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Police

File photo

Suffolk County Police said marine officers rescued three men who were stranded in the Long Island Sound Thursday evening.

A 911 caller reported to police that three men were fishing and became stranded in a 10-foot inflatable raft that was drifting out to sea approximately one mile north of Sound Beach at around 7:30 p.m May 14. The raft was taking on water.

Marine officers Greg Stroh and Mike Malone responded in Marine Delta and located the men in the raft within 15 minutes of the call. The boats occupants, Carlos Argeta 31, Elmer Argeta, 36, and Moisises Perez, 38, all of Patchogue, were taken aboard Marine Delta and transported along with their raft to a boat ramp in Mount Sinai.

The three men, all wearing life jackets, were not injured.

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Suffolk County Police said a man was killed in Coram Wednesday, May 13 after he was struck by a car.

Police said a Shoreham man was allegedly driving a 2010 Mercedes northbound on North Ocean Avenue, near Hawkins Road, when the vehicle struck William Moschetto, 33 of Mount Sinai, who walked into the roadway into the path of the vehicle at around 12:15 p.m.

Moschetto was taken via ambulance to Stony Brook University Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The vehicle was impounded for a safety check. Detectives are asking anyone with information on the crash to call the 6th Squad at 631-854-8652.

A blood sample with respiratory coronavirus positive. Stock photo

Even as Suffolk County moves closer every day to the possibility of restarting the economy and reopening shuttered businesses amid a steady decline in hospitalizations from COVID-19, the number of positive tests for the county as a hole and for hotspot testing sites for the virus continue to increase.

In the last 24 hours, 889 people tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing the total who have tested positive for the virus that has caused the pandemic to reach 36,974, bringing the total above the number of confirmed cases for Switzerland and about 44 percent of the number of confirmed cases out of China, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The number of positive tests “should be a little bit of a wake up call for people,” County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said on a conference call with reporters. “We know the margin for error in the rate of transmission is not great.”

Indeed, the county executive said the transmission rate for each positive test is about 0.75. If the county rises to 1.1 on the rate of transmission – meaning each infected person passes along the virus to more than one other person – the virus could “spread out of control,” Bellone said. “We don’t have a lot of room to spare in these numbers.”

Bellone urged Suffolk County residents to understand that reopening “has to be done right.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said during his daily press briefing today that he will work to figure out what is causing the new infections, which would enable a more targeted approach to protecting the population, Bellone suggested.

As New York starts the seventh week of the governor’s New York Pause tonight, the number of people who have died in Suffolk County continues to climb. Over the last day, 29 people have died from complications related to Covid-19, bringing the total number of fatalities in the county to 1,256.

“There is not a person in Suffolk County who hasn’t been either directly impacted or knows somebody who has been affected,” Bellone said.

On the positive front, the number of hospitalizations continues its steady decline, with a reduction of 38 residents in the last day, bringing the total to 813. That is a decline of close to 51 percent from the highest coronavirus hospitalizations, which the county reached April 10. If the numbers decline over the next two days, Suffolk County will have reached 14 consecutive days where the net number of hospitalizations from the virus came down. That would meet the guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to start a phased reopening of the economy.

The number of people in Intensive Care Units also declined by three, to 324.

As of today, the number of people in hospital beds and in the intensive care units hovered around 70 percent, which is also a targeted figure from the CDC for reopening, as the health agency would like hospitals to have enough room for any future increase in admissions if the infection rate increases in the fall or winter.

In hotspot testing sites, the number of positive tests was 1,038 out of close to 2,400 results, which brings the positive rate of testing to 43.2 percent. That is still above the rate of 35.3 percent for the rest of the county, but it is a narrowing of the gap, Bellone said.

Bellone’s office distributed 24,000 personal protective equipment yesterday, bringing the total to 3.2 million since the crisis began. Yesterday, the county received 6,250 Tyvec Coveralls from the Federal Emergency Management Association.

As the warmer weather reaches Long Island, the Suffolk County Police Department continues to monitor the activity of people who have been cooped up indoors for weeks, cooking meals, cleaning their homes, and taking care of their children and, to the extent they can, continuing to manage their jobs.

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said the volume is up in the parks and outside in general. “Overwhelmingly, people are in compliance” with social distancing guidelines, Hart said. “We’re hoping that’s what we’re going to see moving forward.”

Hart said the police will also continue to monitor any demonstrations in reaction to New York Pause, which is scheduled to end on May 15. She said if the police saw opportunities to provide face coverings to protestors or to remind them to maintain social distancing, the officers would do that.

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The money police said a St. James man sent to St. Louis as part of a phone scam. Photo from SCPD

Suffolk County Police worked in conjunction with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service to intercept cash sent by a St. James man as part of a phone scam.

Police said a 79-year-old man received a phone call April 8 from an individual who claimed the man’s grandson had been involved in a motor vehicle crash and subsequently arrested. The caller said the victim needed to send $9,500 in cash to an address in St. Louis to be utilized for his grandson’s bail.

This kind of scam has been used before, where scammers pretend to be a family member needing cash for bail. Scammers often use social media to get facts about the person before calling up family members, usually the grandparents.

The man, who sent the cash via USPS, then spoke with his grandson and determined the call was a scam and called police. Financial Crimes Unit detectives contacted officials at the New York office of the Postal Inspection Service who then contacted officials in the St. Louis office. Postal inspectors intercepted the package prior to delivery and turned over the cash to detectives April 14 to be returned to the victim.

“I would like to commend the efforts of the Financial Crimes Unit detectives who kept an innocent victim’s money from making its way into the hands of a scammer — a result that is not always easy,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said. “We would like to remind people to be alert to scams such as this one, as well as those involving the IRS, Social Security and utility companies. It is also important to be aware of emerging scams relating to COVID-19.”

For more information on scams, visit www.suffolkpd.org.

Led by Dr. Elliott Bennett-Guerrero, the medical director for perioperative quality and patient safety, the clinical trial for plasma donations is expected to enroll up to 500 patients who are hospitalized with COVID-19. Photo from Stony Brook Medicine

The next piece of personal protective equipment that Suffolk County needs is gowns, as Long Island remains at the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Today, the county will receive 25,000 gowns, thanks to the work of the procurement team which has been “scouring the planet for supplies,” County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said on his daily conference call with reporters.

While those gowns will help the health care workers who have been helping the influx of patients coming into hospitals, they won’t be sufficient amid the ongoing outbreak.

“The burn rate [for gowns] is absolutely incredible,” said Bellone, who urged residents to donate hospital gowns to the Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services site at 102 East Avenue in Yaphank between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Bellone thanked Onandago County Executive Ryan McMahon, who is sending reinforcements in the form of 22 nurses to Stony Brook University.

“Those nurses will come down here to provide assistance and relief to front line workers who have been going at this nonstop, working shift after shift in an incredibly intense environment,” Bellonme said. “We are extraordinarily grateful.”

Bellone also thanked DS Services of America, a company based in Georgia, who brought a tractor trailer load of bottled water, coffee, tea and a collection of beverages to the county. The county will deliver those donations to first responders and health care workers.
Criminals Caught

While some people have taken the crisis in the county as an opportunity to contribute, others have seen it as a chance to commit crimes.

This week, the Suffolk County Police Department arrested Joseph Porter of Mastic Beach and Rebecca Wood of Lake Ronkonkoma in Bay Shore for a string of 11 burglaries committed between March 9, the day after Suffolk County had its first coronavirus patient, and April 7.

One of the alleged burglars told police he thought he would be able to get away with his crimes because the police were distracted with the virus.

“He was wrong,” Bellone said.

Additionally, police apprehended John Cayamanda, a St. James resident, whom they allege committed several acts of arson since the start of the virus.

“This is a reassurance to the public that our police department and all of our law enforcement agencies are on the job and are able to do their work,” Bellone said.

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said the number of domestic violence incidents, which have been climbing nationally amid social distancing and work-from-home arrangements, has climbed 8 percent.

“We have a dedicated unit for domestic violence and they are continuing their outreach, identifying individuals and making sure they get the assistance they need,” Hart said on the call.
Cases Climb

As for the coronavirus tests, the number of confirmed cases continues to climb, rising 1,700 to 18,602 people. The total is about a half of the number reported for all of mainland China, Bellone said.

As of yesterday, the number of Suffolk County Police officers who tested positive for COVID-19 was 62, with 18 of those officers returning to work.

The number of people hospitalized in the last 24 hours showed the smallest increase in recent weeks, rising by 10 people.

“That is a good sign,” Bellone said.

The number of people entering the Intensive Care Unit, meanwhile, rose by 14 people, which is still below a recent high from several days ago.

Overall, the number of hospital beds in the county stands at 3,365, with 750 total ICU beds. Currently, there are 585 hospital beds and 102 ICU beds available.

Over the last 24 hours, 39 people have died from the virus, which brings the total for the county up to 362.

“Our hearts break for those families who have been impacted by this,” Bellone said. “We know we are not at the apex. We are still in the thick of this.”

To reach young people who may not be practicing the same social distancing guidelines, Bellone said he was launching a peer-to-peer Covid challenge. This initiative attempts to tap into the creativity of students to share their stories about what they are doing online and with their peers. He said he hopes those people who follow social distancing guidelines will inspire their peers to do the same.
Seeking Plasma Donors, Saving N95 Masks 
Separately, Stony Brook University is looking for donors who have recovered from a coronavirus infection who can contribute plasma that might help others fight the disease.

Led by Elliott Bennet-Guerrero, the Medical Director of Perioperative Quality and Patient Safety, the study plans to treat up to 500 Long Island patients with convalescent plasma, which is rich in the antibodies patients who defeated COVID-19 used to return to health.

Stony Brook University Hospital received approval from the Food and Drug Administration to treat patients through a randomized, controlled study. In a typical study, the groups would be evenly divided between those who receive the treatment and those who get a control. The public health crisis, however, has allowed researchers to change that mix, so that 80 percent of the patients in the trial will receive the convalescent plasma.

Also, Stony Brook announced a novel way to disinfect the coveted N95 masks, which have become the gold standard to protect health care workers and first responders.

Ken Shroyer, the Chair of the Department of Pathology, and Glen Itzkowitz, Associate Dean for Research Facilities & Operations, found that masks passed fit tests after they were treated up to four repeated cycles in a dry heat oven at 212 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes.

In an email, Shroyer explained that temperature control is important because the masks need to be sterilized at the highest temperature possible, although they failed if they were heated above 248 degrees Fahrenheit. Since some ovens might not have accurate thermostats, it would be helpful to confirm the temperature inside the oven with a thermometer.

The procedure involves placing each mask in a paper bag labeled with the name of the health care provider and work location. A technician seals the bags with indicator tape and places them in the oven.

“The team has discussed potential fabrication efforts to construct a sterilizer racking system capable of recycling as many as 8,000 masks a day through the heat treatment,” Itzkowitz said in a press release.

Stony Brook researchers hope hospitals, clinics, or nursing homes could use this technique to protect workers on the front lines of the battle against the virus.

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

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart spoke by phone to TBR News Media about the ongoing police response to the pandemic.

TBR: How have you reassured people during the pandemic?

Hart: When the Governor issued the stay at home orders, that was the public perspective of uncertainty. Once we had a high visibility presence in our communities, a lot of the anxiety level started to dissipate. With the unexpected and uncertainty that was out there in the communities, we wanted to make sure we were still connecting, making sure we were still a visible presence to everybody, which includes different types of outreach. I have been on the phone with the Chambers of Commerce, making sure they understand all the efforts we are taking to make sure their businesses are safe.

TBR: What are you doing to protect businesses?

Hart: We are working on two fronts. We are getting the calls coming in through 311 to our department of people who are seeing businesses that are non compliant or who are seeing suspicious activity in those areas. Those numbers are high. We also have proactive policing in those areas. The order has gone out that [officers] need to proactively check on all these businesses. The officers know the precincts the best. They make sure they are dropping by businesses and making sure there is no disruption, no break ins, broken glass, nothing to indicate there’s been a break in. They are going to record that.

TBR: Crime has decreased.

Hart: It is true. It bears out. Commercial burglaries are down significantly since the March 22 order went into effect. The high visibility of police officers out in the precincts and on the streets is important and it’s paying off.

TBR: Is there anxiety among police officers?

Hart: From the beginning, we have messaged that it’s important to the department that we ensure the safety and health of the officers. By doing that, we’ll ensure the safety and health of our communities. We took steps looking back to January of making sure everyone has the [Personal Protective Equipment] they need.

TBR: How do officers protect themselves?

Hart: They have the n95 masks and they have the medical, surgical masks as well, with the understanding that the burn rate is high on these. The direction to them, if they are encountering someone who is confirmed COVID-19, they need to don the n95 mask. If they are taking someone into custody who has the potential [to be infected], they should have that individual wear a surgical mask so they are not infecting our officers.

TBR: If someone in custody gets in a car, should that person wear a mask?

Hart: if the prisoner is thought to have symptoms or exhibit any signs of COVID-19, they should be wearing a mask.

TBR: What about those people who are asymptomatic but infectious?

Hart: The hope is that they would wear a mask. The officers can’t social distance with a prisoner, even if they are asymptomatic. The guidance would be, if possible, have the prisoner wear a medical mask.

TBR: Have you been vigilant about domestic abuse as people remain confined to their homes?

Hart: Reports of domestic violence continue to receive the same response. It’s always a mandatory 911 … It’s always a priority in our department. In Suffolk County, [people can] text to 911, if they are near a person who is the offender and can’t make a phone call safely. We want to message that and get that out.

TBR: Have the police been on the lookout for any hate crimes in connection with the virus?

Hart: We have a very significant hate crimes unit, which has a number of detectives assigned to it. I met with them to see if there’s anything specific they need to bring to my attention. I haven’t seen that to date.

TBR: The rate of infection among Suffolk County police officers is considerably lower than in New York City, which reported a 20 percent infection rate. How has the Suffolk County Police Department kept that rate down?

Hart: New York City has its own challenges as far as the density of the population. They have challenges to deal with, versus Suffolk, where people are spread out.

TBR: What are the police doing to help the communities?

Hart: We are looking for all those opportunities. We initially, when the school shut down, were reporting to schools for breakfast and lunch curb side. We had our community officers there to help with that. We had never done that before. It wasn’t in place. We thought it was a good opportunity to get out in the community and help where we could.

TBR: Have officers raised any funds for groups or people who need it?

Hart: They are delivering meals, and the [Police Benevolent Associations] and unions went to hospitals with meals for health workers. All our organizations are plugged in, veterans and fraternal are doing it as well, as are Cops Who Care. We are making sure we are identifying those people who are in need with food and different things.

TBR: Do you have enough staff?

Hart: Each day, I’m briefed on staffing levels. We assess it. We have made adjustments accordingly. We have not been outside the patrol bureau. We don’t have to bring in other units. We are prepared to with a continuity of operations plan. If we see more infections [among officers], we will bring other commands.

TBR: How is the mental health of the officers?

Hart: We are making sure we are connecting. We have peer teams at each level. They have unions, a peer support team, which are critical. They are out there working together and are able to observe somebody who might be having a tough time in getting the support they need. There’s a great [resource] with EAP and Chaplain Program, led by Stephen Unger.

TBR: How are you doing?

Hart: We have pushed a lot of things to teleconferencing. We jam pack everything in [to the schedule]. I don’t have to travel anymore. It’s a fantastic command staff. Everybody really is working together. We say that as a cliche, but it’s absolutely true here. Chief [Stuart] Cameron is well versed in all sorts of terrorism situations and homeland security, active shooter training. We have tremendous resources and are coordinating a lot of efforts. All our division chiefs have a wealth of knowledge through many emergency situations. This one is different, bringing that experience, making sure we are sharing that information, with a priority of officer’s health and safety.

TBR: Has anyone in your command staff tested positive?

Hart: Nobody has. We are distancing even in our headquarters. When we have our staff meetings daily, we changed rooms. We are six feet apart. We have a contingency plan if chiefs go out sick. We’ve been healthy and distancing and taking all precautions we need to be effective.

Image from CDC

The number of fatalities from coronavirus Covid-19 more than doubled in the last day, as four more people died, including three people in their 90s in the Peconic Landing Medical Facility.

At the same time, positive tests for the respiratory virus have reached 459.

“Everything we’re doing is to keep that number down and keep it as low as possible,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said on a conference call with reporters.

The positive tests include a member of the Suffolk County Police Department who works in the Highway Bureau, as well as a second member of Bellone’s staff, Chief Deputy County Executive Dennis Cohen. The positive test means that Bellone, who was under voluntary quarantine, is now under mandatory quarantine at his home.

Bellone described the police officer as a male in his 50s who lives in Nassau County. The officer is expected to make a full recovery, he said.

The county executive reiterated the importance for the community to stay home and remain isolated as much as possible.

“Young people may not believe the virus is something that impacts them,” he said, but it has locally as well as nationally.

Indeed, among those with a positive test for the virus, 50 of them are in their 20’s, while 50 are in their 30’s. About half of all the infections are among people who are in their 40’s and 50’s.

To reduce the spread of the virus, Bellone yesterday closed all playgrounds in county parks, even as the parks remain open.

“We close the playgrounds because what we found is that it’s very difficult to keep kids apart,” Bellone said.

Health officials urge people to maintain social distancing of over six feet in those public spaces.

The county also closed dog parks because of the crowding at those areas as well.

“People can bring dogs to parks on leashes and are able to be out there in the open space while practicing social distancing with their pets,” Bellone said.

Even as the new Stony Brook University mobile testing site has increased the ability to test, residents has met some of the pent=up demand to understand the extent of the presence of the virus in their areas. Suffolk, like so many counties others across the nation, is still confronting a potential shortage of supplies of personal protective equipment.

“This has been challenging,” Bellone said. “A lack of supplies or PPE is close behind the testing in something we’ve been lacking on a national basis.”

Bellone’s office is working to accept donations of personal protective equipment in industries that have excess equipment that they can spare. The priority remains to protect people at the front lines in this battle, the county executive urged.

Bellone encouraged residents to go to Newsday’s web site, newsday.com/business, which alerts customers and the community that some businesses remain open. In light of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s (D) decision to reduce businesses to essential services starting on Sunday, those businesses would need to meet that stringent threshold.

Supermarkets have created morning hours when seniors can do their shopping. Seniors can shop at the following morning stores during the following hours: Dollar General, from 8 to 9 a.m., Stu Leonard’s, from 730 to 8, Stop & Shop, from 6:30 to 7:30, Uncle Giuseppe’s, from 7 to 8, Target from 8 to 9 on Wednesday, Giunta’s Meat Farms, from 6:30 to 7:30 on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and Walmart, from 6 to 7 on Wednesday.

Bellone addressed concerns about empty shelves at some of these stores. He assured the public that supplies remain robust and that some shelves are empty as residents horde items they are concerned might not be available during the crisis.

“There is no need to be concerned,” Bellone said. “Critical products will be there on the shelves. I would encourage people not to buy items in bulk.”

In the realm of child care for first responders, Bellone said first responders and health care providers can reach out to the Child Care Counsel of Suffolk to schedule care for their children. The phone number is 646-926-3784.

In the meantime, Suffolk County has reached out to retired first responders and health care providers as the anticipated increase in demand, and potential for more positive tests among those helping the public, triggers the need for more help.

“It’s an all-hands-on-deck situation,” Bellone said. “There’s no part of this government that’s not involved in this operation or response. It’s like calling in the reserves. People will need to step up.”

Meanwhile, Stony Brook University Hospital said in a release it currently had enough personal protective equipment to meet the needs of every staff member coming into contact with a suspected or confirmed case of Covid-19.

The hospital is working to find additional supplies. Hospital officials expect supplies of personal protective equipment to become strained as the pandemic evolves and is reviewing alternative practices to protect the staff.

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory canceled or postponed all programs that invite visitors to campus. The research center has also restricted education, research and administrative operations.

Employees are required to work remotely or adjust their schedules if they support mission-critical research or facilities, to lower the number of people on site. The lab expects the restrictions to last for at least the next month.

The DNA Learning Center has canceled education programs starting March 16 for middle and high school programs on Long Island, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Westchester County. Public programming including campus tours, lectures and concerts have also been canceled since March 8.

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Police said an East Setauket woman, who had been trying to assist people involved in a separate crash in Islandia, was struck and killed by a passing vehicle the morning of Monday, March 2.

Suffolk County Police said a 2005 Toyota was rear-ended by a 2002 Toyota on eastbound Suffolk Avenue, west of Casement Avenue, at around 5:40 a.m. Jennifer Burgess, 36, of East Setauket, who was not involved in the crash, stopped to render assistance to the involved drivers.

A 2014 Toyota and a 2003 Chevrolet then struck the 2005 Toyota, causing Burgess to step into the westbound lane of Suffolk Avenue where she was struck by a 2018 Honda.

Burgess was transported to Southside Hospital in Bay Shore where she was pronounced dead.

The driver of the Honda, Chris Cardinale, 59, of St. James, was not injured.

The Honda was impounded for a safety check. Detectives are asking anyone with information on this crash to call the 3rd Squad at 631-854-8352.

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Kenneth Regan, of Centereach, has been charged with murder on a New Jersey interstate.
Photo from Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office

Centereach man Kenneth Regan, 21, was charged with alleged murder, attempted murder and various weapon offenses in New Jersey last Thursday after a week-long investigation by that state’s detectives. He was charged alongside an Eastport man, Douglas Coudrey.

New Jersey State Police said they responded to a 911 call Jan. 18 at around 12:15 a.m. reporting shots fired on Interstate 80 West in Lodi, New Jersey. Responding police said they found a vehicle in the middle lane with the driver, 27-year-old Luis Perez of the Bronx in the driver seat with gun shots to his neck and chest. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Two other passengers, also of the Bronx, were in the car, and one is in critical but stable condition and the other was uninjured.

The investigation brought investigators to Coudrey’s Eastport residence, and when police tried to stop Coudrey, Regan and a third male in their vehicle, the alleged perpetrators fled, crashed into a fence and were subsequently arrested. Police later found a .22 caliber rifle modified to be used as a submachine gun and a sawed-off shotgun.

Both men were charged in New Jersey. Suffolk County police and the district attorney’s office were said to have aided in the investigation and apprehension of the alleged perpetrators.

Attorney information for both men was not available.

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File photo.

Suffolk County Police said a man was killed in Port Jefferson Station early this morning in a single vehicle crash.

Cops said Joel Almanzar, 35, of Port Jefferson Station was driving a 2014 BMW sedan on Green Avenue, off Bicycle Path, when the vehicle veered off the roadway, hit a parked car and continued through a fence before striking a tree and a shed at around 1:30 a.m., Jan. 30.

Almanzar was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

A Gofundme for Almanzar has already raised just shy of $1,500 for what is described as the man’s funeral costs and his only son, Niko.