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coronavirus

Slurp Ramen in Port Jefferson has set up a unique means of serving customers, with a large screen in between workers and patrons. Photo by Kyle Barr

Local business owners are looking at an uncertain future due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis here on Long Island.

Due to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) executive order that shut down nonessential businesses last Saturday in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus, entrepreneurs and others are worried if they will be able to survive the financial blow. With bills due at the beginning of the month and with no new income coming in, many are calling on the state and the federal government for help.

Indu Kaur, the director of operations of The Meadow Club, looks at blueprints of new the building in Port Jefferson Station. Photo by Kyle Barr

On Tuesday, Congress and the President Donald Trump (R) administration finally reached a $2 trillion agreement to assist people during the ongoing crisis. The new bill includes one-time direct payments to residents of $1,200 per adult making up to $75,000 a year or $2,400 to a married couple making up to $150,000, with $500 payments per child. It also includes a $367 billion program for small businesses to keep making payroll while workers are forced to stay home. Meanwhile, for larger industries the bill includes $500 billion for guaranteed, subsidized loans to bail them out as revenue has severely dropped.

Still, the question remains of how small local businesses will remain intact or even be able to open their doors again as the crisis ebbs.

Indu Kaur, director of operations of The Meadow Club in Port Jefferson Station, said, “This is a burden my father and I are trying to figure out, just like everyone else,”

A family of restaurateurs who recently took over The Harbor Grill had plans to open their third restaurant this month. In addition, The Meadow Club was set to reopen after being closed due to a fire in 2018. Kaur said the ongoing health crisis has put both openings on hold.

In the meantime, she said, The Curry Club in East Setauket is taking take-out and delivery orders.

“We had to lay off our staff,” she said. “There are still things like rent, insurance and utility bills that we have to worry about.”

When asked about the recent virus rescue bil from the federal government, Kaur said “it was great news and a good first step. “Many of us are suffering financially right now.”

She also said she is hopefully that Suffolk County can eventually do something similar to help business owners.

Currently, the U.S. Small Business Administration is offering economic injury disaster loans to affected businesses. Funds come directly from the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the maximum unsecured loan amount is $25,000.

Kaur said she doesn’t think that is a viable option for her and other business owners.

“I’m not sure we can take out one more loan on what we already have,” she said. “For others there might be no other option.”

Last week, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) announced the launch of the Business Recovery Unit, a component of the county’s Business Response Plan, to address concerns and questions that businesses have amid the coronavirus outbreak. Businesses are asked to complete a comprehensive survey on the county’s website (www.suffolkcountyny.gov).

In a conference call March 23, Bellone said that, with several hundred surveys completed, over 4,000 workers were indicated as laid off or furloughed.

“We keep getting calls and the numbers are going up; we are getting calls from workers who are self-employed who are in the same boat,” Bellone said.

In the new federal relief package, furloughed workers will have their salaries replaced for four months, getting whatever amount the state provides in unemployment plus a $600 add-on per week. Gig workers such as Uber drivers are included in that as well.

“There are still things like rent, insurance and utility bills that we have to worry about.”

Indu Kaur

In an effort to help business owners, New York State Republicans sent Cuomo a COVID-19 action plan that includes extending the payments of monthly sales tax by 90 days, making available no-interest loans immediately to entities that face a dramatic decrease in business and eliminating penalties for late payments of business and property taxes, among other things.

Similarly, over 17,600  people signed a Change.org petition titled Save Small Business Before It’s Too Late. It also called on the city, state and federal governments to take the necessary steps to save local businesses.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our communities, creating jobs, generating tax revenue and providing valuable services,” said New York City Councilman Mark Gjonaj (D), who started the petition.

Lenore Paprocky, president of the Greater Middle Country Chamber of Commerce, said, while a lot of businesses are hurting, she is grateful how everyone is willing to come together and help fellow entrepreneurs.

“It’s difficult right now but we want to keep these businesses afloat,” she said.

The chamber has come up with a list of local businesses that are offering catering/takeout and automotive services.

Paprocky said they are trying to stay optimistic amid the ongoing shutdown, and she hopes elected officials can hash something out to help them.

“The future is uncertain, but we need to stay positive and work together to get through this,” the president of the chamber said.

Stock photo

The numbers of people infected and affected by the coronavirus COVID-19 continues to climb.

This afternoon, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D), who himself was finally out of a two-week home quarantine, reported a climb of 753 in the number of people who have tested positive for the virus. The total number stands at 4,138 people, which is more than the entire country of Australia, according to a tracking site at Johns Hopkins University.

The virus also continues to affect the Suffolk County Police Department, with 23 officers testing positive.

Suffolk County health care providers continue to test more residents, as over 12,000 people have been screened. Of those, Stony Brook University’s mobile testing site has administered about 5,000 tests.

“Our major concern and focus has been on the vulnerable population,” Bellone said on his daily media call with reporters. Indeed, 16 percent of the positive tests were among people who were over 65 years old.

Hospitalizations also continued to climb. The number of people in hospitals throughout the county stood at 409, which includes 139 in the Intensive Care Unit.

For the 10th consecutive day, Bellone reported additional fatalities associated with the virus. Seven people died who had the virus, bringing the total to 37 for the county. Those who passed away were: a man in his 60’s who died in his home on March 24, a woman in her 90’s who died at Good Samaritan Hospital March 26, a man in his 70’s who died at Long Island Community Hospital on March 22, a man in his 50’s, who died at St. Catherine’s Hospital March 23, a man in his 60’s who died at Southampton Hospital yesterday, a woman in her 90’s who died at Eastern Long Island Hospital, and a man in his 90’s who died at Mather Hospital on March 26. Underlying medical conditions continue to contribute to most of the deaths.

The police have responded to 140 reports of violations of social distancing. In the last day, there were 28 new reports and the officers found that four of the businesses were non compliant. That includes a vape shop, a hair salon, and a house party.

“All of the individuals involved complied voluntarily when the police and county officers were there,” Bellone said.

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The Stony Brook School STEM faculty Jeremy Donovan, left, and Stan Winston wearing the laser cut face shields designed and assembled in The Stony Brook School’s STEM lab. Photo from The Stony Brook School

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and shortage of materials hospitals are facing, a small group of high school students and faculty from The Stony Brook School have come up with a solution that can be produced in their STEM lab and, soon, across the country — protective face shields at a fraction of the originally expected time and cost, according to a press release from the private school.

Stony Brook University Hospital recently reached out to the surrounding community to secure usage of 3D printers to produce face shields. The hospital, whose design would take approximately three and a half hours per shield, sought to commision 5,000 shields per usable printer.

When the Stony Brook School was alerted of this, Stan Winston, director of STEM Education, and Jeremy Donovan, STEM teacher, thought they could come up with a much more efficient solution with the help of their highly-skilled students. In a little over 24 hours, Winston had presented the idea to his classes — in virtual classrooms since the outbreak of the pandemic — and a prototype was made.

After three major roadblocks were overcome by the students, a final solution was found. In lieu of a time-intensive 3D print, a face shield constructed with the STEM lab’s laser cutter could be made in just 35 seconds. With the new design and process, about 100 can be made each hour at a cost of under 50 cents each, and the school will be producing at least 5,000 of them for SBU Hospital.

Students instrumental in coming up with this solution were Stony Brook School sophomores Cole Spier and Tiger Winston and junior Ethan Magnuson.

“Our students are committed to serving the world with their character and leadership,” Stan Winston said. “With their years of problem-solving experience in our STEM courses, along with a huge community effort, we have reached a great solution to a pressing issue facing our country today.”

Stony Brook University Hospital has accepted the school’s design and proposal, according to The Stony Brook School.

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Kingstone and Miles Fowler practice distance learning. Photo from Kristina Fowler

During challenging times like these, the Comsewogue School District reacted to be fully prepared to not only provide and keep its classes and academic standards at a high level but also to keep the students’ social and emotional well-being stable despite no longer being in the school buildings.

The administration, staff, students and community saw fit to have educational packets and more in place while the upper grades were provided with Chromebooks and resources online available before school was closed. The technology department was in close contact and continues to be communicating with everyone on a daily basis with updates and more.

“I was happy to receive additional training available up to the very last day,” said Camie Zale, a special education teacher.

“Teachers and students are comfortable with using technology and communicating with various websites and apps on a normal basis,” said Andrew Harris, a teacher at the middle and high school. “Unfortunately, I’m nowhere as savvy as most of these students who have grown up with this technology. If I ever have any problem, I can ask any of my students who usually solve it in a matter of seconds … they are amazing.”

Don Heberer, district administrator for instructional technology, said the 1:1 take-home Chromebook program in the high school and classroom carts at John F. Kennedy Middle School had allowed students and teachers to become comfortable with using the technology for education.

Melissa McMullan, a sixth-grade teacher in the middle school, said the school did a great job getting Chromebooks into kids’ hands. The process, she said, has been tricky to find what works and what doesn’t on an online space.

“The kids and I will solve the need for distance learning together like we always do,” she said.

Students in the elementary schools have grade-level packets posted online along with hard copies sent home. The district is also providing support to both teachers and parents remotely on using the technology.

”Comsewogue has always prided itself on being innovative and willing to try something new,” Heberer said. “We know that it will be a challenging change for everyone; however, Comsewogue staff has worked hard to provide the students, teachers and community resources during this period.”

The Comsewogue district has taken to online as well for interteacher-related processes. Harris said teachers received a message from the Pupil Personnel Services department that they will hold upcoming annual meetings on Google Hangouts as part of their annual review process. It has taken time and effort but he feels he has become comfortable and “up to speed” with the various programs.

“For me, I am learning as I go,” Harris said. “The first day I mostly communicated the way I was most familiar with — I picked up the phone and called most parents to let them know what was going on with their child’s education. From there I switched to text messages, and finally have been using Google Classroom and more as I get better.”

After checking in with several of the students, Harris said many teachers realized they were perhaps giving too much work. One parent communicated that her daughter was working from early morning until about 5 p.m. on her assignments and starting to stress out.

“I think many of the teachers didn’t want the students to feel like they were on vacation and get complacent,” said Joe Caltagirone, a teacher at the high school.

Harris said he wanted his very first assignment to be something light and be beneficial to his students and their families. He posted a YouTube video on how to do Box Breathing, a technique of taking slow, deep breaths to relieve some stress and help concentrate.

“I know people are highly stressed so I asked that the student watch this video first,” Harris said. “I also requested that they teach members of their family how to do it. I know from experience when you teach others you become very proficient at what you’re teaching. I asked them all to comment on how it made them feel.”

Harris, also a yoga instructor, said that breath work is easy to learn and perhaps the best thing people can do in these stressful situations.

Having said all of this, there are many in the Comsewogue community that may not be as comfortable as students are with technology, though there are many people willing to help distribute food and other resources to our senior citizens.

“The problem is that they may not know that there is help out there. Where many of us can easily access social media sites, many of these seniors don’t have the ability to do so,” said Ed Garboski of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association.

“Currently, I’m trying to find a way to bridge that gap,” said Harris. “We are trying to put together an electronic way to have our students write letters to the senior citizens who are being quarantined at local facilities. If we have to, we will have the letters printed and distributed to those seniors directly or through the facility’s printer, so they are not compromised.”

Superintendent Jennifer Quinn stated that the whole staff is committed to doing whatever is necessary to make sure the students continue to get everything they need to have a great education, and much more.

Information and quotes provided by Andrew Harris

Comsewogue Won’t Be Stopped by COVID-19

By Deniz Yildirim

Like the rest of New York, Comsewogue School District is facing unprecedented challenges with courage and teamwork. Following Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) orders, all six of the district’s schools were closed on Monday, March 16, for a tentative two-week period. Administrators and teachers worked hard to create packets and uploaded countless resources onto the district’s website so students can continue their education at home.

Preparing work for over 5,000 students with numerous and distinct needs such as learning disabilities and language barriers could only be completed with hard work and collaboration. Reading teachers, English as second language teachers, teaching assistants and even special area teachers like music teacher Ellen Rios came together to create comprehensive packets that were sent home with students on Friday, March 13. Parents could come in person to pick them up if their child wasn’t in school to get it themselves.

Superintendent Jennifer Quinn has been regularly calling parents with updates and also informed families that the district is even willing to lend out its Chromebooks to students who couldn’t otherwise access the online learning tools.

“This is a scary time for everyone and our students’ health comes first. We want to share what we have to make them feel safe and help them continue to learn,” said Quinn. “Families are advised to call the district so they can prepare the appropriate materials and ensure a smooth and sanitary pick up.

In addition to student work, Comsewogue is continuously posting statements on its website (in English and Spanish) in order to keep families informed. One such notice comes from Robert Pearl, the district’s new administrator for Pupil Personnel Services and Micheala Finlay-Essig, the assistant director of PPS; they have been rescheduling important meetings regarding student services that will now be “teleconferencing” meetings through Google Meet. The instructional technology department led by Don Heberer has never been more critical and everyone can testify to the key role they are playing.

“We’re here to help our students, teachers and community,” Heberer said. “We have been supporting our teachers through technology professional development, so the teachers can support our students’ learning. We are updating the district website and mobile app daily to keep our community informed and provide vital resources.”

Comsewogue graduate, parent and now teacher Kristina Fowler said she’s never been prouder of her community. Fowler has a unique perspective because she’s been in everyone’s shoes, so it’s particularly meaningful to hear her say that Comsewogue is going above and beyond her expectations. She supports her two sons, fourth-grader Kingston and second-grader Miles and lets them “play” with their friends via FaceTime. Most recently, Kingston and Kristina helped classmate Liam Schneph with a question he had about his new hamster.

“It’s so important to stay connected and let kids be kids,” she said. “Comsewogue won’t be stopped by COVID-19.”

Deniz Yildirim is a librarian at the Terryville Road Elementary School

Suffolk County Police commissioner Geraldine Hart alongside Steve Bellone. TBR News Media file photo

Without the usual fanfare, 60 cadets graduated from the police academy today and have become sworn members of the Suffolk County Police Department.

The officers, which include six people who are fluent in Spanish, will be a part of a group called Together Ensuring Compliance, or TEC, according to police officials. They will be “visible on the street” and will have increased foot patrols and will be in parks and shopping centers to ensure that businesses that are supposed to be closed, while making sure they educate the population about maintaining social distancing. Geraldine Hart, the Commissioner of the Suffolk County Police Department, made the announcement on County Executive Steve Bellone’s (D) daily call with reporters.

At the same time, Bellone announced the launch of the Suffolk Childcare Consortium, which is a free childcare program for first responders, medical professionals transit workers and, where space permits, other essential workers. The program will be open Monday to Friday, from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and enrollment for those battling the coronavirus outbreak will be on a first come, first served basis and will be limited based on space and staff.

Residents with questions about he consortium should call 311.

The new childcare program is available to the following districts:
  • Babylon School District — Babylon Elementary School
  • Commack School District — Sawmill Intermediate School
  • Connetquot School District – Cherokee Street Elementary School
  • Deer Park School District – John F. Kennedy Intermediate School  
  • Harborfields School Districts – Thomas J. Lahey Elementary School
  • Hauppauge School District — Pines Elementary School
  • Huntington School District — Jefferson Primary School
  • Lindenhurst School District — Albany Avenue Elementary School
  • Middle Country School District – Jericho Elementary School
  • Miller Place School District — Andrew Muller Primary School
  • Northport School District — Pulaski Road Elementary School
  • Sachem School District– Nokomis School Elementary School

To qualify for the program, children must be between pre-K and sixth grade. Students in the program can work on their school’s long distance learning requirements during the day. The program is run by SCOPE education services and will have trained childcare. The staff will check on the health of the children regularly. Anyone with a fever or who demonstrates any sign of illness will not be allowed in the program.

Parents can register their children through www.scopeonline.us.

Meanwhile, the numbers of cases of the virus, hospitalization for it, and fatalities associated with it continues to climb. There are 3,385 cases, which is up by 650 in the last 24 hours. As of this morning, there were also 331 hospitalizations of people with the virus, with 119 in the Intensive Care Unit.

For the ninth straight day, Bellone reported fatalities connected with the virus. Eight people, all of whom had underlying medical condition, passed away. Those who died were: a man in his 80’s at Stony Brook Hospital, a woman in her 80’s at Huntington Hospital, a woman in her 90’s at St. Catherine’s hospital, a man in his late 40’s at LIJ, a woman in her 80’s at Huntington Hospital, a woman in her 80’s at Huntington Hospital this morning, a man in his 60’s at Stony Brook University Hospital, and a woman in her 80’s at Good Samaritan Hospital.

The total number of people who have died from coronavirus related issues in the county is now 30.

Bellone shared his thoughts and prayers with the families.

“This drives home the point of why we have to do this, why all of us have an important role to play in helping to reduce that number,” Bellone said. “Our actions will determine how high that number goes.”

The county executive said the governor’s office, which requires the closure of non essential businesses, provided new guidance on construction work. He said non-essential construction must now cease. Everything except emergency construction, like bridges and transit and hospitals or that protects the health and safety, will stop.

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Jennifer O’Brien and her daughters and son ready to deliver St. Patrick’s goodies to children.

As more Long Islanders are required to stay home from work and school due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Smithtown residents have been coming up with ways to help each other.

Nourishing the community

Teresa LaRosa leaves La Famiglia in Smithtown with food for family members. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Last Friday the phone was ringing off the hook at La Famiglia in Smithtown. Like many restaurants in the area, residents could go there for takeout, but the establishment was also offering a bit more. Last week co-owner John Cracchiolo notified patrons through social media that the family business wanted to show their gratitude to the community during the pandemic.

Cracchiolo and manager John Davella decided to donate 50 meals a day to seniors and those in need Thursday and Friday between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Instead of giving out 100 meals over the two-day period, the owner said they wound up handing out approximately 150. Cracchiolo said it was something he wanted to do to keep the doors open and his workers employed. 

“Am I scared, too? Absolutely, but as long as I can afford to do it, I’ll do it,” he said, adding he hopes to give out meals again March 26 and March 27.

Cracchiolo said he has been touched by those who have stopped by the restaurant to donate money to the cause, and La Famiglia has recognized many of the philanthropists on its social media page. Cracchiolo and Davella have received donations including a few even totaling $500 and $1,000, and one woman walked in and donated a gift card as well as $200 in cash. The owner said another woman drove all the way from Nassau County when she heard what the restaurant was doing to donate $50.

“People just started walking in and handing us money,” he said, adding it was a big help for their ability to donate more meals to the community.

The owner said he knows of people in the restaurant business who have had to close their doors during this time, and he’s grateful for the Smithtown community that he said has been good to him in the nearly 20 years since he opened La Famiglia. On Friday, the restaurant also donated food to the staff at St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center.

“We’ve been here for so many years,” he said. “The community, the town have been good to me,” he said.

Cracchiolo said he had to cut a few things from his menu as they were hard to get, but most of the selections remain the same for those who are ordering takeout. 

For the free meals, the restaurant offered family-style options that included chopped or Caesar salad, a choice of pasta and sauce and a chicken dinner where people could choose between marsala, francese and parmigiana.

On Friday Teresa LaRosa, of Kings Park, picked up food for family members who are out of work. She said if other restaurants have the money to do so they should do the same.

“We all have to work together and do what we can,” she said.

Keeping the community smiling

Jennifer O’Brien runs a State Farm office in Smithtown where reaching out to the community is a big part of her job.

When it came to St. Patrick’s Day, she was unable to go ahead with an event that she had originally planned and decided to try something different. She posted on social media for people to send their names and addresses to her, and she put St. Patrick’s Day goody bags together that included light-up necklaces and a letter from a leprechaun to deliver to their children.

On March 17, she and her children dressed in green and delivered the bags by leaving them at participants’ doors, making sure not to touch any door bells or knobs. The family covered Smithtown from Kings Park to
St. James.

“It’s nice to know that you are still, ‘quote, unquote,’ touching people personally without physically touching them just by brightening their day a bit,” she said.

O’Brien said she is already thinking of different ways to brighten up Easter for community children, and with events canceled, she has been tapping into social media even more so.

When it comes to her everyday life, she said the State Farm office is closed to the public and a couple of employees are working from home. With her son’s birthday Tuesday, she invited friends on social media to pass by her house in their cars during a certain time frame to honk their horns or sing a song.

Looking for the helpers

Social media is filled with feel good posts during the pandemic.

On the Kings Park Downtown Facebook page, Linda Henninger posted that when she went to the grocery store March 20 to get oat milk, she noticed the market had received items that had been sold out for a while. She said she wound up buying more than originally planned.

“At the cashier, I had to take some items out of my cart,” she wrote in the post. “After I paid and left, the cashier came running out after me with a bag filled with the items I had to leave behind. She said a man in line paid for them for me. I was so touched, I sat in the car and cried.”

During a walk in a local park, one mother wrote in a post on the Smithtown Moms Facebook page that she found little vases with flowers with inspirational notes attached throughout the park, something that she said made her day.

“We need to look for the good because it is always there,” she wrote. “I hope this puts a smile on your face as it did mine.”

Have a story about how you or others have helped during this pandemic, let us know about it by emailing rita@tbrnewsmedia.com.

Stony Brook Trauma Center staff member Colby Rowe and Wang Center Building Manager Scott LaMarsh accept donations for the COVID-19 Donation Center. Photo from SBU

Grateful for donations ranging from chapstick to gum to tissues and coveted personal protective equipment such as gloves, masks and goggles, Stony Brook University is asking for residents to donate iPads, which they plan to repurpose to provide more telehealth services to the community.

Stony Brook Trauma Center staff member Colby Rowe and Wang Center Building Manager Scott LaMarsh accept donations for the COVID-19 Donation Center. Photo from SBU

The university asked for donations starting on Sunday and has received a constant stream of email requests to deliver goods to help the medical staff that are offering vital comfort and care during the coronavirus crisis. Interested donors can contact Joan Dickinson, the Stony Brook University Community Relations Director at COVID19donations@stonybrookmedicine.edu or call (631) 219-0603.

Stony Brook is asking donors to clean the device, reset it and place it in a ziplock bag with a usable power chord.

Telehealth medical services will “reduce the need for personal protective equipment,” Dickinson said.

Dickinson has requested that interested donors make an appointment before bringing any items to support the busy medical community. Community members can make donations between 10 am and 1 pm.

“Even though we’re asking the public to respond, we are very diligent about social distancing and everyone’s safety,” Dickinson said.

For anyone who might get the urge to make a home cooked meal or bring in cookies made from scratch, Dickinson said the school appreciates the gesture but can’t accept any such personalized dishes, as they seek to protect staff. The school can is accepting pre-packaged food.

People who don’t have access to medical supplies or comfort items they can donate can send in video messages. Indeed, numerous community members have shared messages of thanks.

The variety of home-made donations has delighted and surprised Dickinson. People have sent in knitted stress balls and crocheted blankets, as well as hand-made masks.

“All the donations are evaluated by folks from environmental health and safety,” Dickinson said. A mask that’s “not surgical grade wouldn’t make it into an operating room, but there are other uses.”

The donation channel started because community leaders eager to help reached out to Dickinson, whose job in community relations has put her in touch with these groups over the years.

“We decided we better put a process in place so everybody stays safe and we know what’s coming in,” Dickinson said.

Donors can bring their contributions into the assigned building or can leave it in the parking lot if they want to minimize contact or don’t want to enter a building.

When Dickinson logs off each night, she comes back to her computer the next morning to find over 100 requests for donation times in her email.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” she said.

The Three Village Civic Association and numerous Facebook groups have reached out to her on a regular basis to see what else she might need.

Dickinson said one of the many people who reached out to her expressed her appreciation for how Stony Brook reacted when she had an issue with the university. The resident was frustrated with equipment on campus that was causing a humming noise in her house.

“We were able to modify how much sound came out” of the equipment, Dickinson said. As the university manages through a crisis that strains their staff and resources, the resident said she wanted to return the favor.

The resident told Dickinson, “you were so helpful to me. Now, we want to help you,” Dickinson said.

PJS/Terryville Civic Association vice president Ed Garboski gives blood to the NYBC donor center at 1010 Route 112. Photo from Garboski

As national nonprofits and local hospitals are encouraging residents to donate blood as the coronavirus crisis has not only strained health care facilities but also caused a depletion of the region’s blood supply. 

The American Red Cross said they are facing a severe blood shortage due to an unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Nearly 2,700 Red Cross blood drives have been canceled, and in the eastern New York region 23 blood drives have been canceled. 

In total, cancellations have resulted in 86,000 fewer blood donations. More than 80 percent of the blood the Red Cross collects comes from blood drives, according to the organization. 

The shortage has prompted concerns about how hospitals will treat medical emergencies. According to the Red Cross, a single blood donation can be used to save multiple lives and about one in seven hospital admissions requires a blood transfusion. 

“Unfortunately, when people stop donating blood, it forces doctors to make hard choices about patient care, which is why we need those who are healthy and well to roll up a sleeve and give the gift of life.” said Chris Hrouda, president of Red Cross Biomedical Services, in a statement. 

Similarly, The New York Blood Center is urging healthy donors to donate. In addition, they are extending open hours at their donor centers. NYBC operates 19 donor centers across New York and New Jersey. Its Port Jefferson Station Donor Center, located at 1010 Route 112, works closely with St. Charles Hospital. 

NYBC officials said these steps have maintained the blood supply for now but stressed that blood is perishable and the supply must be continually replenished to avoid a shortage. 

NYBC said they are taking extra precautions to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and advise people who are experiencing a cold, sore throat, respiratory infection or flu-like symptoms to avoid donor centers. 

Stony Brook University Hospital is currently accepting blood donations as well. 

Hospital officials said they are constantly monitoring the blood supply situation at its facilities and assured residents that donating blood is safe. Donors are health screened at the hospital entrance, and the donor room is not crowded. The screening process includes completing a form regarding recent travel history and potential acute respiratory symptoms and COVID-19 exposure.

The hospital is accepting blood donations from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. People can call 631-444-2626 to make an appointment.

The Pax Christi Hospitality Center in Port Jefferson. Photo by Kyle Barr

The COVID-19 crisis has affected daily life for every resident, but it has especially created challenges for individuals seeking essential resources, and for the workers and volunteers who provide them. The ongoing health crisis has caused numerous facilities including homeless shelters and other nonprofit organizations to rethink how they operate for the time being. 

For Stephen Brazeau, director of Pax Christi Hospitality Center in Port Jefferson, it has been business as usual at the facility, with a few exceptions. 

“We’ve had an open-door policy at the center, but now we’ve locked the front door and have begun screening individuals who want to come in,” Brazeau said. “We usually have significant walk-in traffic and we’ve definitely seen a reduction in that.”

The director said they have seen anywhere from a 60-70 percent decrease in walk-ins. 

Currently, the hospitality center has a total of four staff members working with a few volunteers, compared to an additional 10 interns and 40-plus volunteers, due to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) executive order limiting operations. Brazeau said the center’s 24 beds are occupied, and for individuals they can’t accommodate they are trying to set them up with an official from the county’s department of social services. 

“We are doing our best to make sure these services and basic needs are continuing to be offered,” he said. “At the same time, we want our workers to be safe as well.”

In 2016, 3,960 individuals were deemed homeless on Long Island but more than half of those were children, according to a Long Island Coalition for the Homeless survey count. More than half of the surveyed homeless were children.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended homeless shelters minimize face-to-face staff interactions with clients, and limit visitors to the facility during the outbreak. 

The state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance said in a directive to shelter providers, “congregate facilities, such as shelters for individuals experiencing homelessness, are especially at risk for the spread of communicable diseases due to the number of individuals living in close proximity.”

Brazeau said he is also concerned about undocumented individuals who may need a place to stay as well as food.

“A few of the places that they go to for meals have closed, so we have tried to lead them to churches, schools and other places that are offering them,” the director said. 

For Celina Wilson, president of the Bridge of Hope Resource Center, she and her staff have had to adjust on the fly. Moving away from face-to-face interactions and meetings, they now try to do most of their work through phone calls and other technological means. 

“Even though we are limited in mobility, we are still able to help and advise our clients on a number of issues,” Wilson said. “We call them, text them, FaceTime them and we walk them through whatever they need help with.”

The Port Jefferson Station-based resource center provides a number of counseling, mentoring and education services. It is working on a graphic informational guide on the coronavirus that will be published on its website. In addition, the center will list other resources available on the Island like sites for mobile food distribution. 

“At this point we have to work together to get through this and keep people informed,” Wilson said.

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The need for hospital beds to manage the ongoing coronavirus crisis continues to build each day. Earlier today, County Executive Steve Bellone (D) reported 103 people were in the Intensive Care Unit with the Covid-19 virus, which is more than double the number in the ICU in the last two days.

“We know hospitals are working on innovative solutions,” Bellone said on a daily conference call with reporters. “Those will continue to happen as we seek to get equipment and supplies to fight the virus.”

At the same time, more people are seeking food assistance, as the number of people applying to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program reached 222 yesterday, which is up from an average of about 75 before the pandemic reached the county.

Bellone said he has heard mixed information from financial institutions as they have responded to businesses that are in various levels of distress amid New York Pause, which closed non essential businesses and slowed the economy.

The county exec said his office will be speaking with representatives from the financial services industry, adding, “we will be working to align what is being done with respect to business loans and mortgages, fines and penalties.”

Across the county, the number of positive tests for the virus is up to 2,735, as over 9,600 people have received tests. Stony Brook Hospital’s mobile site has conducted about 4,000 of those tests.

Including the ICU patients, the number of people hospitalized with the respiratory virus stands at 287.

For the 8th straight day, the number of deaths also climbed. Two people passed away with complications related to the virus. A man in his late 80’s died at Southampton Hospital yesterday and a man in his late 80’s died at Eastern Long Island Hospital on Monday. The total number of deaths connected to the virus in Suffolk County stands at 22.

With an expected surge in the numbers of people infected and the demands on the health care system expected to increase dramatically in the next two to three weeks, Bellone urged the public to follow social distancing and isolate themselves as much as they can.

Bellone himself has been in quarantine for almost two weeks, as he was in contact with Pete Scully, a Deputy Suffolk County executive who tested positive for the virus. Bellone’s quarantine ends Sunday.

For parents and their school-age children, Bellone believed that the date when schools would reopen would likely be after April 1.

“The expectation people should have is that that is going to be extended,” Bellone said. The increase in positive tests, hospital and ICU bed use, and the ongoing rise in virus-related mortalities are all “indications that we are in the thick of this. This wouldn’t be a time when you would be reopening schools.”

Meanwhile, the Suffolk County Police Department has had 46 checks to date of businesses that might be violating the social isolation order or that were non-essential and remained open. The police officers have found that six of the businesses were non-compliant.