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New York State

The new front entrance of the emergency room. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

As the number of people who need hospitalization from COVID-19 decreases, Suffolk County health care facilities will be able to engage in hospital procedures that may have been put off for weeks or months.

Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) said today that Suffolk and Westchester Counties were eligible to resume elective surgeries and ambulatory care.

County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said the county was waiting for an executive order from the governor to resume those procedures, which he expected soon.

“This is another indication of opening up and getting back to more normal” activities, which includes the announcement yesterday that South Hampton and Cupsogue beaches would be opening for Memorial Day weekend, Bellone said on his daily call with reporters.

Elective surgeries are “another step forward in this transition away from a pause and to a management of public health concerns,” Bellone said.

The county executive said the surgeries would be helpful for the hospitals, as they return to other procedures and practices beyond caring for COVID-19 patients, while they would provide necessary treatment for people who need these operations.

The number of hospitalizations from COVID-19 decreased by 15 over the last 24 hours, dropping to 539. The number of people in the Intensive Care Units, meanwhile, rose by one to 186.

ICU beds were at 68 percent capacity, while overall hospital beds were right at the targeted 70 percent for reopening.

In the last day, 40 people left the hospital, which is “a very good number,” Bellone said. “We wish all those who have come from the hospital a continued speedy recovery.”

The number of people who have died from complications related to the virus increased by 24 to 1,733.

A Thursday rally in Commack calling for the state to reopen the economy led to multiple protesters acting in an agressive fashion toward Kevin Vesey from News 12, walking toward him with megaphones as he tried to keep a distance from the people who took off their masks to shout at him. That video shortly went viral.

President Donald Trump (R) tweeted about the incident Friday and Saturday, reciting chants from the group of protesters writing “FAKE NEWS IS NOT ESSENTIAL!” in all caps, and calling the protesters “great people.”

Bellone did not mention the president but instead expressed his support for journalists.

“I will make sure and the Suffolk County Police Department will make sure that everyone who is attending a rally like this, which includes members of the media, are protected,” Bellone said.

Separately, Bellone heard back from Veterans Affairs that residents would not be able to place flags at the graves of veterans at Calverton National Cemetery and Long Island National Cemetery. Bellone plans to send another letter, urging that VA Secretary Robert Wilkie reconsider, allowing the county to honor these servicemen and women during Memorial Day.

Town of Brookhaven's Cedar Beach has been reopened for the purpose of passive recreation. Photo by Kyle Barr

As summer approaches, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) is forming a working group to balance between public health precautions and summer recreational activities.

Bellone named Deputy County Executive Peter Scully as the chairman of a working group that will include town supervisors, village mayors in the east and west end of Suffolk and representatives from Fire Island.

The group will “work to develop guidelines and recommendations on reopening of municipal facilities,” Bellone said on his daily conference call with reporters. “We know it’s going to get more difficult as the summer approaches [amid] a strong desire to get back to a sense of normalcy.”

The county executive cautioned that Suffolk would not return to life as it was, as residents will live in a “different environment with different rules,” which will likely include the further deployment of face coverings, which can and have reduce the cost in terms of the number of lives lost to the disease.

“When you ask about whether you should continue those guidelines, think about how many people have died,” Bellone said. Indeed, that number climbed another 34 in the last day to 859.

The county, however, continues to share positive news, as the number of people entering hospitals with COVID-19 is lower than the number who are discharged, which reduces the strain on the health care system.

Another 90 people left hospitals and returned home over the last day. The number of people in the hospital fell by 30 to 1,411 people.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced today a regional group that will explore ways to reopen downstate New York. He also said New York would be working with surrounding states to plan reopening, with an emphasis not only on going back to the same place but improving on what came before.

“Let’s use this crisis, this situation, this time to actually learn the lessons … lets reimagine what we want society to be,” Cuomo said.

That downstate group will include representatives from Cuomo’s offices, Bellone’s offices, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), Nassau County Executive Laura Curran (D) and Westchester County Executive George Latimer (D).

On the economic front, Bellone sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to gain acess to the municipal liquidity facility, which could provide property tax relief to residents in Suffolk County.

“We are very hopeful we will gain access” to the ability of the county to do short term borrowing that would allow the county to provide tax relief for residents, Bellone said.

The county distributed 16,000 pieces of personal protective equipment yesterday, which included N95 masks, ear loops masks, goggles, and isolation gowns. Today, the county is distributing some equipment to east end migrant farm workers, who are a “key part of our economy and we want to make sure we are helping them to reduce the spread of the virus,” Bellone said.

The county executive also highlighted Nature’s Bounty, which donated 1,000 N95 masks last week, which the county has given to first responders and health care workers.

Finally, Bellone said the county continued to monitor a storm that might hit the island with heavy rains and high winds. He said the county would be watching the weather closely through the day and might need to close the hotspot testing sites that opened in the last few weeks if the storm posed a threat to those efforts.

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin. Flie photo by Alex Petroski

Thousands of masks have come to Suffolk County over the past two days courtesy of the White House, both from purchases and donations.

After U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1) put out a tweet asking for help for Suffolk County, where the number of positive diagnosis for COVID-19 continues to climb above 10,000, a member of the President Donald Trump (R) family connected with County Executive Steve Bellone (D). The county executive, who had run out of his supplies of personal protective equipment, purchased 150,000 surgical masks.

On Sunday night,  Trump announced that he would ship 200,000 coveted n95 masks to Suffolk County, which came from a federal procurement collection, said Zeldin.

“For the n95 masks to come in without a charge helps all of those local entities laying out a lot of cash at the moment,” Zeldin said.

Zeldin is continuing to reach out to other resources around the country, hoping to secure hospital gowns, among other equipment. Indeed, Zeldin spoke earlier today with the Ambassador to Iceland, who is “working the phones to see if he can help the county procure gowns.”

The 1st district representative said he believes the timing of his tweet seeking assistance for Suffolk County “connected with Americans who may not even live in New York, but who were feeling the spirit as fellow Americans to do whatever they can.”

As for ventilators, Zeldin indicated that the White House is likely to respond to any requests for additional equipment with a question about the location and use of the 4,000 ventilators the federal government already sent.

“It appears [the ventilators from the federal stock pile] haven’t been deployed yet,” Zeldin said. “If you went back to the White House right now and said, ‘I need another ventilator,’ it would be a fair question to be asked back, ‘Where are the ventilators that we sent you?’”

Zeldin said he understands the plan at the state level to increase the number of ventilators as the state prepares for any sudden increase in demand, adding he wouldn’t expect the state to provide a map of where every ventilator is located,  but he does believe an accounting of the life saving equipment would help the White House respond to any further requests.

Zeldin said putting together the location of ventilators in Suffolk County is, “something that [Bellone’s] office is working proactively on to identify. It appears that they know where every ventilator is in the county. They were working to obtain additional information beyond that and hopefully will yield some additional intelligence that helps in the process.”

Despite Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) again today sharing he is optimistic New York could be hitting the apex of the virus, the number of cases on Long Island continue to grow as testing continues.

As of this morning, Bellone said the number of positive tests in Suffolk County for the virus had climbed to 13,487, which is an increase of over 1,000.

“We’re seeing a big increase in the number of people testing positive,” Bellone said.

The hospitalization rate, however, increased at a much slower pace than it had prior to Sunday as well. The number of people in the hospital with the virus stands at 1,463, which is up 26 patients, with 546 residents in the Intensive Care Unit, an increase of six patients.

“For the second day in a row, we’ve had a modest increase in the number of hospitalizations,” Bellone said “That is a good sign.”

Another positive piece of news, Bellone said, is that 63 people have left the hospital who had Covid-19.

These encouraging signs mean that the social distancing and New York Pause, which Cuomo extended until April 29, are working.

They do not, however, indicate that “we take our foot off the pedal,” Bellone said. “The worst thing is to see positive news and decide we can start adjusting our life back to normal. Then, we would see a rise in cases again and, instead of a plateau, we would go back up. We do not want to see that happen.”

As of today, Suffolk County had 710 hospital beds available, including 65 ICU beds.

The number of people who have died with coronavirus continues to rise. Bellone reported an additional 24 people who have died from complications related to coronavirus, which brings the total to 199. He expects those numbers may be under reported and the county may have crossed above 200 deaths.

Bellone continued to urge people who have recovered from a confirmed case of Covid-19 to donate blood plasma, which is rich in virus-fighting antibodies, to the Red Cross, to the New York Blood Center or to the Mount Sinai health system, which are available online at NYBloodCenter.org or MountSinai.org.

The Suffolk County Police Department continues to respond to calls about residents who are not complying with social distancing the New York Pause. Yesterday, the police department had 24 calls, of which three were non compliant. Once the officers spoke to those who were not compliant, they immediately changed their behavior and the officers didn’t have to issue any tickets.

Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said some of those who were not complying with the ongoing social distancing rules have been in the hard-to-reach immigrant community. The police department is going out with signage and fliers. This morning,  Hart participated in a radio show with La Fiesta “to make sure we’re communicating.” The police department has also reached out to community leaders to ask for their help.

To reach younger people who may not be complying, the police department has also used social media. Over the weekend,  Hart partnered with school superintendents to do a robocall to ask families to follow the current public health mandates.

As of this morning, 56 sworn officers and six civilians had contracted COVID-19.

Image from CDC

A total of 93 confirmed coronavirus patients have been released from hospitals in Suffolk as County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said they have been cleared to go home. Meanwhile, however, Suffolk is trying to meet the hard task of staying ahead in the number of beds available before the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients reaches its apex. 

Bellone said there are 648 hospital beds and 43 Intensive Care Unit beds available, and Gregson Pigott, Suffolk County’s health commissioner, said those were spread out among hospitals, though even still he admitted, “that’s not a lot of beds.”

As counties all across New York fight to stay ahead of the number of patients, all have seen a significant lack of personal protective equipment, including gloves, masks and gowns. Ventilators, which can be lifesaving to critically ill patients, have also been in extreme short supply. Stony Brook University Hospital, for instance, has been looking to detail plans and designs that could put two patients on a single ventilator at a time. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday morning he would be signing an executive order allowing the National Guard to go to facilities that are not currently using equipment like ventilators and bring them to places that need them.

“I understand they don’t want to give up their ventilators … the theory is if the government gets them they will never get that back, I understand that, but I don’t have an option,” Cuomo said. 

In that same press conference, the governor named several locations as COVID-19 “hotspots,” which included Stony Brook University Hospital. 

Cuomo added the city could start running out of ventilators by next week.

While Suffolk County has exhausted “all” its PPE equipment for health care facilities and has hosted equipment donation drives, Bellone said they have increasingly called on companies who were interested to retool any kind of production for purpose of making medical equipment. The first of these companies, Hauppauge-based 71 Visuals, a sign making company, has retooled its facility to making face shields for health care workers. So far the county has purchased 25,000 of said face shields. 

“When we can have local manufacturers, we can purchase which can be utilized in this fight to save lives,” Bellone said.

The county executive has called on any other company who is considering retooling their operations to reach out to them, saying those businesses will be worked with and compensated for their efforts.

The number of deaths due to the coronavirus continues to rise. There are now 10,149 confirmed cases, according to the county’s data tracking website. This past day saw nine new deaths, bringing the total fatalities in Suffolk to 93. 

Yesterday, The New York Times reported the navy ship USNS Comfort, which is docked inside New York Harbor, is not accepting coronavirus patients, instead being used as a place for overflow, non-COVID related patients. The vast majority of its 1,000 beds are currently unused, especially since non-coronavirus related sickness and injuries has severely decreased thanks to current stay-at-home orders.

Bellone criticized the fact the ship was not being used to field the flood of new daily coronavirus patients.

“Patients need to go where there is space available to help save lives,” Bellone said.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone has called on residents to donate PPE for health care workers and first responders. File photo by Kyle Barr
As the number of people infected and hospitalized by the coronavirus Covid-19 rises, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) is asking the community to donate personal protective equipment to ensure the safety of first responders and health care workers.

“We are launching a supply drive for personal protective equipment,” Bellone said on a conference call with reporters. “This is an opportunity for all of us to come together to support the men and women who are on the front lines to keep us safe to contain the spread of the virus.”

Bellone is seeking N95 masks, ear loop masks, gloves, and gowns from individuals or businesses. As Governor Andrew Cuomo’s (D) order to shut down barber shops, nail salons and other personal care services takes effect, some of the businesses may have equipment that could save the lives of those people who are helping others afflicted with the virus.

“We are going to be making a direct appeal to those industries,” Bellone said. “We will be doing direct outreach to them so we can ask them to support this effort.”

Starting on Monday, individuals and businesses can bring the supplies from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to the Suffolk County Fire Academy in Yaphank, located at 102 East Avenue.

Bellone expressed appreciation that Cuomo said this morning that Long Island would receive 500,000 masks, but indicated that the need in the coming weeks and months would likely exceed that supply.

“We need to do more,” Bellone said.

Starting on Monday, the Suffolk County Police Department, meanwhile, will require residents to report all non-emergency incidents online or by phone. These include harassing communications, lost property, criminal mischief and vandalism, minor traffic incidents, identity theft, among other non emergency reports.

“The last thing we can afford to do is take the people on the front lines off the battlefield,” Bellone said.

Bellone praised the efforts of schools to provide grab and go meals for students. He thanked Island Harvest and Long Island Cares for their ongoing efforts to meet this growing need.

The number of infected residents has climbed to 662. That includes 55 people who are receiving treatment in the hospital, with 14 of those in Intensive Care Units.

The virus has killed two additional residents. A woman in her 80’s passed away at Huntington Hospital, while another woman in her late 80’s died at Peconic Landing. A total of nine residents have died from the pandemic.

Officials expect the number of infected individuals will continue to climb, especially after the Stony Brook University Hospital mobile testing site started administering tests this week. At this point, the mobile unit has tested over 1,500 people.

Suffolk County Chief of Police Stuart Cameron reiterated the necessity of keeping up social distancing to contain the spread of the virus. He suggested that people aware of someone violating restrictions should call 631-852-COPS. He is aware of 26 such reports, with only one instance of a violation when officers arrived. Officers will attempt to seek compliance first.

“My experience, talking to younger folks, is that they don’t seem to be concerned about this because of reports that they won’t be seriously ill,” Cameron said on the call. “They need to be told that they can affect someone who is vulnerable and that [the person who gets the virus] could die.”

Cameron suggested that officers would start engaging in non-traditional law enforcement roles to protect the public amid this ongoing crisis.

Cuomo, meanwhile, urged seniors to follow Matilda’s law, which is named for his mother. This law provides protection for New Yorkers who are 70 and older and for people with compromised immune systems and those with underlying illnesses. He urged that group to remain indoors unless they are exercising on their own outside, pre-screen visitors by taking their temperature, not to visit houses with multiple people, wear a mask when others are near, ask others to wear masks in their presence, maintain social distancing of six feet and avoid public transportation when possible.

The College Board has said they are pushing back this year's SATs to August. Stock photo

In response to schools closing around the country and to the ongoing isolation caused by the coronavirus Covid-19, the College Board has canceled face-to-face Advanced Placement exams, replacing them with a 45-minute only exam students can take at home.

The Advancement Placement tests often offer high school students the opportunity to receive college credit for subjects they have mastered.

The College Board is providing free remote learning resources. Beginning Mach 25, students can attend free, live AP review courses, which AP teachers across the country will deliver. The classes, which can supplement any online teaching students receive through their schools, will be available on demand and will focus on reviewing the skills and concepts from the first 75 percent of the course. There will also be some supplementary lessons covering the final quarter of the course.

The College Board will also unlock any relevant free-response questions in AP classroom for digital use, so students can study practice questions that are similar to the ones that would appear on the exam.

Any student registered for an AP test can choose to cancel at no charge.

The College Board decided to change the format of the exam after surveying 18,000 AP students, 91 percent of whom wanted to have the chance to take the exam.

To be fair to students who may have had more time off from school amid the virus outbreak, the College Board plans to focus the exam questions on topics and skills most AP teachers covered in class by early March.

The College Board indicated colleges supported this solution and are committed to ensuring that AP students receive credit for scores that meet their requirements. Colleges have accepted a shortened AP exam for college credit when groups of students experienced other emergencies, the College Board explained.

Students can take the exam on any electronic device. They will also be able to take a picture of handwritten work.

The College Board uses a range of digital security tools and techniques, including plagiarism detection software, to discourage and catch any potential cheating.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has declared a shutdown of all businesses in New York. File photo by Sara Meghan Walsh

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo (D) announced earlier today that he is shutting down all businesses that are not considered essential starting this Sunday evening.

Businesses that will remain open include grocery stores and pharmacies, among others.

At a press conference, Cuomo said, “this is the most drastic action we can take,” adding these provisions will be enforced.

“These are not helpful hints,” he said. “These are legal provisions. They will be enforced. There will be a civil fine and mandatory closure for any business that is not in compliance. Your actions can affect my health. That’s where we are.”

He tackled misconceptions among younger people. He said bad information includes the perception that young people can’t get it or that young people can’t transmit it if they’re not symptomatic. Those are both “factually wrong,” Cuomo said. He cited that 20 percent of coronavirus cases are from people ages 20 to 44, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The 56th Governor of the Empire State said non-essential gatherings of individuals of any size for any reason are canceled at this time.

To protect those most at risk, Cuomo is also announcing Matilda’s Law to protect New Yorkers who are over 70 years old with compromised immune systems. He urges them to remain indoors, pre-screen visitors by taking their temperature, and require visitors to wear masks and remain six feet away from others. He strongly discouraged people in this group from taking public transportation, “unless urgent and absolutely necessary.”

He is also implementing a 90-day moratorium on evictions for residential and commercial tenants.

“I understand that may affect businesses negatively and I’ve spoken to a number of them,” Cuomo said. “I know that we’re going to put people out of work with what I did. I want to make sure I don’t put them out of their house.”

Cuomo said the order was definitely not a “shelter-in-place” order, but rather was a way to “tighten the valve” on the density of the population, reducing the risk of exposure and contagion.

Stock photo

*Update* This post has been amended to reflect new cases of coronavirus in Suffolk County as well as new info from town and county sources.

In the same week the World Health Organization called the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, Suffolk County recorded its first six positive tests for COVID-19.

The first four people to have the virus contracted it through community transmission, which means that none of them traveled to countries where infections are more prevalent. The patients include a Brookhaven Town man in his 20s who is in isolation at Stony Brook University Hospital, a Southold resident who is in her 20s and is under home isolation, a man in his 80s who is in isolation at St. Catherine’s Hospital and a man in his 40s who is in isolation Stony Brook Southampton Hospital. 

At the same time, eight people were under mandatory quarantine while the New York State Department of Health is monitoring 72 people under precautionary quarantine because of their travel abroad, according to officials from the Suffolk County Health Department.

Dr. Gregson Pigott, commissioner of the county Department of Health Services, said the patient is “getting better” and expected that he will “be fine.” 

Pigott said several area facilities have developed the ability to test for COVID-19, including LabCorp and Northwell Health Labs, which received state and federal approval to start manual testing for the virus. Northwell is seeking U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval to use semi-automated testing within the week, which could boost the number of tests to the hundreds per day and into the thousands in the near future, the health lab said.

Pigott said Suffolk County was “on top of” the virus “for now” but that the circumstances could change, which is why several facilities have taken steps to protect various populations.

Stony Brook University told students this week that it would transition to all online classes starting on March 23, according to a letter sent out to students. The online version of the classes will continue through the end of the spring semester. Stony Brook is one of several colleges throughout the country that is taking steps to protect students through online versions of their classes. Princeton University, Stanford University, Harvard College and the University of Washington, to name a few, are also teaching classes online. Hofstra University canceled classes this week as well.

On March 10, Stony Brook’s Staller Center canceled all events for March “out of an abundance of caution” due to the coronavirus, according to a release.

Meanwhile, the New York State Education Department and the State Department of Health issued updated guidance to school and community health officials, which includes requiring schools to close for 24 hours if a student or staff member attended school prior to being confirmed as a positive COVID-19 patient. Additionally, during that period the school is expected to disinfect the building or buildings where the person had contact prior to testing positive. The departments also urged schools to work with community feeding organizations to plan for distribution of food to students who rely on the two meals served at schools each day.

The local health department will notify schools if and when they are required to close because of the virus and when they can reopen. Schools are not expected to decide about closing or canceling events on their own.

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory has canceled all public events, including lectures and on-site visits, through April 30.

Brookhaven National Laboratory, responding to guidance from the U.S. Department of Energy, has suspended all international business travel, with an exception for mission-essential international travel. Staff returning from China, Iran, South Korea and Italy are required to self-quarantine for 14 days. Staff will also have to self-quarantine if a household member traveled to those countries. All in-person visits of people from those countries are postponed.

Meanwhile, county Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr. (D) suspended all contact visits with prisoners. Noncontact visits can still be scheduled in advance, while visiting hours will be 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and will be limited to 30-minute sessions.

To protect the most vulnerable population, the U.S. State Department also made recommendations to senior facilities. Following those guidelines, Affinity Skilled Living in Oakdale started screening staff and visitors earlier this week, which includes taking their temperature. The facility also has restricted visiting hours.

Brookhaven Town officials, with Supervisor Ed Romaine at the microphone, join local representatives from the state and nearby townships to protest the LIRR’s planned fare hike. Photo from TOB

Local and state officials, along with citizen advocates voiced a collective message to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and New York City during a press conference at Ronkonkoma train station on March 2: “Stop shortchanging Long Island.” 

The group called on the MTA to abandon its plan for a systemwide 4 percent fare increase in 2021 for Long Island Rail Road customers, including those in Nassau and Suffolk counties. The decision was a part of the NYC Outer Borough Rail Discount plan which offers an up to 20 percent discount for city riders. 

“Everything is being pushed out to Long Island in terms of expenses and it won’t be long until you’re expected to buy them a coffee and a bagel as well.”

— Ed Smyth

“Long Island is not the cash cow for New York City,” said Ed Romaine (R), Brookhaven Town supervisor. “This is unconscionable, this is a handout to the city at the expense of Long Island.”

Romaine said a typical Ronkonkoma LIRR commuter who purchases a monthly parking pass, monthly train ticket and unlimited ride Metrocard would have to pay $7,224 annually. 

“The MTA has not made the capital investments it should on Long island — what about our riders?” Romaine said. 

The supervisor added that Long Island has already been shortchanged regarding electrification, as there is no electrification east of Huntington and none past the Ronkonkoma station.

The discounts were mandated by the state Legislature as a condition of its approval of congestion pricing legislation, which would create new tolls for drivers in Manhattan to help fund the authority’s $51.5 billion capital program. The plan will go into effect in May of this year. 

Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) also took issue with the MTA’s decision. 

“We had the congestion pricing vote, which I voted against it,” he said. “This is completely counterintuitive to the folks using the trains. Congestion pricing was meant to get individuals to start using public transportation and not use their vehicles.”

He added that the MTA has billions of dollars of subsidies from the state and federal government. 

“This is a New York City problem — we should not bear the brunt of it,” he said. “Mayor [Bill] de Blasio [D] should pay for this — they are overwhelmingly serviced [by the MTA].”

The MTA board is made up of 21 stakeholders appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), including people recommended by unions and municipalities such as the city and surrounding counties. Kevin Law represents Suffolk County, and was nominated by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D). The other Long Island representative, David Mack, represents Nassau.

Despite their differences, officials continued to agree with the planned change at a Feb. 26 board meeting, saying they expect the up to 20 percent discount to entice Queens and Brooklyn commuters to use the LIRR if they live far from a subway line.

MTA officials say this is a pilot program up to one year’s duration. 

However, on Long Island, other local officials voiced their displeasures. 

“This is unconscionable, this is a handout to the city at the expense of Long Island.”

— Ed Romaine

Ed Smyth (R), Huntington Town councilman, said commuters will essentially be paying for their ticket and for somebody in NYC. 

“Everything is being pushed out to Long Island in terms of expenses and it won’t be long until you’re expected to buy them a coffee and a bagel as well,” he said. 

Kevin LaValle (R-Selden), Brookhaven Town councilman, said the MTA plan would negatively affect the progress they’ve made to bring transit-oriented development to the area. 

“On a town level, this is something we’ve been working on for years,” he said. “The Tritec [Ronkonkoma Hub] development is an example of that. It will make it easier for Long islanders to get into the city. With these fee increases it will make it harder for them to afford to live here and ride here.”

Palumbo added he will be writing a letter to Cuomo in the coming days and will ask Long Island representatives from both political parties to sign it. The assemblyman is hopeful the plan can be changed before the NYS budget deadline next month. 

“Hopefully he can see it, and this can be fixed on April 1 — I’m just hoping that it doesn’t fall on deaf ears,” he said. 

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory has halted all public events until April due to the Coronavirus. File photo

With six cases of coronavirus Covid-19 in New York state confirmed as at March 4, state, local institutions are preparing for the potential spread of the virus.

New York lawmakers earlier this week passed a $40 million spending bill. The funds will allow the Department of Health to hire staff, purchase equipment and gather additional resources to address a virus for which a travel ban no longer seems sufficient to ensure containment.

A 50-year old Westchester man tested positive for the virus, even though he didn’t travel to areas of contamination, which include China, South Korea and Italy, and didn’t have known contact with anyone who has traveled to those areas. Through the so-called community spread of the virus, which has a mortality rate of more than 3 percent, can infect a wider range of people.

Northwell Health Labs said earlier this week it expects to begin testing for Covid-19 within a week. The health facility, which announced the future testing at a news conference March 2 with U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), said manual testing could involve 75 to 100 tests each day. After it automates the tests, the facility could process hundreds and even thousands of tests on a daily basis. Mather Hospital in Port Jefferson is part of Northwell Health group.

Meanwhile, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and Stony Brook University have made recommendations to staff who might travel to areas of infection.

BNL is following the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and the State Department regarding health notices and travel advisories. The U.S. State Department has a do-not-travel restriction on trips to China and Iran, along with specific areas of Italy and South Korea, while it also recommends reconsidering travel to Italy, South Korea and Mongolia.

Also, BNL is asking visiting scientists if they traveled to China or live with someone who visited China within 14 days. If the answer to either question is “yes,” these individuals have to complete a 14-day period away from China without symptoms before returning to the lab.

BNL canceled the International Forum on Detectors for Photon Science conference, which was scheduled for March 29 through April 1 at Danfords Hotel in Port Jefferson. The conference was expected to have 40 participants.

CSHL has canceled or postponed all upcoming conferences and courses bringing participants to campus through April 5th. The laboratory will reevaluate future offerings on a rolling basis.

Also, CSHL is cleaning common areas including bathrooms, counters and dining areas more frequently, is providing more hand sanitation stations, is enhancing the readiness of its Center for Health & Wellness and is providing secure transfer protocols for at-risk people with potential symptoms of the virus.

SBU discouraged school-related and personal travel to China, Italy, Iran and South Korea. The school also created a mandatory preapproval requirement for all publicly funded university-sponsored travel plans to China, Italy, Iran and South Korea. SBU has not canceled the Florence University of the Arts program, since the university is continuing classes as usual and the Tuscany region doesn’t have any reported cases of the virus.

On a national level, the Federal Reserve, in a move similar to decisions from other central banks, cut interest rates by half a percentage point, the biggest cut since the financial crisis of 2008. The cut was designed to stave off an economic slowdown caused by business disruptions from the coronavirus.

“The coronavirus poses evolving risks to economic activity,” the Federal Reserve said in a statement.

Updated March 5 to reflect most current CSHL procedures regarding conferences and courses.