachers to work directly with remote students and by easing in-person students back into its halls. 

As of Oct. 19, grades K-4 added Wednesdays back into an in-person, weekly schedule making attendance at school five days a week. 

In a letter to the community posted on the school district’s website, Rob Catlin, principal of Mount Sinai Elementary, said this change will help make things more normal. 

“This is a win-win for all of our students, both in-person and remote, as we are able to ensure all of our students get the maximum amount of instruction we are able to offer,” he wrote. 

Catlin wrote in-person students will not have much of a change on a daily basis, except for the possibility of a different P.E., art or music teacher adjust with the schedule. The district added two teachers to help support its remote students, and who will be working solely as remote teachers. Starting Monday, teachers Emily Bellacera (for K-2) and Kaylee Foley (for 3-4) will be teaching live every day for at least one hour with remote students through Google Classroom.

“Each teacher will provide at least 60 minutes a day of live instruction for our students working remotely,” he said. “This will also allow the remote kids to have a true classroom of friends and classmates. Currently each teacher was working with 1-to-3 students at a time on Wednesdays. I felt this was isolating for our remote kids who need socialization more than ever being at home.”

With the new remote program, remote students will have live Google Meet sessions with seven to 15 other kids. 

Catlin noted though switching to a new teacher is not ideal, current teachers will be in contact with the remote teachers to ensure a smooth transition for everyone involved. 

“While switching teachers is not an ideal plan the end result will be a better experience and more enriching academic program for all,” he said. 

The website stated middle school students were going to experience a similar change. Remote learners in grades 5 and 6 started with their new remote instructors on Oct. 19. In-person fifth and sixth graders started attending school all five days. 

Students in grades 7 and 8 will have remote instructional day through Google Classroom every Wednesday starting Oct. 21 and will follow their period buy period schedule. Attendance will be taken in the homeroom and first period class for the day. 

Superintendent Gordon Brosdal said the district initially anticipated that grades 7-12 would be back to school five days a week on a rotating schedule, but last week he and they decided to halt the reopening plan until Nov. 18.

“We knew it was going to change as we went along,” he said. “After speaking to a dozen superintendents in our area, everyone is evolving and adjusting.”

He stated the reasons to delay are so they can closely watch and see if the number of COVID-19 cases continue to increase, and that the middle and high school buildings don’t have as much room to repurpose. 

“If you had all the kids in, and divided the class in half, then for social distancing you would need almost double the class space,” he said. 

So, they decided to wait until the end of
the quarter.

Currently Wednesday provides a break between the two cohorts, and an additional day for cleaning and sanitation.

To accommodate a transition, remote learning will be available to all students, not just ones deemed as remote, and attendance is required.

As of Oct. 19, two teachers and zero students in the high school tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 14 days. Overall, a combined five individuals have tested positive in the district since the start of schools in September.

A sign of the times outside Smithtown Town Hall. Photo courtesy of Smithtown Library

The Smithtown Library’s Long Island Room, located in the lower level of the  library’s main branch at 1 North Country Road in Smithtown, invites the community to participate in an important project.

Over the course of the last few months, the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent shutdowns have had a dramatic impact on the entire world and our own community. As challenging as these times are, however, it is important to recognize and document the historical significance of this period so that future generations may learn from it.

Ways you can participate include collecting relevant items, keeping a journal reflecting on your experiences and sharing photos and/or videos of the way your life or surroundings have changed.

For more information about this project and collecting examples, please visit https://smithlib.org/documenting​. If you are interested in donating materials to this collection or have any questions, please contact the Long Island Room via email at [email protected] Please do not bring any materials to the library at this time or before contacting the Long Island Room. For further information, please call 631-360-2480.

Marci Lobel. Photo from SBU

By Daniel Dunaief

Pregnant women with access to the outdoors are less stressed during the pandemic.

In fact, according to an unpublished finding that isn’t yet peer reviewed, pregnant women who had outdoor access were 67 percent less likely to worry about contracting the virus and 63 percent less likely to feel stress about being unprepared for the birth.

Lobel with a recent doctoral student, Jennifer Nicolo-SantaBarbara.

Stony Brook University recently awarded a project led by Dr. Heidi Preis in the Department of Psychology, with co-Principal Investigators Dr. Marci Lobel in the Department of Psychology and Dr. Brittain Mahaffey in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health that explored the link between stress and pregnancy. The researchers are hoping to identify what helps pregnant women and what may make them more vulnerable to the impacts of stress.

Stony Brook provided a total of $398,200 in seed funding to 17 research projects in response to the pandemic. Researchers at Stony Brook had put together 63 submissions, using a peer review process to choose the projects to fund, including the COVID-19 Pregnancy Experiences (or COPE) Study. The funding, which is for one year, is designed to provide the kind of seed funding that will lead to further research and that other funding agencies will support.

The COPE study tapped into a global network of collaborators that Lobel, who is the Director of the Stress and Reproduction Lab at SBU, established over the past 30 years to compare the different factors that mitigate or exacerbate stress for pregnant women in Spain, Israel, Italy, Germany Poland and Switzerland.

“The biological impact of COVID-19 is getting the lion’s share of attention, as it should,” said Lobel. “We don’t yet know enough about how the psychological impact will affect vulnerable groups, like pregnant women.”

Indeed, Lobel has spent three decades studying the effect of stress and related psychological factors on pregnancy. In other studies, major stressors, such as earthquakes, ice storms, and periods of warfare, confirm the toxic impact of prenatal stress, particularly for preterm births and low birth weight, she said.

Lobel and her colleagues created a self-report instrument called the Pandemic-Related Pregnancy Stress Scale, or PREPS, in which women report their specific concerns or anxieties caused by COVID-19.

Throughout the United States, the team sought responses from about 4,500 women recruited through social media at the end of April and the beginning of May.

Marci Lobel with her family at Yosemite in 2016. The photo credit is: Photo courtesy of Marci Lobel.

Among the women in the study, just over half of them were pregnant with their first child. In many studies that predated the current work, including some from her own research group, Lobel said women pregnant with their first child had higher levels of stress.

In some preliminary findings, 21.7 percent of pregnant women in the study reported severe levels of anxiety. “I think that is higher than what we typically would find in a population study of pregnant women,” Lobel said.

Women with a history of interpersonal violence also reported higher levels of stress and those whose prenatal appointments were canceled or altered were 1.78 times more likely to experience high stress related to a lack of preparedness and 1.49 times more likely to experience high stress related to worries about perinatal infection.

Some women in the study have found ways to reduce the accumulating stress about the health care crisis. The techniques that work for some women, Lobel said, may not work for others, suggesting that stress relief is specific to the individual and is usually determined by the situation itself.

“I don’t recommend any particular way of coping,” Lobel said. “What works for one may not work for another. It’s good to have a tool kit with lots of ways of coping.”

Indeed, some of the techniques pregnant women have found helpful include meditation, prayer, and faith-based practices. Pregnant women have also benefited from social support, which is particularly important during the pandemic when some women may feel “literally and figuratively isolated from others,” Lobel said.

Of all the research Lobel has done, the one that has received the most attention and landed her in the bible for pregnant women, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” was a study on optimism. She found that women who were more optimistic had better birth outcomes due in part to the better are they took of their health during pregnancy.

Coping with stress by avoidance predicts increases in emotional distress, Lobel explained. This corroborates much research which shows that avoidance is usually an ineffective way to cope with stress, except in limited cases such as when a stressful situation is brief and uncontrollable.

When people avoid the things that bother them, they can do it cognitively or through alcohol, which is especially dangerous for pregnant women and their developing fetuses. Avoidance can also involve excessive sleeping, as pregnant women may decide they don’t want to deal with life and stay in bed all day.

The scientists plan to collect a second set of data from these women, who were recruited through social media and who represent a diverse socioeconomic background, race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, and other factors, on July 15th.

Lobel said she already has some preliminary, unpublished findings from Poland, which are showing the same kinds of stressors and distress among pregnant women. Polish women have expressed stress related to worries about lack of preparation for birth during the pandemic and stress related to worries about infection.

Lobel said the researchers hope to explore a host of questions as they collect more information. They hope to look at obsessions and compulsions and would like to measure anger. They also will measure levels of depression and anxiety and will compare that to the norms for non-pregnant women.

On the other side of the stress meter, the group will study how being pregnant during the pandemic may help some women appreciate their pregnancy more. For some women, the pregnancy may give them strength to deal with the pandemic, as they focus on having a baby.

The researchers will also explore the level of control women feel over the outcome of their pregnancy and the health of their baby. Feeling in control can create a positive response associated with lower distress.

While Lobel and her colleagues won’t answer all these questions in a year, they hope their initial studies will lead to more funding and research. “Hopefully, we’ll get a [National Institutes of Health] grant to follow up these women for a couple of years to study them and their children to see if there are any developmental or mental or physical health effects” of the pandemic.

The Long Island Museum (LIM) has recently partnered with the Long Island State Veterans Home (LISVH) at Stony Brook University for a letter writing project. 

In conjunction with the Museum’s At Home With LIM projects, a series of online family art and history activities based on the museum’s collection, historic buildings and grounds, the Student/Veteran Pen Pal Project takes young people on a journey through the art and history of penmanship in the 19th century.

Long Island students from kindergarten through 12th grade are invited to participate and are asked to follow the instructions from the printable activity guide that can be downloaded from the museum’s website. 

The penmanship lesson teaches students how to write a letter, preferably in Spencerian script, to one of the veterans by using the greeting “Dear Veteran” and sharing with them what school is like today, and asking them what school had been like for them.

“In the 1800s there was no such thing as email, phones, or FaceTime. The main way people were able to communicate with others who didn’t live near them was to write letters,” said Lisa Unander, Director of Education at the LIM. 

“During these difficult times, the LIM believes in the power of the arts to unite us. The Student/Veteran Pen Pal Project allows for children to connect with veterans who are in need of connection and support while they are socially isolated because of the coronavirus pandemic,” she said.

Once the letter is written, it can be either scanned or photographed and then sent to [email protected], and [email protected]. The LISVH will then print out the letters and distribute them, and the veteran pen pal can respond to the student by a letter sent through email as well.

“The project is a wonderful collaboration between the registrants in the Adult Day Health Care program at the Veterans Home and local community school children,” said Jean Brand, Program Director of Adult Day Health Care at the LISVH. “The heartfelt letters are a fun educational bridge that celebrate the best of who we are as a community. During this time of social distancing the project creates relationships that inspire the human spirit.” 

The Student/Veteran Pen Pal Project is currently ongoing and the activity guide will remain on the Museum’s website as the LIM remains closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information on this project or other At Home with LIM projects visit www.longislandmuseum.org.