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Parents from all over Long Island have the hard decision of what to do with their kids on Halloween, whether going out trick-or-treating or finding something else to do. Stock photo

By Angela Palumbo

Halloween is looking scarier than ever on Long Island this year. Parents, costume shop owners, and even seasonal event planners have had to come up with new ways of having a successful holiday, all while dealing with the consequences of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Halloween events have had to change their programs to follow Centers for Disease Control guidelines, which has been a challenge. Seasonal businesses, including local ones, that usually thrive around Halloween have seen a decrease in customers. Local Facebook groups such as “Mom’s Group – Long Island” and “Northport Moms” are filled with posts questioning whether or not it’s safe to send their children trick or treating this year.

With the number of people infected on the rise nationally, the CDC has released a list of low risk Halloween activities to do this year to decrease the spread of COVID-19. This list has been a guide for local families who, despite the dangers, wish to celebrate Halloween.

Ronald Diamond, in front of his store, Ronjos Magic Shop, in Port Jefferson Station. Photo from Diamond

Costume stores and festive events are depending on the continuation of this holiday to stay afloat, and parents are determined to bring their children a fun and safe time.

Local Costume Stores

Ronald Diamond, longtime owner of Ronjos Magic Shop in Port Jefferson Station, has changed the way his business runs to ensure safety for himself and his customers.

“We have been health conscious for 46 years,” Diamond said. “Right now, the status quo is that there are no try-ons. You cannot try on a costume here anymore. We’re putting a pause on that until we get the clearance and the world is safe, and then we can go back to maybe trying on, or we’ll just continue to keep that, at this point.”

With the changes Diamond has made to his store, which also doubles as a CBD wellness shop, he has not yet seen a change in business this year.

“Right now, it’s too premature to tell, because people wait until the last second to make their purchases,” Diamond said. “The consensus that I got is people are having a party, and they are taking their children trick or treating. Is there a percentage that may not have a party? Yes. How big that percentage is, I won’t know until Nov. 5.”

With the pandemic being a concern for many costume shoppers, Diamond recommends purchasing a cloth face mask that matches the costume people are wearing, to avoid contact with the public.

“This way, you are still wearing a mask and you’re protected, and you can go to the party safely,” he said.

Ronjos is not the only local costume business that has had to change the way they function this season.

Last year, Costume America in Farmingdale rented out around 30 to 40 costumes for Halloween, an important season for their bottom line. So far this year, they have seen 10 rentals.

Costume America in Farmingdale has seen a significant drop in sales due to the pandemic. Photo from Costume America’s Facebook

“It was an extremely busy year last year,” said Shelly Brennan, office manager at Costume America. “The Halloween business did very well”

Not only has Costume America seen a drop in business since last year’s Halloween season, they also had to make changes to the way their store runs in order to try to keep up with CDC guidelines.

“If it’s busy in the store, there’s a sign that says not to come in and please call us,” Brennan said. “When people try on the clothes, we have to air everything out and wash it all.”

Spooky Long Island Events

The Spooky Walk is an annual fundraiser located in Center Moriches and has been around for 31 years. The event runs for two weekends in October; Oct 16 and 17, and Oct 23 and 24. The Halloween event is attended by thousands of locals annually.

The Spooky Walk’s goal is to raise money for Camp Paquatuck, a day camp for children and adults with developmental disabilities. Each year, this event has brought in the most money of all the fundraisers Camp Paquatuck hosts. With the importance of this fundraiser in mind, the executive director of the camp, Alyssa Pecorino, and the camps board of directors, has made it their mission to ensure the Spooky Walks remains, while following CDC guidelines.

“The Spooky Walk was created by the Paquatuck Squaws, which is a group of women who do nothing but raise money for the camp, which is amazing,” Pecorino said. “I think they made $1,000 the first year they did it.”

Now, the Spooky Walk covers a majority of Camp Paquatuck’s operating cost, with last year bringing in $240,000.

This year, with the pandemic changing the way all events run, the Spooky Walk was no exception. Instead of patrons walking through the campgrounds and being approached by volunteers dressed in costumes, the Spooky Walk has transformed into the “Spooky Drive Through.”

“Obviously we can’t have everybody together in a large crowd going through the entire camp,” Pecorino said. “This year we had to come up with something that allowed people to still do it, but in a safe way, and the idea was to have everybody come through in a car. This is the safest possible way to do it.”

Camp Paquatuck in Center Moriches normally hosts a Spooky Walk fundraising drive for Halloween, but has had to change this year due to the pandemic. Photo by Angela Palumbo

Changing the way a 31-year-old event runs did come with its challenges. How successful it will be could be impacted by the necessities of keeping people distanced.
“Normally, we get thousands of people who come through and they pay individually,” Pecorino said. “This year is by carload. Last year it was 20 dollars a person, this year it’s 45 dollars a car, so obviously the amount we expect to generate is going to be less. I’m not sure how much is going to come in, but realistically speaking we’re hoping for half, at least.”

Even though the camp is aware they may not make as much on fundraising at this year’s Spooky Walk compared to years prior, there has been an obvious demand for tickets and participation in the community.

“The first weekend it got very crowded. The last weekend we sold less tickets to make sure people don’t wait in line for three hours to get in,” Pecorino said. “There’s so many people that were excited to get in and participate.”

Long Island Parents

Long Island parents have been trying to decide how they will celebrate Halloween with their children since the beginning of October. Even though there may be disagreements on whether or not it is safe to go trick or treating this year, they all agree that they want their children to have an enjoyable, safe holiday.

Dee Santiago, a single mother to her almost three-year-old son Logan from Patchogue, will not be taking her son trick or treating this year.

“We will be doing an at home scavenger hunt and pumpkin carving,” Santiago said. “I feel like if he was older, maybe I’d try to figure a way out to allow him to go trick or treating, but since he is so much younger, I feel like he doesn’t get too much out of it anyway.”

Santiago stresses the importance of keeping her son safe during the pandemic, but also creating a state of normalcy around her home.

“We respect all around us. We wear masks. And if people choose not to participate, I’m ok with that and my son understands.”

— Dawn Miller-Silke

“During a pandemic I don’t want to put him in a bad situation, but I’m trying to make things as normal as possible,” Santiago said. “It’s hard. Not much is available for Holidays.”

Santiago is not the only mother keeping her child home this year. Nicole Oluwatoyin Lucas, from Baldwin, has a 13-month-old son who she will not take trick or treating on Halloween.

“My whole house had the virus when it first came out and I kept my son and myself healthy this whole time,” Lucas said. “I hope everyone who does it [trick or treat] is careful and safe.”

However, there are Long Island mothers who plan on taking their children out trick or treating this year. Both Dawn Miller-Silke of Kings Park and Jessica Joy Landsman of Lindenhurst want their children to experience as normal a Halloween as possible.

“This isn’t going away anytime soon,” Miller-Silke said. “So, we have a choice. Live, or don’t. We respect all around us. We wear masks. And if people choose not to participate, I’m ok with that and my son understands.”

Landsman will be taking her son Brayden out, but is keeping limitations on the Halloween experience.

“He really wants to go trick or treating, so I’m going to take him just to a few houses,” she said “Then, we will go home and give out candy. I still want him to experience Halloween and have fun dressing up. I’m going to try to make him wear a mask. My husband and I will be wearing a mask. As for giving out candy, I was thinking of giving them in little baggies or making a small little ghost hunt for the kids. But then again, we don’t know if kids will be trick or treating.”

COVID-19 has put an obvious damper on the Halloween spirit, but the community on Long Island isn’t letting that bring them down. Whether its events, costumes, or trick or treating, the celebration will continue, safely.

Angela Palumbo is a Long Island native and recent college graduate from SUNY Cortland with a degree in communications and journalism with a minor in professional writing. Angela is currently studying remotely at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism for her masters in journalism with a concentration in business and economic reporting. 

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Shoreham-Wading River High School is located at 250A Route 25A in Shoreham. File photo by Kevin Redding

Shoreham-Wading River school district officials have quarantined 110 students plus eight staff members after two students were tested positive for COVID-19. Officials said those positive tests came after a recent get-together among students.

SWR Superintendent Gerard Poole released a letter to parents Thursday, Oct. 29 informing them that the three students “all attended a weekend social gathering of students.” The district was notified about the positive tests Wednesday night.

Officials closed the high school, and later that day announced the building would also be closed Friday, Oct. 30. The school will continue learning using online distance learning, and students are required to log into their teacher’s Google Classroom at the start of each period to join the class and click on the Google Meet code.  The schedule can be found in the Distance Learning plan which is posted in the Re-Opening section of the District webpage. 

“What students do over the weekend and after school matters,” Poole wrote in his letter to parents. “As we have found out, it impacts our ability to remain open daily for all students.”

The district worked with the Suffolk County Department of Health to conduct contact tracing. Any student that has tested positive is currently under quarantine as well as their family members, which would include school age children as well.

With the additions of the 118 quarantined, the district said there are now a full 125 students and staff members asked to isolate themselves.

Students who tested positive are not allowed to return to school until the DOH gives the go-ahead, Pooles letter stated.

“With the Halloween weekend approaching, children may need an additional reminder about the importance of implementing COVID-19 health precautions at all times and the importance of avoiding large social gatherings,” the superintendent said in his letter. “In order for our schools to remain open and for the health of all students, it is my hope that any large social gatherings that may have been planned for the upcoming weekend are canceled.”

 

The challenge this Halloween will be adhering to guidelines while trick or treating. Stock photo

By Rob Calarco

In 1918, as the United States dealt with the Spanish Flu pandemic, cities across the country called on their residents to have a different kind of Halloween. At that time, the holiday was more of an opportunity for adults to have costume parties and for boys and young men to pull pranks and commit vandalism. During the pandemic, cities banned or discouraged these traditions and called on residents to be respectful of those who might be sick or have lost a loved one. Overall people observed these restrictions knowing that what they were doing was for the benefit of the community. The Buffalo Express reported on that year’s Halloween, saying “Hallowe’en revels lack the spirit of previous affairs.”

Rob Calarco

This year we are again asking Americans to be safe as they celebrate Halloween. COVID-19 is still with us, and while our infection rates do remain low, there is still a risk to us all. That does not mean we cannot celebrate all things spooky this year. We can still find creative ways to enjoy the day and take precautions to minimize potential spread of the virus.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has characterized traditional trick-or-treating, where treats are handed to children who go door to door, as a high-risk activity. To avoid this risk consider participating in one-way trick-or-treating. This is when individually wrapped goodie bags are lined up for families to grab and go while continuing to social distance. Try to avoid placing large bowls of treats where children have to grab out of the same container. These treats can be placed at the end of a driveway or at the edge of a yard. You can communicate whether you are participating in the festivities by placing a sign on your yard. Also if you are wearing a costume mask, remember that it is not a replacement for a cloth mask. Instead consider incorporating a cloth mask into your costume this year.

If you are looking for a safe outdoor adventure, consider heading over to Southaven County Park in Yaphank, which has been taken over by Gateway’s Haunted Playhouse in partnership with Suffolk County. The Gateway has created a drive-through haunted trail experience called “The Forgotten Road,” which includes sounds and sights outside the car as well as a narrative that can be listened to over your car’s sound system. Additionally the Patchogue-Medford Library is offering a Halloween Story Walk. This is a self-guided quest for the entire family. You can pick up your map at the Children’s Department Information Desk during library hours or print your map and story questions from home at any time to navigate your way through Patchogue Village by following a story. Those who complete the quest will receive a Halloween surprise at the end.

With a different kind of Halloween celebration this year, it is going to take us all working together to keep each other safe. There are plenty of precautions to make sure that we all have fun while not contributing to the spread of COVID-19. By following these easy guidelines and doing more socially distanced activities, we can all do our part and stay safe.

Rob Calarco (D) is the presiding officer of the Suffolk County Legislature.

 

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PJ Cinemas in Port Jefferson Station has been closed for over seven months, but now the owner finally has the chance to reopen. Photo by Kyle Barr

After more than seven months being shuttered, PJ Cinemas is looking to have people back in their seats Friday, Oct. 30.

It’s something that’s been a long time coming for Phil Solomon, the owner of the Port Jefferson Station-based theater. The local cinema had to close down in March due to COVID-19. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) made the announcement that movie theaters could open again at 25% capacity starting Oct. 23.

Solomon said his theater is going heavy with new filters, including MERV 13 filters, but also new HVAC ductwork units that purifies the air in each individual theater.  

“Not only is it doing what Governor Cuomo has asked but it goes beyond that,” the theater owner said. “We’re doing this to keep the public and especially our staff safe.”

All staff are mandated to wear face masks and face shields. The theater will also be added tempered glass barriers around the box office and concession stands, both on the main floor and upstairs. Each barrier is given a mahogany wood border that Solomon said makes it look like the place “has been built this way.” 

Capacity is limited for each of the seven theater rooms. There will be stanchions to mark which seats are available and which are not. Every other row will be blocked off, and in between showings the occupied row will be sanitized. While each row is cleaned, the seats originally blocked off will be made available for the next showing.

The question of what movies would be available once theaters could reopen was something that has dogged the theater owner for months. However, his booker gave Solomon the good news there were several available, including “Come Play,” “The War with Grandpa,” “Honest Thief,” 

 “Tenet” and “On the Rocks.” He said despite everything it’s a good selection, including a Robert De Nero flick (“Grandpa”), which often gets butts in seats, and Christopher Nolan’s mind-bending thriller (“Tenet”) that originally came out earlier this year, but never aired in New York.

“Right now, product is a big issue because distributors are not moving a lot of the product for six months or a year,” Solomon said. The seventh screen remains unused, and Solomon said they are waiting to see what can be used to fill that space. 

Of course, all this work won’t help unless people come back to the theater. Solomon went by the old proverb of “book it, and they will come,” and he’s “hoping it works now — we’re giving it our best shot.”

It’s been a difficult few months since he was made to close, saying it had been “frightening.” After he closed he had to furlough his workforce. He said he was able to apply for and get a Paycheck Protection Program loan, which he used to pay a few employees and use the rest to pay for intervening costs. Though even if he wanted to open in that time, there were very few new movies coming out to show.

“A hamburger store could be told, ‘OK, you can open,’ and they have hamburgers,” Solomon said. “We were like the hamburger store that had no hamburgers, we would have none to sell to the public.”

Because of the slate of movies on offer, he said it’s working out better than he originally feared. The man is known for recording entertaining voicemail descriptions of each movie on offer when people call up the theater, with his recognizable, “Heeeeyyyy,” being the first thing they hear. Now, moviegoers will get the opportunity to hear it again. The theater purchased large signs to put out on the road to let people know PJ Cinemas is open again. On the front window of the theater there’s now a sign reading “Heyyyyy! Reopening Fri, Oct. 30!”

“The community appreciates us as an asset, and we appreciate the community,” he said.

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11th grader Michael Lussos honors Eddie Van Halen during the schools between-period Live at the Fishbowl concerts. Photo from Comsewogue SD

This article is thanks to a combined effort by Andrew Harris, a special needs teacher at Comsewogue, and 5th period life skills students at the high school.

The start of the 2020-21 school year has been a unique challenge for so many school districts, but Comsewogue is rising to the occasion.

Beyond the teachers and all the work they have been doing, even the simplest activities involving Jackie’s Garden at the Comsewogue High School have been improving the days of students, one sprig of lavender at a time.

Students present sprigs of lavender to the guidance department for those who may be experiencing anxiety. Photo from Comsewogue SD

“It ended in what seemed to be such a kind and simple act of students presenting lavender sprigs to our guidance department for students who might be experiencing stress and anxiety; but it was the culmination of some outstanding academic lessons from their teachers Heather Rand and Natalie Rubinstien” said Mike Fama, the principal at JFK Middle School.

Teacher’s Rand and Rubinstien explained it this way: ”Four years ago, we created the garden to honor Mrs. Jackie Rella. We grow vegetables for the school salad bar and just appreciate nature. This year, due to the stress of the pandemic, we read about how school gardens can benefit social/emotional well-being. Students started thinking of ways our own garden could benefit students at JFK. After reading about the emotional benefits of lavender, they decided to create bundles for the JFK guidance counselors to give to students who are feeling stressed.”

On the first day of school Sept. 8, high school students were welcomed by a smiling staff and hundreds of sunflowers that couldn’t help but bring their spirits up. Immediately, partially due to the pandemic, art, photography and all sorts of lessons naturally gravitated towards the garden and outdoors. There in the garden were beaming sunflowers, which were planted in May to honor those graduating seniors. 

“It was amazing how our entire community came to support our Class of 2020,” said high school principal Mike Mosca. “While these gestures could never replace the events they missed out on, it went a long way to show our seniors how much their community cared about their accomplishments.”

Actions like this are a part of the Social Emotional Learning, or SEL, which has become a priority at Comsewogue. If the kids feel safe and welcome, then certainly outstanding learning will follow. We all knew that going back to school would be anything but normal this year but Comsewogue, as it always does, tried their best to make the challenges they faced getting back to school an even better experience this year.

Overall, the district is creating unique and positive things that we have never seen before and are trying our very best to make it better than it has ever been. 

Superintendent Jennifer Quinn said it this way, “We are providing a learning environment that not only makes our student’s health and safety a priority but are continually thinking of newer and better learning activities than we’ve ever tried before.” We aren’t satisfied with the ‘new normal’ but want it to be something even better and keep improving after that.

“Staff and students at Comsewogue as well as our community are a resilient group-perhaps like nowhere else,” Quinn said. “With the help of the community we were ready and added some new and dynamic learning opportunities.”  It’s equivalent to tripling the number of different schools we have. There are remote, virtual, and live classrooms happening all at once. Virtual is when a family made a decision to do all learning at home. Remote is for the students who come in every other day and are doing learning remotely on their days home. 

Technology wise, we prepared our students and staff for a giant leap into the future. 

Students actively take care our the courtyard garden, AKA, Jackie’s Garden. Photo from Comsewogue SD

“This is a big change for both students and teachers educationally. I have definitely learned quite a lot about new programs, Chromebook usage, and how to teach and connect with students using a remote/virtual platform” said special education teacher Cammie Zale. 

According to Don Heberer, the district administrator for Instructional Technology, “I think students, teachers and parents are realizing that teaching and learning with educational technology is no longer optional — there’s no going back. I feel like the technology needle jumped five years forward in a matter of a few months. We were already headed in this direction, but COVID-19 has propelled us forward at warp speed.” 

Mr. Heberer and our Educational Technology Specialist Teacher Frank Franzese hold frequent virtual professional development sessions for the staff to keep them abreast of the rapid changes going on. 

Like many educators, science teacher Shane Goldberg posts many exciting lessons that can involve video comments from her while simultaneously students can view the specific documents that she is using for the class or lab she is covering.

“While distance learning has presented some real challenges for both students and teachers, it has also created new opportunities for learning,” she said.  “By creating videos of my lessons, I can ensure that all of my students are able to access all of my lessons, even if they are absent from school. I have also seen that some students are doing very well learning in a virtual classroom. They have the freedom to work at their own pace. In a live classroom, some of these students may become bored because the teacher will need to slow the pace of instruction to meet the needs of all of their students. Unfortunately, it is the students that need frequent interaction and teacher direction in order to stay on task that may be having the most difficult time adjusting to this kind of learning environment. This is why I make every effort to encourage all of my students to ask questions frequently, using private messages. These students also have the opportunity to meet with me during live meetings several times a week.”

At John F. Kennedy Middle School, families dropping off their kids are welcomed by scores of staff members waving, smiling, and welcoming them into the school.  

“The greeting we get each morning warms my heart every time. We are blessed to be part of the Warrior Family.” said Denise Kline, a mother of an eighth-grade student.

Also beneficial are the many outdoor learning environments and activities established throughout the district. Since the first day of school, students have been seen on the lawn with their laptops doing various lessons while the teacher might be speaking about photosynthesis using the real plants right in front of them. If the teacher wants them to go more in depth, they can do research, watch a video, or take a test outside on a beautiful autumn day.

Elementary teacher Melissa McMullen’s students all bring their own yoga mats.

”In addition to the typical subjects we will stop for a moment to do some breathing or movement activities,” McMullen said. “It’s been shown that this helps stimulate our minds so why not?” 

2020 Graduate Alyssa Esencan receiving her Sunflower. Each graduate had their name read and were planted by staff members. Photo from Comsewogue SD

Taylor Zummo, a Social Worker at the high school, added, “The students have been enjoying the activity of Mindfulness in relation to their social and emotional learning. Simply taking time to reflect and be present in the moment has been so helpful for many students to feel less overwhelmed with school. This is a practice that can be done anywhere, which makes it so versatile. Using the practice of mindfulness outdoors is a way that students can pay attention to their feelings, as well as focus on the sounds of nature in order to find themselves some quiet and restful relaxation.”

Nicole Kidd’s physical education students can be seen doing much more outdoor activities as well. 

“We have been super lucky with amazing weather,” Kidd said. “My wellness classes have really enjoyed their yoga and meditation practice outside. We have been taking our mats out to the tennis courts and practicing there. It has felt so good to be in the fresh air and sun.:”

At JFK, science teacher Steve Nielsen can be seen walking through the halls with his puppy who the students adore. It benefits both the students and the dogs because one of the best places for these dogs to get used to is the atmosphere and activities at large institutions such as schools, according to the Guide Dog Foundation. 

“I never knew how profound an impact animals, especially dogs, can have on people,” Nielsen said. “Students and adults alike are drawn to this year’s JFK school mascot Named Pear. She is a delightful black Labrador guide dog in training and brings smiles to all that pass her by in the halls. Everyone wants to pet her.” 

Throughout September, Sunflowers blooming in the garden were given to many of the 2020 graduates.They were planted in May in their honor. Once they were gone, a generous local landscaper, Frank Prinzevalli, who operates Prince Landscaping and Design Corp., contacted us and said he is looking to help out our students and community. He felt that replenishing the beautiful flowers might bring everyone’s spirits up, so he decided to purchase and donate over 100 pots of mums. The was an overwhelmingly abundant amount to make our students and staff smile every time they  walk the hallways or look out into the flourishing courtyard throughout the Fall, 

“I have children of my own and we need to continue to keep them on a positive and happy path in these challenging times,” said Prinzevalli.

Recently, a mini concert series called Live at The Fishbowl was implemented at the high school courtyard. For the first one, a student musician entertained between periods while students scurried to their classes slowing down for a moment to take in the sounds. Students and staff enjoyed a timely tribute to Eddie Van Halen. It was broadcast live online, where many in the community were astounded at how good his rendition was. 

“We were excited to have Mikey Lussos perform for the school,” Mosca said.  “We have so many talented students who are unable to showcase their skills because of this pandemic. It was great to have him rocking out in our courtyard. We’re constantly looking for different ways to give our kids opportunities like this and Mike certainly made the most of it” 

Comsewogue, always one of the leaders in education. hopes to inspire not only their own staff and students, but continue to lead Long Island, if not the whole country, and continue to be better and more resilient and come up with more wonderful and unique learning experiences this year.

“The district is consistently reevaluating to ensure that we provide the best atmosphere for students in these unprecedented times,” said Assistant Superintendent Joseph Coniglione. “Our goal is now as it always was to make sure we offer students the best opportunities we can, even during a pandemic.” 

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Scenes from the Eastern Long Island Mini Maker Faire in Port Jefferson Village June 9. Photo by Kyle Barr

For its fifth year, Long Island Explorium’s Maker Faire will be going virtual — but it is still packed with tons of activities for kids of all ages.  

The Port Jefferson-based children’s museum that focuses on science and engineering produces the event, under the license from Make Community LLC, and brings makers near and far to show off their talents. 

On Oct. 16 and 17, the Empire State Maker Faire, a statewide showcase organized by local producers throughout New York State, will share the creative work and technical know-how of all kinds of makers who share a passion for making. 

“We will share the creative work and technical know-how of all kinds of makers who share a passion for making,” said Lisa Collet Rodriguez, the director of digital media and marketing for the explorium. “The event will feature demonstrations, performances and how-to workshops —  everything from 3D printed chocolate, cosplay and robots to programming haunted houses, creating cardboard creations and hacking board games. It will have something for every person and age.”

Normally the faire would be in person, but due to the COVID-19 crisis, the explorium decided to join in on a virtual experience that can go far beyond Port Jefferson. 

“The biggest change comes in the scope and ambition of it all,” she said. “We had to think of a way during this time, to expand the reach and help out the community.”

The faire will stream live on YouTube, in addition to a collection of prerecorded sessions available to the public. 

Rodriguez said that while also reaching a larger audience, the virtual component will allow viewers to see the makers in their natural habitat. 

“It works in our favor as we, for the first time, are able to show you locations and places that a physical faire could not, for example live tours of Maker Spaces,” she said. 

On Friday, from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m., the faire will cater to students and educators learning in-person, remotely or who are homeschooled. The day will be filled with hands-on activities and demonstration focused around STEM and other aspects of the Maker Movement. 

A full schedule of all the makers, demonstrations and activities is available online at longisland.makerfaire.com

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Residents on Long Island and elsewhere can’t call their doctor’s offices and ask to receive all of the same treatment that sent President Donald Trump (R) from the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center back to the White House and the campaign trail.

Dr. Luis Marcos said SBU was planning to participate in the second Regeneron trial, but a general lack of COVID patients scrapped that idea. Photo from SBU

After officials said he tested positive for COVID-19 Oct. 2, the president received a combination of the antiviral drug Remdesivir, an antibody cocktail from Regeneron, and the steroid dexamethasone.

Remdesivir has become more widely used in hospitals on Long Island.

The last two months, “all patients admitted to the hospital may qualify for Remdesivir according to the clinical judgment of your doctor,” said Dr. Luis Marcos, Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine at Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University.

The patient population that is most likely to benefit from Remdesivir includes residents who are over 60, have diabetes with hypertension and have been admitted to the hospital with mild pneumonia.

Patients who have liver disease or kidney failure may not be prescribed the intravenous drug.

Typically, Remdesivir, like other antiviral drugs, benefits patients who have contracted COVID-19 within a week, because the medicine stops the replication of the virus.

Patients who received Remdesivir after an infection that lasted more than 10 days may not benefit as much because the drug won’t reverse damage done to the lungs.

The side effects of antivirals typically last one to two days.

Dexamethasone is also available and used in hospitals including Huntington Hospitals and Stony Brook.

As a steroid, dexamethasone has “multiple side effects,” said Dr. Michael Grosso, Chief Medical Officer at Huntington Hospital. “It is only given when the benefit is expected to significantly outweigh the risk and so there’s going to be that assessment in every case,” Dr. Grosso said.

Patients with diabetes are likely to experience “more trouble with their blood sugar control if they’re receiving dexamethasone,” Grosso added.

Dexamethasone can also produce sleeplessness and, in some cases, psychiatric disturbances, doctors added.

The monoclonal antibody cocktail from Regeneron the president received has had limited use, mostly through clinical trials and in compassionate care cases. It has not received approval from the Food and Drug Administration, although it has applied for emergency use authorization.

Stony Brook was planning to participate in the second trial of Regeneron, with Dr. Bettina Fries, Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases, as the principal investigator and Dr. Marcos as the co-principal investigator. The hospital did not participate because it didn’t have enough cases.

Marcos said the cocktail of antibodies block the virus actively causing inflammation.

The good news with the Regeneron treatment is that the side effects appear minimal, Marcos said.

Regeneron is unlikely to reverse the damage in the lungs caused by the virus. In managing patient care, doctors try to slow or stop the progression of pneumonia from the virus.

Marcos said patients who are asymptomatic or have minor symptoms shouldn’t race to take the more widely available Remdesivir or Dexamethasone because 99% of patients with COVID infection do not have pneumonia. Those patients with a mild upper respiratory infection may not need anything but Tylenol.

Patients who are developing more severe symptoms can come to the hospital to determine the best medical response.

“If you have fever or you don’t feel that great, of course, come to the Emergency Room, we can evaluate you, and decide what to do next. For mild, mild cases, I don’t think we should be using Remdesivir,” Grosso said.

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With the approaching emotions of the holidays, Suffolk County residents may face persistent and unwanted changes in their lives, from not seeing a cherished family member to remaining confined to the same house where they work, live, eat and study. Between now and the end of the year, TBR News Media will feature stories about the impact of the ongoing pandemic on mental health. The articles will explore how to recognize signs of mental health strain and will provide advice to help get through these difficult times. This week, the article focuses on youth.

In a normal year, when school is out, the number of referrals Dr. Sharon Skariah, Director of Child Adolescent Psychiatry at South Oaks Hospital in Amityville, declines during the summer.

Dr. Sharon Skariah says parents should recognize their own issues in order to help their children. Photo by Sharon Skariah

That’s not the case this year, as children continued to seek help for mental health challenges caused by the loss of a parent, the loss of financial or health security and the decline in social contact amid social distancing.

“We’ve been seeing significant anxiety and depression,” Skariah said. “Part of that is the prolonged time that [children] have been out of school.”

Skariah expects that the ongoing pandemic losses and restrictions will likely continue to cause those figures to increase.

Several mental health professionals shared their dos and don’ts for parents with grieving children.

Grieving Dos

For starters, Skariah suggests that parents should recognize their own anxiety and depression.

“If they find that they are themselves overwhelmed with the chaos of the pandemic, they should be aware that their own anxiety and mood can play a role in their children’s behavior,” she said.

Dr. Meghan Downey, clinical psychologist and Director of Northwell Health’s OnTrackNY, urged people to maintain a routine.

“Often, a holiday can exacerbate our stress levels,” Downey said. “Changes to our routine can increase stress. Continuing with the same sleep wake routine, normal eating and [finding time] for joy and relaxation provide a good foundation for managing grief.”

Based on prior group traumatic events, like the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the SARS virus, Skariah said the restoration of order happens over time and depends on personal and predisposing factors.

She urged families to be genuine and open and actively listen to what children say. Downey suggests children need to feel that they are allowed to mourn.

A support network can and should consider showing empathy, care and concern. Approaching people when they are calm, rather than in a distressed state, can provide some mental health relief.

People who are experiencing grief also can benefit from staying connected, even through holiday letters, phone calls, or a card, Downey said.

When Downey gives presentations to children and educators in school, she advises people working with young children to allow them to play death, to display their emotions through play.

Grieving Don’ts

Telling children platitudes like “time heals all wounds” may not be helpful for someone who is “acutely grieving,” Skariah said.

Downey added that telling children that a loved one is “sleeping” or that they should “stop crying, other people might get upset” provides mixed and confusing messages.

Telling children that “at least [the person who died is] not in pain anymore, they are in a better place” often doesn’t help and distracts people from feeling their emotional intensity, Downey said.

Downey cautioned youths, and their adult guardians, to manage over-indulgent behavior, such as with food or with excess spending.

While those indulgences provide temporary relief, they can also contribute to feelings of guilt, which can exacerbate grief, Downey cautioned.

Bradley Lewis, Administrative Manager for School Based Mental Health Services for South Oaks Hospital, said he has received numerous requests during the pandemic for support related to COVID-19.

Lewis said Downey’s presentations to some of the 11 school districts went beyond the thought of death, but include losses in other areas, like access to friends, senior awards dinners, and graduations.

“A lot of families appreciated the opportunity to learn more about grief and loss, to understand the different types of grief their children might be going through,” Lewis said.

With parents, Lewis urges parents to “end the stigma of mental health,” he said.

The Miller Place Inn has temporarily closed to weddings after receiving a call from the NYSLA. Photo from the Miller Place Inn

By Julianne Mosher and Kyle Barr

The well-known wedding and event venue Miller Place Inn has been issued a hefty fine for hosting an event that led to around 270 individuals having to quarantine across Long Island.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said Oct. 13 a notorious Sweet 16 party was hosted at the venue Sept. 25. The event involved 81 people, including 49 students and 32 adults, which is over the state-mandated limit. That party has now led to 334 people having been notified by the Suffolk County Department of Health for contact tracing. Of that number, 183 of those people were affiliated with schools, while 151 were non-school specific. The county executive said the people affected were spread throughout the county.

“It was the first time the health department has taken a course of action against a business.”

— Steve Bellone

The county DHS has identified 37 positive cases in connection to the Sweet 16 party, of which 29 of the positive cases were those who attended, seven were household contacts, and one case was a close contact of an individual who attended.

State law restricts all non essential gatherings to 50 or fewer people or 50 percent capacity, whichever one of those is less. 

“It was the first time the health department has taken a course of action against a business,” Bellone said on a conference call with reporters, citing that businesses before have largely complied with COVID restrictions when confronted by officials. The Inn has received previous warnings, he said.

The Inn was fined $10,000 for violations of the New York state executive orders, as well as $2,000 for violations of the Suffolk County sanitary code. The county exec said the determination that the Inn was at fault based on the “comprehensive contact tracing investigation.” Though he noted not everyone at the party was wearing masks, the primary violation was breaking the mass gathering rules.

Christopher Regina, a co-owner of the Inn, said in a phone interview after Bellone’s announcement that they were made aware Oct. 8 they were in violation of the guidelines. They thought they were allowed to operate at 50% of their fire marshal cap of 250 persons. He said, along with implementing air filtration measures, they were “operating safely” with less than 125.

“At no time before that did we know we were operating in the wrong,” he said.

On Friday, Oct. 9, the Inn announced it would be closing down after what they said was a warning call from the New York State Liquor Authority over reported COVID violations. Miller Place Inn owners Donna Regina, during an interview Friday, expressed that she was aware of “a group of teens [who] tested positive somewhere.”

“At no time before that did we know we were operating in the wrong.”

— Christopher Regina

The event has become notorious in the past few weeks, as the Sweet 16 was reported to have directly led to the Sachem school district having to temporarily shut down the high school.

Though the county executive said there is no dictionary definition for a so-called superspreader event, “Based on our experience in dealing with this pandemic for seven months now, this is a superspreader event without question.”

On Friday, a spokesperson from the New York State Liquor Authority told TBR News Media they had issued a warning to the Inn about complaints. A spokesperson for the SLA did not immediately respond to a request for comment over if they will take any action against the venue.

Bellone said that people need to be mindful of the consequences of mass gatherings so no more clusters pop up. 

“We need to make sure as we move into the colder weather, as we move towards winter, that we cannot have these types of activities that could cause a superspreader event like this,” he said. “We are entering a period of time where it is dangerous. We know as people move indoors they shut the windows, shut the doors and when inside that’s the real possibility for a second wave of cases happening.”

 

The Miller Place Inn has temporarily closed to weddings after receiving a call from the NYSLA. Photo from the Miller Place Inn

The Miller Place Inn has temporarily halted wedding operations as of Oct. 9 at their banquet hall due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Donna Regina, co-owner of the Miller Place Inn, said the decision to temporarily close came after a courtesy call they received from the SLA.

“[An official] said he has orders from Albany to go to venues on Long Island and close them down if they’re not in compliance,” she said. “As of yesterday, they added no cocktail hour and at that point, it’s not a wedding. It’s not what the bride paid for.”

She said the rules are constantly changing.

“The governor tightened the noose on us,” she said. “Our capacity is 250 … Why do we have to have 50 guests?”

William Crowley, a spokesperson for the SLA, said the office received a complaint about weddings in excess of 50 people, and that an official called to warn and advise of the need to retain the 50-person limit and ensure social distancing.

He added that he reminded them there is no dancing allowed, even with masks.

Those set for weddings as early as Saturday, Oct. 17 also received the news Friday.

Selena Rodriguez, a bride from Brooklyn who was set to get married next weekend at the venue, said she got a phone call Thursday night from the Inn, saying they were shut down by the New York State Liquor Authority.

Rodriguez was told she can only postpone her wedding, but earlier in discussions she made it clear that the wedding needed to happen by the end of 2020, as her and her fiancé are moving across the country. They were planning a wedding of 40 people, well under the state’s limit.

She said because she physically cannot postpone her event, the Inn would not refund her money.

“You can’t make me have an event that I’m not going to be here for,” she said.

This comes nearly a week after a rally was held outside the H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge where venue owners, wedding industry professionals, brides and elected officials begged the governor to loosen the maximum cap.

Christopher Regina, fellow co-owner of the Miller Place Inn, said they decided Thursday to temporarily halt events inside their venue because of the state’s 50-person limit.

The immediate closure decision was a “conscious one,” Donna added, because “the rules were too much to handle.”

“We cannot operate under these restrictions,” Christopher said. “When a wedding venue cannot hold at least 50 percent capacity, it’s very, very, very hard.”

Rodriguez added that her contract was “bare bones” and did not mention any clauses regarding the venue closing at their own discretion. The original call she received made it sound like the venue was claiming all venues on the island were being moderated by the state.

“They told me they got shut down by the SLA and they’re shutting everything down on Long Island,” she said.

The Miller Place Inn wanted to be clear that his venue did not close its doors permanently or lose its liquor license.

“That’s absolutely not true,” Christopher said.

Donna said that the Inn reached out to all the brides scheduled to get married up until early December.

“We told them simply we would work with you, move your date, provide out-of-house catering… We bent over backward for each bride,” she said. “We understand the brides are hurt. Their dream wedding can’t happen if they cannot get out of their seats.”

She added that claim from brides that they could not get refunds is “not true.”

“Our lawyer advised us we’re not able to refund anything within six months,” she said. “But we never punished a bride, never, so we moved eight months’ worth of weddings not to punish our brides … Every bride and groom has our cell phone numbers, anyone who knows us knows we will answer our phones.”

Caterers across the state also have filed a class-action lawsuit against Governor Andrew Cuomo saying their businesses can be just as safe, if not safer. They argue that with many venues being able to hold more than 300 people, a 50 percent cap would still allow social distancing, with guests still being able to celebrate.

“Please talk to your local government and the people in Albany,” Christopher added. “They are the ones keeping us closed.”

Its plans to reopen fully are up in the air.

“When the government revokes the 50-person cap, but that’s up to them,” he said