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John T. Mather Hospital

Tara Matz

Tara Matz, RN, MSN, NEA-BC has been named Chief Nurse Executive at Mather Hospital in Port Jefferson. She will begin her new role on March 6.

A resident of Holbrook, Ms. Matz comes to Mather from Cohen Children’s Medical Center, where she has held a variety of leadership roles since 2005. She currently serves as the Senior Director for Patient Care Services and was also the Interim Chief Nursing Officer for a brief period. Earlier, she served as Director of Patient Care at Cohen. Prior to coming to Northwell, Ms. Matz started her career as a staff nurse at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. 

“We are excited to have Tara join the Mather family and are confident in her ability to step into the Chef Nurse Executive role and contribute to our continued journey to excellence,” said Executive Director Kevin McGeachy. 

File photo by Heidi Sutton/TBR News Media

The Port Jefferson Village Planning Boar gave the green light to the four-phased expansion of Mather Hospital on Thursday, June 9, moving the project into the final stage before authorization.

Under its four-phased proposal, the hospital intends to expand its northern parking lot, relocate and expand its emergency room, among several other improvements. The expansion of the parking lot would displace a wooded area currently used as walking trails.

Under the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act, local municipal planning boards are required to conduct an environmental assessment of proposed projects. After months of deliberations between the board, the hospital and the public, the board moved to designate the project as having minor impact and satisfying the necessary conditions for SEQRA approval.

“What we did as a board was try to, as much as we could, take into consideration the comments the residents brought to the Planning Board and incorporate them into the SEQRA document,” board member Gil Anderson said. “Based on the actual verbiage in the SEQRA law, it explains to what extent something’s a major impact or a minor impact. We gave the project a negative declaration, which means there’s no significant impact on the project to the community.”

Through negotiations with the hospital, Anderson said Mather will invest in several projects to give back to the community for any potential losses incurred during the expansion. 

“They’ve made a number of efforts to improve conditions,” he said. “They’re going to be upgrading North Country Road, putting in a traffic signal and realigning the road a bit. They’ve made a commitment to improve the storm drainage from the flooding that occurred last year. They’ve also made a commitment to provide $25,000 in fees that will allow the village to plant natural vegetation in other areas.”

Ray DiBiase, chairman of the Planning Board, said, “There’s a substantial amount of tree planting — hundreds of trees that they’re planting on the site and $25,000 that they’re going to give to the village to decide where the trees should go.” He added, “That’s a pot of money the village can use to buy and install trees wherever it is that they want them.”

The Mather project has garnered significant public scrutiny throughout the approval process. DiBiase said he saw more public feedback on this than on any other project in his nearly two decades on the board.

“We had the most turnout of a public hearing — and it was virtual — and at least 50 comments to resolve,” he said. “I’ve been on the board for 16 years and it’s the most people I’ve ever seen at a public meeting.”

There will be one final meeting of the Planning Board during which the hospital will receive its site plan along with its conditions for approval. DiBiase said the site plan will likely have several comments and instructions that the hospital will be required to follow throughout the building process.

“The project is headed for approval because the environmental requirements are satisfied,” he said. “But we get to set conditions. There’s a whole series of standard conditions for any site plan, but on top of that, we need to talk about an additional payment in lieu of paying taxes — and there are other things, too.” 

Despite the project moving forward through the board, some local residents still believe there is an opportunity to scale it down. Ana Hozyainova, village resident and candidate for trustee, said she and a group of concerned residents intend to challenge the board’s environmental determination in court. 

“I am one of the people that has retained attorneys to challenge the decision, and we are preparing to file a formal suit to ensure that we can protect the forest from being cleared,” she said.

Port Jeff village trustee candidate on finding creative responses to local issues

Lauren Sheprow is running for Port Jefferson village trustee. Photo courtesy Sheprow

Lauren Sheprow, former media relations officer at Stony Brook University and daughter of the former village mayor Hal Sheprow, is running for trustee. During an exclusive interview last week, Sheprow addressed her family’s background in village politics, her experience in media relations, Upper Port revitalization, the East Beach bluff and more.

What is your background and why would you like to be involved in village government?

I’ve been working my entire life in public relations, communications and media relations — that’s about a 40-year career. I most recently was working at Stony Brook University as the Chief Media Relations Officer and prior to that I was at Mather Hospital and the public relations director for that hospital. I enjoyed those jobs immensely.

I retired from the University officially on December 31 and didn’t initially consider or think about running for trustee. My father was the mayor of Port Jefferson during a timeframe of 1979 until 1994. He was a trustee before that and a planning board chairman prior to that in the village of Port Jefferson. He also was an EMS and ambulance person for the Port Jeff ambulance. As I was growing up in that household with my siblings — I have a sister and five brothers — we all watched that, we saw him do that and it had a big impression on me. It was ingrained in me that it was an important thing to give back to the community. 

It had been in the back of my mind for a while that I did want to do something, whether it be as trustee or to do something in a different realm. I did not have time to do that while I was working at Stony Brook because that was a 24/7 job and I would never have had the time it takes to run for trustee, let alone serve. 

When I learned about and was reminded that these two seats are up for reelection, I started really thinking about it and thought that I could contribute based on my historic perspective because I grew up here and went to the schools here from pre-K to graduation. My children attended Port Jeff schools. I have twin girls who graduated in 2010 and a son who graduated in 2015. 

I’ve done a lot of volunteer work here and I’ve learned a lot about working within organizations to help things grow and improve and just foster community excellence. I was a youth baseball coach for the village of Port Jefferson, volunteered on the Port Jefferson recreation committee and I was appointed to the Country Club Advisory and Management Council. Now I am the president of the Tuesday Tournament Group, which is actually a league that’s run as a board-run program. That’s a lot of work, too.

All that said, the point is I’ve been giving a lot of my time and I’ve been noticing and recognizing where there are opportunities for the village to see strategic growth and opportunities for impact and change.

What are your key takeaways from your father’s time in public office?

Lauren Sheprow (right) at the Mayor Harold J. Sheprow Parkland dedication ceremony at the Port Jefferson Country Club. Photo courtesy Sheprow

My father’s legacy of community involvement has always had a tremendous influence on my choices in life. He juggled so much — with help from my mother, of course. He was first and foremost an aeronautical engineer at [Northrop] Grumman, which is what brought us to Long Island in the first place. He also served, largely as a volunteer, as mayor, trustee, planning board chair and on the ambulance company as a volunteer EMS.

He had such a tremendous impact on this community with the annexation of the Hill Crest, Pine Hill, Ellen Drive, Laurita Gate and Jefferson’s Landing developments, and the acquisition of the country club being his two most significant contributions. 

I hope to be able to emulate his community service and give back by being elected as a trustee of Port Jefferson village. 

How is your background in media relations applicable to the work of a trustee?

I really feel like as a trustee, one of the most important things you can do is communicate to your constituency and communicate in a way that is transparent, concise, responsive and addresses the questions you are getting with answers and then potentially solutions.

At Stony Brook and at Mather Hospital, we had numerous inquiries and activities that had to be addressed at the same time. It was like drinking from the fire hose at Stony Brook, so you had to prioritize, you had to find the information that was going to be responsive to the questions you were getting from all angles — including from faculty, from administration, from students and from the media. We were responsive and accountable to everyone, and we had to do it in a way that was with the consensus of leadership. 

We needed to get answers quickly, accurately and comprehensively. That really trained me for a lot of adversity. It trained me to work in a calm and thorough manner, not to be driven by agendas or a sense of urgency, but to be driven by getting the information you need that is right, accurate and has the consensus of the people who are working on the things you’re trying to learn about. 

I think that bringing that skill set to a position on the Board of Trustees in Port Jefferson will help me really dig into some of the issues that are being expressed by villagers right now and look for solutions that are supported by facts, law and the code. The code really defines how you can move through a process, so I think relying on the code and the law is a really important part of what it means to be a public official. 

In the same way that at Stony Brook that I would ask as many questions as I could and get as many responses from as many different sources as I possibly could to make sure the response is accurate, concise and responsive, I would do the same in this position as trustee and follow up and communicate in the same way I have done my entire career. 

Sheprow during her daughters’ graduation ceremony. Photo courtesy Sheprow

What are the most critical issues facing the village?

I think the most interesting things that are happening right now are the revitalization of uptown Port Jefferson, one. Two, what’s happening at the country club right now. I see opportunities in both areas. And the Mather Hospital project is another very interesting issue that’s going on right now. Those are three of the most important things going on in the village right now.

In terms of the uptown Port Jefferson revitalization, the progress that’s going on there is tremendous. There’s a lot of interest from new developers. Attending the meetings of the Board of Trustees and following the progress, what I have learned is that there are new developers coming forward to propose new projects and to me that’s very exciting. Shovels in the ground means progress and creates excitement. It fosters the axiom that, “If you build it, they will come.” I believe that’s happening right now. 

The other issue or opportunity I see is bringing the country club back to all village residents. What I would love to work on is bringing the country club back to the community so that the community can enjoy it, not just as a golf course but as a place to foster a social and cultural environment. That’s what the purpose of the country club acquisition was originally, it’s in the original documentation. Let’s go back to the future and find a way to welcome all residents back to enjoy that facility in the way it was meant to be enjoyed.

And I’ll touch on the bluff for a second: the bluff and the country club are not one and the same. The bluff is village property. The village has got to safeguard its property, it’s got to safeguard those beaches and that groin. There is a roadway down to East Beach and there is a groin between that roadway and the country club parking lot. As the erosion continues, that groin will fail and you will lose access and you will lose the beach. That is one of the things that will happen if that bluff were not restored. 

It’s the village’s responsibility to take care of that property and this is the best way to do that right now. To me, it’s a no-brainer. And it’s not to preserve the building. It’s to preserve village property, the safety and security of village property. That’s what the role of the Board of Trustees is: to preserve and keep safe for the residents of the village, the property and the community.  

As trustee, my commitment is to get to the bottom of the issues at hand and proactively engage concerned villagers in the process.

— Lauren Sheprow

How can residents play a more active role in village decision-making?

Sheprow with twin newborn grandsons, Clayton and Wyatt, 2018. Photo courtesy Sheprow

The village offers ample opportunities to become involved in the decision making process, as is demonstrated by the numerous committees, councils and volunteer organizations that exist, including the page on the village website called “Get Involved.” 

There is an opportunity for a more robust and active recruitment for volunteers within these organizations — an experience I encountered while on the CCMAC and the Recreation Committee, which is currently dormant. 

Succession-planning on boards and committees is important, and village trustees as well as those board chairs should be thinking about that from the moment they begin their tenure, so when someone decides to resign or a term limit is reached, there is a resource already in place to step in with no down time. The Trustee Liaison to each respective committee or board should be responsible for that. 

It’s also clear that communication is an important factor and some in the village feel they aren’t getting the information they need to have an impact on decision-making. As someone who has worked in the strategic communications field for nearly four decades, I can say without hesitation that the communications resources and efforts from the village are robust and in accordance with village code. From the e-newsletter, to the YouTube Channel and streaming and posting to the archive live meetings, to the social media efforts, an incredibly responsive website, and other forms of email outreach, plenty of communications redundancy exists. 

What is also important is that residents know that if they want to express a concern or get involved, they will be acknowledged and responded to in a timely manner and can feel confident that their representative on the Board of Trustees will help resolve the issue at hand. As trustee, my commitment is to get to the bottom of the issues at hand and proactively engage concerned villagers in the process.

Sheprow was involved in the organization of the 40th reunion of the Port Jeff Class of ‘78, 2018. Photo courtesy Sheprow

Is there anything else you would like to say to our readers?

I love this community, but that’s not what makes me stand out because I know everyone that’s running for these two seats loves this community as well and wants to see it thrive. 

Vision, coming up with creative solutions that don’t add an extra burden on the taxpayers, and knowing how to get things done is what set me apart at Stony Brook and at Mather Hospital and will serve me well as a trustee. I’m a questioner, a problem-solver and a communicator, but I also understand how difficult it can be to navigate the bureaucratic labyrinth from working at Stony Brook for so long, and at Mather. Both entities provided me with great insights into how to get things done within the public sector. 

I will hit the ground running. I have been attending board meetings, following the planning board and zoning board of appeals issues, and I have engaged in conversations with a number of people to understand what is most important to them and thinking about how it may be addressed or how to raise it as an issue. This is my commitment.


File photo/TBR News Media

Mather Hospital in Port Jefferson has been awarded a $25,000 Innovation Grant Award from the Katz Institute for Women’s Health (KIWH) to pilot an Integrative Oncology Program that will focus on both the physical and mental pain of cancer patients.

“Pain management is cited by the American Cancer Society as a top priority for oncology patients, as the physical attributes of the diagnosis and treatment of cancer are amplified by emotional and spiritual suffering,” KIWH stated in awarding the grant. 

The Community Integrative Care Oncology program aims to expand community access to evidence-based integrative care modalities for women with an oncology/hematology diagnosis.

“We will be providing acupuncture, meditation, reiki, nurse coaching, aromatherapy, etc. to women with an active cancer diagnosis or women who are survivors of cancer,” said Marie O’Brien, NP, Coordinator and Nurse Practitioner for Mather Hospital’s Integrative Pain Management Program. Nurses in the program include Patricia Dodd, NP, Maria Rubino, NP, and Margaret Scharback, RN. 

Patients will register through Patient Access for the services, which will be offered at the hospital. The services will be offered free of charge to participants.

O’Brien said the staff has received additional training and plans to launch the clinic in April.

Daniel Tuttle received the therapeutic treatment Intracept for back pain. Photo from Tuttle

Over 30 years as a plumber took its toll on Daniel Tuttle.

Daniel Tuttle, who received the therapeutic treatment Intracept for back pain, enjoys a boat ride. Photo from Tuttle

The 79-year old Northport resident felt daily pain in his lower back, which limited his ability to walk for any length of time.

“I always lifted up [stuff] you shouldn’t lift,” Tuttle said. “It was too heavy. Over the years, I got more and more pain.”

Tuttle visited several specialists. His cardiologist recommended he see Dr. Frank Ocasio, director of Acute Pain Management and chair of Pain Management at Huntington Hospital and the director of North Shore Head and Spine in Huntington.

Ocasio recently started performing a therapeutic treatment called Intracept, which involves cutting a small incision in the back, inserting a tube and providing enough heat to deactivate the nerve that causes chronic lower back pain.

About a month after the procedure, Tuttle is pleased to report that his pain has declined from “an 11” to closer to a three on a daily basis.

Several doctors around Long Island have provided the Intracept procedure, which was developed by Relievant Medsystems, over the last few years, including at Stony Brook University and Port Jefferson’s St. Charles Hospital.

Dr. Jonathan Raanan, assistant professor of Neurosurgery, Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation in the Department of Neurosurgery at the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University, has performed about 10 such surgeries over the last few years.

Raanan described such lower back pain that lasts more than six months or a year as being something of a “big black hole” in terms of treatment.

In a magnetic resonance image, the disc becomes darker, indicating it doesn’t have good hydration and that it isn’t an effective shock absorber.

Intracept can help reduce the pain.

“It’s very satisfying when someone comes in who has tried everything but the kitchen sink to treat this” who then says “I do feel better,” Raanan said.

Tuttle’s wife Susan, who has been married to him for over three decades, said the procedure has improved his quality of life.

Susan Tuttle said her husband has been able to “do everything he wanted to do.”

Ocasio found the idea of Intracept appealing, particularly because it was a one-time effort that didn’t require ongoing follow up visits.

“There’s not much out there in the pain management space that’s a non medication, a non-opioid strategy that’s a one and done,” Ocasio said.

The surgery is an outpatient procedure and can take anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours, depending on the area over which the nerve is sending a repeated pain signal.

Patients either receive mild sedation or are under general anesthesia.

“People see results within weeks,” Ocasio said. In some cases, they can get relief within 24 hours.

Dr. Frank Ocasio recently began to perform the therapeutic treatment. Photo from Ocasio

To be sure, the procedure, as with any, involves some level of risk and isn’t appropriate for everyone.

Raanan advised potential patients to discuss the risks and benefits with any provider.

Starting in January, Intracept will have a Current Procedural Terminology, or CPT, code, which will give health care providers a standard way to describe the procedure and insurance companies a way of determining patient eligibility.

Until then, patients need to appeal to indicate to insurance companies what other treatments they’ve had for back pain.

In Raanan’s experience, patients sometimes have flare-ups of other pain that is similar to sciatic discomfort after the treatment for days or even weeks after Intracept.

“That might be a reasonable trade-off in the eyes of the patient,” Raanan added.

Deadening the nerve doesn’t cause any loss of control of motor function, Ocasio said, as the nerve provides a sensory benefit while others provide necessary muscle control.

“You still have multiple nerves around that area,” Ocasio added.

Candidates for this procedure typically have lower back pain associated with activities that require bending forward, like loading a dishwasher or flexing at the waist, Ocasio described.

Ocasio said doctors who perform Intracept receive training under guidance from the company.

Patients interested in this approach are anywhere from their 30s through their late 70s, local doctors said.

For Daniel Tuttle, the procedure provided relief.

“He’s outside, puttering around, doing the things that make him happy,” Susan
Tuttle said.

“It gave me my lifestyle back,” Daniel Tuttle said.

The Tuttles are planning a trip to Italy next summer.

Raanan cautioned that, for at least one patient, the relief led to another problem.

A female patient returned to working out in the gym, where she exercised so vigorously that she created a different spine injury that he treated.

“When patients feel better, they have to remember they are still vulnerable,” Raanan said. “Poor mechanics, postures, flexibility or excessive and prolonged activity come with some risk.”

Paint Port Pink, Mather Hospital’s annual month-long breast cancer awareness community outreach, kicks off on Oct. 1 with a lighting of pink lights by community partners in Port Jefferson, Port Jefferson Station and the surrounding communities. Lamp posts along main street in Port Jefferson will be lit up with pink lights, as will the Theatre Three marquee and many store windows.

Paint Port Pink’s goal is to raise awareness about breast cancer and the importance of early detection, encourage annual mammograms and bring the community together to help fight this disease.

One in eight women will develop breast cancer during their lifetime. In 2021, an estimated 281,550 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with 49,290 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer. About 2,650 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in men in 2021. As of January 2021, there are more than 3.8 million women with a history of breast cancer in the U.S. This includes women currently being treated and women who have finished treatment. 

Mather Hospital’s HealthyU webinar series will present two free educational programs — The Role of Genetics in Breast Cancer on Tuesday, Oct. 5, and Common Breast Cancer Myths and Screening Options on Tuesday Oct. 12. Both webinars begin at noon. Register for these webinars at matherhospital.org/healthyu.

Oct. 15 is Wear Pink Day, and everyone is encouraged to dress themselves — and their pets — in pink and post their photos on social media with #paintportpink. Then send those photos to [email protected] and they will be included in a collage on the hospital’s Facebook page.

The popular Pink Your Pumpkin Contest returns this October. Get creative and post photos of “pinked” pumpkins on social media with #paintportpink. Send those photos to [email protected] by Oct. 25 for the contest. The winner will be chosen Oct. 26 and will receive a $100 gift card. 

Paint Port Pink community sponsors will again be offering special promotions to raise money for the Fortunato Breast Health Center’s Fund for Uninsured. Redefine Fitness, 5507 Nesconset Hwy #2, Mt Sinai, will host a fitness class on Oct. 24, from 10 to 11 a.m., for $20 per person. Month long promotions include Fedora Lounge (404 Main St, Port Jefferson) offering pink hair extensions — $15 for one, $25 for two. The Soap Box (18 Chandler Square, Port Jefferson) will donate 10 percent of sales of all pink products on display at the main counter. And Chick-fil-A, 5184 Nesconset Hwy, Port Jefferson Station will donate 10 percent of sales on strawberry milkshakes. More information on these and other promotions can be found at www.paintportpink.org 

A complete calendar of events, more promotions and a list of Paint Port Pink community partners is available at www.paintportpink.org. For more informaton, call 631-476-2723.

Schedule a mammogram

The Fortunato Breast Health Center at Mather Hospital, 75 North Country Road, Port Jefferson uses state-of-the-art breast imaging technology in a warm and assuring environment with a commitment to giving you personalized breast healthcare. 

Their staff of professionals provides 3D mammograms and offers individualized follow-up care, education for patients, families, and the community, as well as breast cancer support groups. 

Their Breast Center radiologists are specialists who only read breast imaging studies and look back as far as possible at your history of breast images for any subtle changes or abnormalities to provide the most accurate reading.

The Breast Health Center has also partnered with the Suffolk Cancer Services Program (CSP) to provide free breast cancer screenings to individuals who qualify. The CSP provides breast cancer screenings to women age 40 and older without health insurance in Suffolk. If any follow-up testing is needed, the CSP will provide those tests too. If cancer is found, CSP will help enroll people who are eligible in the NYS Medicaid Cancer Treatment Program for full Medicaid coverage during treatment. 

Patients can find out if they are eligible for free screenings or schedule your annual mammogram by calling 631-476-2771. 


Rocco's Pizzeria in Mount Sinai donated pizzas to Mather Hospital's Emergency Room staff on April 2.

In his March 27 daily COVID-19 address, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said the current pandemic will test the mettle of all residents, potentially shaping their person in the long road ahead.

“This is a moment that forges character, forges people, changes people, makes them stronger, makes them weaker, but this is a moment that will change character,” he said.

As we look around our coverage area, especially at the business owners, we can’t help but hope this crisis will make our communities stronger.

It would have been easy for many owners to just shut their doors when multiple executive orders paused nonessential businesses from offering their services, while requiring restaurants to stop sit-down service for the time being. With many still recovering a few years after the last recession, some are still dealing with low reserve funds, and while federal relief is being made available for small businesses, some owners wonder if the help will be enough.

However, most are being resilient — doing everything in their power to keep offering services to their communities. They aren’t looking at their bank accounts and saying, “We can’t do this in this environment,” they are saying they will do their best.

Restaurants are adapting to the new climate providing curbside pickup and amping up their deliveries, including those who didn’t offer these options in the past. With their finger on the pulse of residents’ needs, they are also offering specials giving patrons a choice of a certain number of trays of food at a value price, so a customer can pick up a meal one night and feed their family for a couple of days.

But even more than that, there are several examples of restaurants giving back to the community by offering free or discounted meals to the elderly, homebound and health care workers. Multiple businesses in Port Jeff have started delivering meals to local hospitals, aided by the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce and Port Jeff Business Improvement District.

Dancing schools, martial arts and yoga studios, as well as other fitness centers, are posting instructional videos to their websites and offering classes via Zoom, Facebook Live or other platforms. Even on-site tutoring businesses have embraced online tools to stay in touch with students and help parents with the current homeschooling situation.

These innovative ideas will help increase the owners’ chances of keeping their doors open once America comes out on the other side of this pandemic. It’s allowed them to keep on some of their staff members and will hopefully allow them to hire back those they had to lay off. It will keep their business names on residents’ minds.

The current challenges facing the business community can be an opportunity for them to grow, and many owners are realizing this. Small businesses are the heart and soul of our towns on Long Island. Thank you to the owners and their staffs for doing everything in their power to keep our communities’ hearts beating and souls hopeful.

Crisis Forces Owners to Get Creative

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

Local businesses throughout Long Island have been hit hard because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but it also has brought them closer together. These uncertain times have bred creative and unique ideas in an effort to keep these storefronts afloat. 

Renee Goldfarb of Origin of Era in Port Jefferson hosts daily livestreams demonstrating an item in her stock during the ongoing crisis. Image from Facebook

For Renee Goldfarb, owner of Origin of Era boutique in Port Jefferson, it meant finding ways to further connect with clients and new customers despite them not being able to come into the store. 

“There’s not the heavy foot traffic we are used to seeing, so instead of just sitting in an empty store why not continue to interact with customers online?” she said. 

Goldfarb started what she calls a “virtual shopping experience” where she showcases and models different pieces of clothing from a number of indie and female designers. In these half-hour livestreams, she said it allows customers to get that familiar experience of seeing products in real time and decide what they like.

“I’m very hands on; I want them to see how these pieces look on a normal human being, not just a store mannequin,” the boutique owner said. “The viewers also leave comments and it gives me the chance to talk to them and answer their questions.”

Goldfarb currently produces weekly videos on Instagram Live and Facebook. She said she has already sold a few items from her store and is getting good feedback from customers on the videos. 

 “The business community in Port Jeff is really trying to support one another,” she said.

Though times have been trying, it has not stopped local shops from supporting those who arguably need it the most.

Similarly, the Port Jefferson Business Improvement District is conducting a restaurant delivery program that will send meals to St. Charles and Mather hospitals for the medical staff, to thank them for their service during the ongoing pandemic. The Greater Port Jeff Chamber of Commerce is also assisting in the effort. 

Theresa Skogen, liaison for the Port Jeff BID and the chamber, said they already started to drop off meals at the hospitals earlier last week.  

“We started last Saturday — it’s been a good way to revitalize some of the businesses that had to shut down and it keeps them busy during their slower days,” she said.

James Luciano, owner of the Port Jeff Lobster House and BID secretary, said the BID is donating up to 40 meals at a time to the hospitals on a rotating basis. 

“Any restaurant that is in the Greater Port Jeff area can participate,” he said. “The BID will pay them a flat fee of $500 for 40 meals. We pick up the meals and deliver them to the hospitals for free.”

Luciano said they hope to continue delivering meals every day to the local hospitals. 

In addition, the Port Jeff chamber has set up a GoFundMe page to raise funds to help Port Jeff restaurants feed hospital workers at St. Charles and John T. Mather hospitals. GreaterPortJeff.com is sponsoring fundraising efforts for the restaurants involved and the campaign will also help local restaurants. As of today, close to $4,000 has been raised. 

“We wanted to make sure we could provide that service, and be able to employ local personnel.”

-James Luciano

In an effort to further help Port Jeff businesses, the Village of Port Jefferson has created a website page titled Open Today. The page contains a list of over 30 restaurants and other businesses. The BID is also sponsoring a free delivery service  from 12 to 8 p.m. daily.  

Luciano said they wanted to have a centralized delivery system in the village during this time and at the same time have this option available to customers. 

“We wanted to make sure we could provide that service, and be able to employ local personnel,” he said.  

For some entrepreneurs, making sure customers know that they are still present is just as important, despite seeing a dip in business. 

Gabriela Schwender, of Long Island Crafty Ones, a mobile and traveling workshop based in Rocky Point, said a lot of business plans have had to be canceled due to the pandemic. Her craft workshops cater to face-to-face interactions with her clients. 

In the meantime, she has been livestreaming craft workshops on the business’ Facebook page. While she can’t provide art materials like she usually does, Schwender said she has turned to finding common household objects that can make for fun craft projects. 

“Usually when I do these workshops, I’m right there to help them or guide them,” she said. “Right now, I’m answering questions through text.”

Schwender said a number of viewers have already reached out to her saying that they would like to hire her once the pandemic/shutdown is over. 

Gary Pollakusky, executive director of the Rocky Point Sound Beach Chamber of Commerce, said small businesses are going through a difficult time right now, adding the chamber has reached out to all its members in an effort to assist them in any way they can, including giving each other ideas and advice. 

The organization has come up with its own page titled Shop Locally, Distance Socially, which can be found on its website (www.rpsbchamber.org) where it lists a number of restaurants, retail stores and other businesses that are still open and taking online orders. The chamber is also encouraging residents to order a gift card for now, to shop with once life returns to normal.

“These small businesses and mom-and-pop shops need the support of the public more than ever before,” he said. 

The Riverhead testing facility is located at 1149 Old Country Road at the ProHealth site. Photo from Google maps

Suffolk County is adding two additional testing sites for Covid-19 in the coming days, with AFC Urgent Care in West Islip expected to provide rapid testing with results in less than 15 minutes and ProHealth in Riverhead also offering mobile testing for the coronavirus.

John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson is establishing an emergency fund to help staff. File photo from Mather Hospital

Suffolk County executive Steve Bellone, who announced the new testing sites, suggested that residents need to make appointments prior to visiting the facilities.

“No one should walk into an urgent care center and expect to get tested,” said Bellone on his daily conference call with reporters.

The phone number for the AFC site is 631-983-4084 and the number for ProHealth is 516-874-0411.

Bellone also reported that the crime rate in the county had gone down. In the two week period ending on March 29, burglaries declined by 30 percent, grand larceny fell by 18 percent, and felony assault came down 100 percent.

“We did expect to see a reduction in crime,” said Geraldine Hart, the Suffolk County Police Commissioner. “People are at home and businesses are shut down, taking away the opportunities” to commit crimes, as there are far fewer people on the street.

Separately, the Suffolk County Child Care Consortium has added a 13th site that will provide child care for health care workers, first responders and transit workers, Bellone said. The new site will be in Central Islip at the Cordello Avenue Elementary School and will be run by Youth Enrichment Services. The program will be open from Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m.

For businesses seeking support, Suffolk County has established a new Covid-19 public assistance web page, which residents can access through the web site suffolkcountyny.gov. At the site, residents can use the FEMA public assistance link, where they can fill out a form with any questions.

Amid the ongoing economic strain in the county, Bellone said he spoke with several financial institutions about a number of topics, including the challenge for many people of paying their mortgages once the pause is lifted and business resumes. Bellone said the institutions recognized that people who were struggling to pay their mortgages won’t suddenly be able to provide payments from several months.

Meanwhile, the number of positive coronavirus tests continues to rise, with 6,713 confirmed patients in the county, which is up about 1,000 in the last day. The number of people hospitalized with the virus has risen to 709, with 229 people in the Intensive Care Unit as a result of their infection.

The number of beds continues to rise, with the count adding about 500 beds, bringing the total to 2,803 beds, with 598 available. That includes 397 ICU beds, of which 67 are currently available.

Bellone reported an additional nine deaths from the virus, bringing the total to 53. One of the residents was around 90, with three others in their 80s, two in their 70s, one in their 40s and two in their 30’s. Most of the victims have had underlying medical conditions.

“A lot of people think this is a virus affecting the elderly, and it certainly is,” Bellone said “But is it not just the elderly. People with compromised immune systems, underlying medical conditions, and past illnesses” are all vulnerable to the virus.

The Suffolk County Police Department continues to see an increase in the number of people with the virus. As of today, 35 sworn officers and five civilians had tested positive. None of the county’s finest has required hospitalization. The police force continues to see an increase in the number of compliance incidents, with officers responding to 182 calls. Of those, 15 calls were not compliant. The officers decided that no enforcement actions were necessary as all locations voluntarily complied. The police have also installed intercom systems at the public entrance doors to all seven precincts to allow screening for visitors for potential COVID-19 infection.

While Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) has sought volunteer help from elsewhere in the country to assist with the anticipated need for more health care workers, the Police Department believes the staffing levels are sufficient and has taken measures to protect officers.

Separately, Mather Hospital has created an emergency fund to support hospital staff and patients during the pandemic. The hospital has received donations of food and medical supplies and is asking for monetary donations to the Covid-19 Emergency Fund. People can make donations through the web site: www.matherhospital.org/emergencyfund or they can mail them to JTM Foundation, Mather Hospital, 75 North Country Rd., Port Jefferson, NY 11777.

Tents like the one above are being used during Stony Brook University Hospital’s drive-through testing for the coronavirus. Photo by Kyle Barr

Hospitals along the North Shore of Western Suffolk are changing the way they operate to keep the number of coronavirus cases down.

Stony Brook University Hospital

Stony Brook University is asking that all patients who have cold and flu-like symptoms to go directly to its emergency room department area and not get out of their cars, according to its website. Between 11 a.m. and 11 p.m., patients driving to the emergency department entrance will be greeted and screened while in their vehicles.

Stony Brook University’s Ambulatory Care Pavilion COVID-19 Triage area. Photo from SBUH

Those with cold and flu-like symptoms and mild respiratory symptoms will be directed by staff members to go to the hospital’s new triage area located in the nearby Ambulatory Care Pavilion. The triage area will be staffed by emergency medicine physicians and nurses.

According to Stony Brook Medicine, “The triage service is to separate patients with cold and flu-like symptoms from others seeking emergent care, in order to provide all patients with a streamlined environment for care and treatment.”

Dr. Eric Morley, clinical associate professor and clinical director of the SBU Renaissance School of Medicine’s Department of Emergency Medicine, said in an email the new procedure has been successful.

“The process has gone very well, and we are seeing an increasing number of patients in the triage and treatment area located in the Ambulatory Care Pavilion,” he said. “Our staff have adapted very well to the new process. The level of teamwork and dedication of our staff is clearly the driving force behind this success.”

He said doctors have seen patients with both cold and flu-like symptoms, and also those who fit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention criteria for COVID-19 testing.

On March 18, a drive-through testing site for the coronavirus opened in the commuter P Lot on the southern end of the SBU campus. According to the office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), those wishing to be tested must call 888-364-3065 to schedule an appointment. No referral from a doctor is needed but operators will ask callers questions such as age, symptoms, if they have any underlying health problems and if they have been out of the country. The information will be given to the New York State Department of Health, which will call back with an appointment confirmation if testing is deemed necessary.

SBUH has revised its visitors policy. In response to New York State declaring a state of the emergency due to COVID-19, the hospital will no longer allow visitation until further notice.

“While we understand the important role that family members and visitors play in a patient’s healing process, this is a necessary step we need to take at this time for our adult units,” a statement from SBUH officials said, adding that exceptions will be made in pediatrics, labor and delivery, maternity and neonatal intensive care, also end of life on a case-by-case basis.

Catholic Health Services of LI: St. Charles and St. Catherine hospitals

Catholic Health Services of Long Island, until further notice, has suspended visits to all its hospitals as well as skilled nursing facilities, according to its website. Hospital officials said exceptions will be made on a case-by-case basis, which will entail hospital and nursing home leadership making a decision in conjunction with its infection prevention department and following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for screening for the coronavirus before allowing visitation. CHS may make exceptions for end of life and newborn delivery.

On the CHS website, Dr. Patrick O’Shaughnessy, executive vice president and chief clinical officer, explained the screening on the system’s website.

“At all CHS hospitals emergency departments, in our skilled nursing facilities and throughout our regional nursing service, we are actively screening, asking patients about recent travel and looking for signs and symptoms of the virus,” O’Shaughnessy said. “Symptoms include fever and respiratory issues. Also, we are taking these precautionary steps at our owned physician practices.”

CHS has canceled all elective surgeries from March 23 through April 24, according to its website.

Northwell Health: Mather and Huntington hospitals

Northwell Health Labs announced March 11 in a press release that it began semi-automated testing for COVID-19 through its Lake Success facility.

“Since we began manual testing Sunday evening, we processed about 133 tests,” said Dr. Dwayne Breining, executive director, in the press release. “Moving to this semi-automated system will enable us to increase our testing capacity immediately to about 160 a day, and then to several hundred a day later this week.”

Dr. John D’Angelo, senior vice president and executive director of Northwell Health’s emergency medicine service line, said in an email that changes have been in place for a while in its health care system.

John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson is sending tests to Northwell’s Lake Success facility. File photo from Mather Hospital

“We instituted changes from normal practice long ago, starting with 100 percent screening of all patients on arrival with positive screens being masked immediately and escorted directly to a private room for further investigation,” D’Angelo said.

He added that a decision was made soon after to mask every employee after emergency department changes.

“I believe we were the first in the region to institute such a mask mandate,” he said. “Lastly, as traditional screening (travel to CDC level 2/3 countries or known close contact) became less relevant, we decided to mask everyone — all patients, all visitors and all staff — while we continue to aggressively cohort patients with potential COVID-like symptoms.”

Emergency department volumes in the Northwell system have remained at or below average, according to hospital officials.

“The public is listening and staying home,” said Dr. Leonardo Huertas, chair of emergency medicine at Huntington Hospital.

D’Angelo said a surge plan is in place for all Northwell system emergency departments which can be used if the overall general volumes increase “or if there is a surge of COVID-suspected patients.”

He added that if a plan was needed “an exterior ‘split-flow’ model” would be put in place. This would enable those who may possibly have COVID-19 but aren’t that sick to be treated in an alternative care site adjacent to the emergency room, while “those arriving with COVID symptoms but are too sick for the alternative care site will be brought directly into a predetermined, cohort isolation area within the emergency department. Every site has such plans.”

Northwell has also canceled all elective surgeries. These surgeries, endoscopies and other invasive procedures in the outpatient setting will continue when doctors determine that they are clinically necessary.

A Mather Hospital official also said that the junior and adult volunteer programs have been suspended, and the hospital is working with Northwell on childcare alternatives for staff members.