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Stony Brook University Hospital

Dr. Bettina Fries and her neighbor Agjah Libohova holding new face shields that will soon be put into the PPE pipeline at Stony Brook Medicine and many metro area hospitals. Photo from SBU

By Kyle Barr and David Luces

In other years, the first day of April dawning would have been a time for celebration and maybe a few pranks. This year, during the coronavirus crisis, not many were up for such jubilation. 

In a daily call with reporters, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said as of today there were now 69 individual deaths from COVID-19 in Suffolk County. 25 of those individuals died in the past 48 hours and 16 in the past day. The vast majority of deaths were of people who had underlying medical issues.

“We are going to get through this but it is going to get worse before it gets better,” said County Executive Steve Bellone. “We all have the power to make this better by practicing social distancing. If you feel sick stay home.”
The total for all of New York was even more staggering, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announcing the morning of April 1 nearly 400 people have died in New York State in the span of 24 hours. 

Cuomo compared it to the movie “Groundhog Day,” where the main character keeps experiences the same day over and over.

“When does it end? how does it end? I don’t know,” he said during his morning press briefing.

In Suffolk, the current number of people confirmed with the virus is 7,605. Currently over 25,000 have been tested, including 5,400 from the Stony Brook site in the South P lot as of Wednesday morning, Bellone said. 

The County Executive also emphasized the 2020 Census, saying as we’re in the midst of this battle, we need to recognize the economic human service impacts. 

“If we don’t do what we need to do we will be experiencing shortfalls in aid for the next 10 years,” Bellone said. “We have to make sure we’re getting those census documents filled out.” 

The county executive added Child Protective Services continues to do house visits and they have done as many interviews as they can telephonically.

“The government does not close — we are here to deal with crises,” he said. “CPS is one of those they are continuing to operate.”

Stony Brook University Begins Drug Trials to Combat Coronavirus

In a COVID-19 briefing update, Stony Brook Medicine officials said that the hospital has begun a number of clinical trials designed to identify effective therapies for critically ill patients.

Remdesivir, an antiviral drug developed to treat two other RNA viruses, Ebola and Marburg, has been administered to two patients with severe coronavirus. The clinical trials on the drug are led by Dr. Sharon Nachman, chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. Officials said the drug has appeared to be effective in treating COVID-19 in both China and Washington State. 

Doctors will also be involved in a Regeneron-sponsored clinical trial on Sarilumab (Kevzara), a monoclonal antibody which blocks binding of interleukin-6 to its receptor. Sarilumab is already FDA approved for the treatment of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, and more recently for the cytokine storm that accompanies the use of CAR-T cells for acute leukemia. The first Regeneron patient was recruited on March 30. 

Stony Brook Medicine will soon be launching a clinical trial of donated, post-convalescent plasma from COVID-19 patients “very soon,” based on the level of antibody titers to SARS-CoV2 in the donor plasma. Serum or plasma therapy for infectious diseases dates to the 1890s, when serum made from immunized animals provided the first effective treatment for Clostridium tetani and Corynebacterium diphtheriae.

In addition, SBU professor Lily Mujica-Parodi has been part of a national effort to employ a wearable technology device called Oura to collect sufficient physiological data, and use deep learning algorithms to predict the onset of SARS-CoV2 infection. This type of device would be most productive and predictive in hospitals where there is a large number of healthcare workers in high-risk-for-infection roles. 

 LI Company to Begin New Face Shield Production

Clear-Vu Lighting, a Central Islip-based design company, will begin manufacturing an order of 20,000 new face shields that will be deployed to Stony Brook University Hospital. Mass production  is expected to start by early April. Clear-Vu Lighting is gearing up with an expectation to produce 40,000 faceshields per day and approximately 1.2 million per month. Production of face shields to Stony Brook will include supplies for Stony Brook University Hospital and all affiliated hospitals on Long Island. 

Preventing a Possible Shortage of Ventilators

Due to the projections of the COVID-19 pandemic, Stony Brook University Hospital is suggesting it may be required to use a single ventilator for up to two patients in case there is a shortage once the number of patients is at its peak. In a Stony Brook Medicine research laboratory, medical professionals are working on a solution to ventilating multiple patients with one ventilator. Putting two patients on one ventilator requires matching patients with similar characteristics, such as sex, height, age and lung sizes, to avoid one patient being over ventilated and the other being under ventilated.

Stony Brook said researchers and doctors are examining the forces that cause unequal distribution of lung volumes and airway pressures, while using complex test models of diseased lungs. With this research, doctors are able to vary airway resistance and compliance and mimic acute respiratory distress syndrome-like conditions, which allows to test the use of inline valves and resistance devices to solve these problems. 

Addressing the Growing Need for Additional Staff

To address potential staff shortfalls, the medical school is preparing to allow graduating students to volunteer on the front lines of the epidemic while awaiting the eventual surge of patients.

The Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University is allowing senior medical students to graduate in early April so they can begin their professional career as a physician at Stony Brook University Hospital. They will be able to work under the supervision of residents, fellows and attending physicians to address the growing number and complexity of patients being admitted to our hospital, precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The graduates would then proceed to begin their residencies July 1.

 

Stony Brook University Hospital. File photo

The Army Corps. of Engineers has awarded a $50 million contract to New York-based Turner Construction Company to begin building a hospital extension to handle the expected surge in hospital demand in the next few weeks amid the coronavirus pandemic.

With assistance from Suffolk County contractors and sub contractors, Turner will begin building the facility immediately and is expected to complete construction by April 18.

Stony Brook University Hospital and other area medical care facilities will use the hospital extension for patients who have come to the hospital for health care issues that don’t involve COVID-19, freeing up bed space in the main hospital and in other centers to treat patients with the virus.

The construction of the 1,000-bed facility is part of a Governor Andrew Cuomo’s (D) effort to double the number of hospital beds throughout the state within the next few weeks.

Construction on the hospital extension will start “right away,” said U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1). The Army Corps. of Engineers has been “getting a running start on this project,” Zeldin said.

Zeldin was pleased that Anthony Ciorra, a senior program manager for the Army Corps. of Engineers, would be working closely on the project.

Ciorra is someone Zeldin has “interacted with very frequently, ” he said, adding the man is “intimately familiar with the First Congressional District. He has been a great resource throughout the years” and is able to cut through the red tape and get the job done.

Ciorra will be working under Col. Thomas Asbery, who is the commander for the New York District.

“Both of them have played an instrumental role in getting this to the point where it’s at right now,” Zeldin said.

The congressman said he expected local companies to contribute to the new construction.

“It would very much be my hope and expectation that Turner would be utilizing local businesses for supplies and labor to complete this project,” he said.

Separately, Stony Brook University said Batelle has added its Critical Care Decontamination System, which will allow the university to reuse N95 masks, among other personal protective equipment. The Batelle system will start decontaminating up to 80,000 masks per day by the end of this week. Before decontaminating the masks, people will inspect them to make sure masks with rips, tears, makeup, or other fluids don’t go through the process.

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.

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

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

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

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

Residents with questions about he consortium should call 311.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bellone shared his thoughts and prayers with the families.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bob and MaryLou Whitcomb at their house in Old Field cutting up fabric for the homemade masks. Their neighbor Christine Matthews, along with her children, finishes the job by sewing them. Photo from MaryLou Whitcomb

As hospitals experience a significant lack of protective masks during the growing coronavirus pandemic, locals are looking for ways to assist, using on-hand materials and their own equipment. 

Christine Matthews, along with her children, helps create masks for healthcare workers at her house in Old Field. Photo from MaryLou Whitcomb

Rebecca Kassay, who co-owns the Fox and Owl Inn in Port Jefferson, started a Facebook group, Suffolk County Creators of COVID19 Medical Supplies, to not only get the word out that there’s a need for homemade supplies but also to make sure locals are crafting these items the right way.

Kassay said there has been a growing demand for aid, and with so many people home from work and school, many are looking for ways they can help out.

“That’s what the group is aiming to do — to focus all of that information into one place,” she said.

Groups like Kassay’s have popped up all across the country as news of this lack of personal protective equipment grows. A national Facebook group called Open Source COVID19 Medical Supplies has put forward a countrywide initiative to crowdsource more of these protective items. This mainly includes gloves, gowns and masks.

The Suffolk group is just getting its legs but have already confirmed donations are accepted in several local places, including the Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead, Pax Christi homeless shelter in Port Jeff, Welcome Friends Soup Kitchen in Port Jeff and Stony Brook University Hospital.

Kassay said the point of her group is to make sure people are making masks to a rigorous standard, following instructions provided by multiple sites including www.project-cloth-masks.com as well as documents provided by the OSCMS.

Angela Clayton, a historical costume designer from Manorville, said she started making masks because she had both the material and the skillset, and knew she needed to put them to use.

“I’m lucky to be financially stable and healthy, I wanted to help in any way I could,” she said. 

The costume designer has been making masks from 100 percent cotton fabric, which can be used as a mask or as a cover for the more sought after N95 medical masks. She got her designs from www.makemasks2020.org, which not only gives designs but partners with groups around the country to get specifically requested designs from the makers to those who need them. 

People all over Long Island have caught onto this trend. Old Field residents Bob and MaryLou Whitcomb, along with their neighbor Christine Matthews and her children Nicole and Connor, have been crafting handmade masks since Friday, March 20. MaryLou said the idea came after a phone call with her sister in Boston, with the person on the other end upset of her own close family members working in the health care field while severely lacking supplies of masks.

So far, the neighborhood team has made around 200 masks, which were mailed to Whitcomb’s sister. They have made masks for doctors in the Old Field area and also have plans to ship more to NYU Langone hospital.

“I thought to myself, we’re all sitting around — why don’t we do something?” MaryLou said. 

There are some issues, including accessing supplies, particularly in terms of elastic, which has proved hard to come by. The Suffolk County Creators group has been trying to crowdsource materials from people who have it, especially the elastic bands. Though now there are more and more examples of people making ties from fabric instead.

Angela Clayton, a historical costume designer from Manorville, has been designing masks for healthcare workers. Photo from Clayton’s instagram

Though area hospitals are loath to admit it, officials have said there is a general lack of PPE material in nearly every medical sector. Some of this is due to people hoarding such devices since the start of the outbreak. As cases ramp up, hospital workers have been dealing with the shortage. There are reported cases of hospital workers using masks meant for just a single encounter for over a week. Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said there are some facilities, including nursing homes, first responders as well as hospitals, that have been reduced to a pittance of the preventative garb and devices.

Though Stony Brook University Hospital officials have said they “have supplies, but need more,” they have started accepting PPE donations. 

“It’s amazing how people can come together to support one another in a time of crisis,” said Stony Brook University Hospital CEO Carol Gomes in an email statement. “We are grateful for the community’s willingness to help one another. We’re all in this together.”

A Stony Brook spokesperson said the hospital is “open to accepting all kinds of donations at this time. They will then be sorted and distributed appropriately.”

Despite this, Suffolk County Health Commissioner Dr. Gregson Pigott said in a phone call with reporters that masks need to be certified if they are to be of any use. Making masks at home is “not advised — we’re looking for masks that can help filter out the virus,” he said. “They need to be certified and tested.”

Kassay said she agrees these masks are not replacements for the professionally made and certified items normally used in the health care sector. At the same time, while other health care providers may have better access to the high filtering top-of-the-line N95 masks, people who work for food pantries, food banks or even just in retail do not have the same access to the high-grade PPE items. Not to mention, there are several designs for masks that can go over the N95 types, potentially allowing them to last longer without being soiled.

For those looking to get into making masks, Clayton said its best to order materials remotely and not threaten the spread of the virus. Use the resources available and try and contact groups that may need masks but are not in the medical field, such as shelters, clinics or senior centers to see what they may need as well.

Kassay said these homemade masks, at the very least, help remind people not to touch their nose or mouth, which experts have recommended people restrict themselves from doing.

“Something is better than nothing,” Kassay said. “We’re all living in this unprecedented time, we’re all wondering what we can do. You want to make sure you’re doing something in the best way possible.” 

County Solicits PPE Supplies from Local Companies

In calls to reporters, Bellone said they simply do not have enough beds and other supplies for what still could be a ballooning of the number of coronavirus cases. Hospitals, officials warned, could be overwhelmed as we head toward a peak number of cases. 

The county announced a donation drive for medical supplies. They are looking for donations of N95 masks, ear loop face masks, gowns and gloves from the construction industry, building trades and others in organized labor, as they are supplies that are often used on work sites. Additionally, the county is soliciting donations of ear loop masks and gloves from the personal service industry.

By the end of Monday, the first day of the drive, Bellone said they have already received “an incredible amount of outpouring and support.” This included 40,000 gloves of various sizes, 3,000 N95 masks, 1,500 gowns and over 3,000 ear loop masks.

Donations can be delivered to the Suffolk County Fire Academy located at 102 East Ave. in Yaphank between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on weekdays. Residents can email FRESfinance@suffolkcountyny.gov regarding a large donation of supplies or a potential vendor of opportunity.

“You cannot continue to do these supplies on an ad hoc basis.”

— Andrew Cuomo

As of Monday, Long Island is set to receive 33,976 N95 masks, 86,170 surgical masks, 35,350 gloves, 14,512 gowns and 19,709 face shields. Cuomo admitted that even with these supplies, hospitals will need more especially in the long term.

Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) has said New York hospitals would need to increase the number of intensive care unit beds by approximately 18,000 to 37,000 in total to deal with the peak of the pandemic in New York. The governor put out an executive order saying hospitals must increase the number of beds by at least 50 percent.

Companies like 3M, which manufactures the N95 masks, would be shipping half a million masks to New York and Seattle.

But Cuomo said even such beneficial acts by a few companies belies the need for all such companies to step up to the plate. He has urged the Donald Trump (R) administration to invoke the Defense Production Act, which would allow them to order manufacturers to increase production of much-needed PPE items. The president has signed an executive order invoking the act but has yet to make a single order. Cuomo said those companies would be “paid handsomely” for the effort, but that it was needed more than ever.

“You can’t run this operation that way — it can’t just be based on ‘we’re waiting for people to come forward with offers,’” he said at the Monday press conference. “You cannot continue to do these supplies on an ad hoc basis.” 

Cathrine Duffy, the Director of Healthier U at Stony Brook University. Photo from Stony Brook University

Stony Brook University has taken numerous steps to protect the mental and physical health of the many health care and hospital workers who are helping the growing number of people suffering through the coronavirus pandemic.

Indeed, this past Monday, the university launched HealthierU, an employee wellness program, which streams 30-minute sessions Monday through Friday at 3 p.m.

“A lot of us are thinking about staff on the hospital side who are really being tested in an unprecedented way,” said Cathrine Duffy, the director of HealthierU. “I feel especially humbled and moved to be able to help in any small way given their vast efforts.”

The sessions will cover themes such as feeling connected during social distancing, self-care, our common humanity, worries, anxieties and fears and finding meaning in difficult times.

The sessions are interactive, encouraging viewers to comment, ask questions and give feedback for use in later programs. The focus of the sessions will include guided imagery meditation, drawing and writing, stress reduction and nutrition. The programming will run through at least April 10 and possibly longer. After the live session, the videos will be available on Stony Brook’s HealthierU web site.

The first session had almost 300 views and Stony Brook just posted its second session on the web site. Both are available on Facebook and will be posted to hospital channels.

HealthierU is looking at more long-term topics such as financial wellness and even the possibility of bereavement support.

The audience for this can include members of the community, as the sessions will not be password protected. Those participating in the program can provide commentary, which Duffy will moderate while mental health expert Joshua Hendrickson, who is an integrative mental health and an alumnus of Stony Brook, will facilitate the program.

At this point, Duffy has not reached out to experts to see if they are available or interested in leading future classes, although Stony Brook staff and community members have contacted her about the programming.

Indeed, on Monday, the staff at the Mindful Turtle yoga studio, which was founded and is owned by Danielle Goldstein, offered free streaming zoom yoga to Stony Brook employees for 20 classes each week.

“We are able to offer the classes for free because of the support we have received from the community,” Goldstein wrote in an email. “Students are continuing to pay their memberships which allows me to continue to pay the yoga teachers for the online classes.”

The notion of helping the Stony Brook community originated through group discussions among teachers. The group which includes Stacy Plaske who had run Balance Yoga, which Goldstein now runs, wanted to help healthcare workers. A nursing school student, Plaske reached out to her Stony Brook contacts.

Stony Brook employees can also access a virtual employee assistance program through the web site StonyBrook.Edu/EAP.

Health care workers throughout the country can also access Headspace, a mindfulness and guided meditation app, and 10percenthappier, a meditation app, for free.

Stony Brook started a virtual support group yesterday through Microsoft Teams at 8 a.m., noon, and 8 p.m. every Monday through Friday. These groups are open to anyone at Stony Brook who is part of the health care team.

Stony Brook started a virtual support group specifically for residents, according to Adam Gonzalez, the Director of Behavioral Health at Stony Brook Medicine.

Stony Brook is working on creating an email where employees can write to request individual virtual sessions as well. To request a virtual one on one session, faculty can contact the faculty/ staff care team by phone and/or email.

Another initiative Stony Brook developed is called Not All Superheroes Wear Capes. The community has sent pictures, handmade cards, and video messages that the university shares with its hospital staff. People have sent in pictures as well as children singing “God Bless America” or holding up thank you signs, which are “a great motivator for the doctors and nurses on the front lines,” as well as a show of appreciation and support, said Gonzalez, who has worked on the mental health of first responders to the World Trade Center disaster and responders to Hurricane Sandy. He is also working with NASA on ways to provide mental health care to astronauts during long duration space missions.

People can send these supportive cards and messages to stonybookwellness@gmail.com.

The whole organization is encouraged to download Microsoft teams on their phones and laptops and home computers, according to Gonzalez. Employees can click on the app and click into the wellness channel to see these messages. They can view messages and support resources on the Wellness Champions channel, which is for Stony Brook Medicine employees. They can also access the virtual support groups through the app.

Duffy, who is a 10 percent Employee Assistance Program counselor and is on a group with the Wellness Champions channel, which Gonzalez runs, said the channel is for Stony Brook Medicine employees, who are mainly hospital staff. Stony Brook is sharing links widely through internal channels such as the hospital Pulse page.

Gonzalez suggested the traumatic situation of the pandemic and the quarantine response creates a normal stress reaction. That includes being anxious and hyper vigilant and worried, struggling to sleep, and feeling run down and scared.

Practicing mindfulness, which means being in the present moment, can help people stay grounded, Gonzalez said. Mindfulness can include practicing meditation exercises, paying attention to your breathe, listening to music, connecting to family and friends, or focusing on a pleasant activity like watching a movie.

“Having hope that this isn’t going to last forever” also helps, Gonzalez added.

The Wellness Champions channel has different resources for supporting mental health, including recommendations from the CDC and the World Health Organization, access to free meditation apps, and virtual substance abuse recovery resources like Alcoholics Anonymous and other programs.

Gonzalez works through his own stress by connecting with family through a group text message, using Facetime with his niece and nephew, and calling friends and colleagues.

Duffy expressed her goal to see these efforts contribute to life for those dealing with significant challenges and changes.

“I truly hope this work provides some peace and comfort to everyone working on the frontlines, from health care providers to faculty transitioning courses to online, to staff transitioning their services online, to our IT department keeping us all connected,” Duffy said in an email.

Stony Brook University Hospital. File photo

Stony Brook University Hospital has created a new triage process for emergency services.

Patients who arrive at the emergency room between 11 a.m. and 11 p.m. should stay in their cars, where a member of the staff will determine the correct emergency care setting. The staff may tell patients to go to the main Emergency Department or to a new coronavirus triage service at the South P Lot testing facility on the main campus, on the corner of Stony Brook Road and South Drive. The triage area will have board-certified emergency medicine physicians and emergency medicine nurses.

Stony Brook medicine has also created a triage phone line, 631-638-1320. Registered nurses will answer calls from 8 a.m. to midnight, Monday through Friday. Nurses will direct patients to the appropriate healthcare location.

The goal of the triage service, Stony Brook said, is to provide patients with a streamlined environment for care and treatment.

Stony Brook said patients should not go to the coronavirus patient triage unless a member of the Emergency Department staff directs them there.

The main Emergency Department will remain operating as usual.

In addition, Stony Brook has established new safety procedures to reduce the amount of time that a caregiver must enter a room. The process is best suited for the Intensive Care Unit or where a patient is non-ambulatory. Stony Brook is following procedures other hospitals are also using.

IV pumps will now be located in the hall. To reach the patient, the IV pumps will use Relocatable Power Taps, which are power strips approved by Biomedical Engineering, and IV extensions sets.

The new process will eliminate the need for staff to go in the room to change IV fluids, drips or medicines or to reset alarms, which will limit exposure while interacting with people who might have coronavirus or with patients who have tested positive for COVID-19.

The tubing is standard bore and can be used for all fluids including blood.

Three sets of IV extension sets can be connected together to reach patients. IV pumps in use can be located in the hall or anteroom.

The hospital ordered 72-inch IV extension sets and will work by themselves in most cases to reach the patient.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has feuded with the federal government about getting resources to New York during the coronavirus pandemic. File photo by Erika Karp

The coronavirus pandemic is going to get much worse in New York State and in Suffolk County in the next few weeks.

That’s the message from Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) and County Executive Steve Bellone (D), who describe efforts to increase hospital beds, change EMS policies, and collect personal protective equipment to help health care workers and first responders.

The state created a viral pandemic triage protocol. By taking a patient’s temperature and screening for a sore throat or cough, EMS personnel will determine whether a patient needs to go to the hospital.

“If a patient doesn’t qualify to be transferred to the hospital, the on-site emergency responder will provide a hand-out with a list of what you need to do and whom to contact should the symptoms worsen,” Bellone said on a daily conference call with reporters.

The new policy shouldn’t create alarm for residents, Bellone said, but merely reflects the current state of the pandemic.

Indeed, on the same day Cuomo created this new EMS protocol, he indicated the need for hospital beds for the state was even greater than anticipated just 24 hours earlier. The number of hospital beds in the state, currently stands around 53,000, with 2,626 beds currently in Suffolk County. Based on the current trajectory of infections and hospitalizations, the number of beds necessary for residents of the Empire State will be closer to 140,000 at its peak, which means that hospitals will need to more than double the number of beds in a short time.

What  Cuomo had requested by doubling the number of beds was a “Herculean effort,” which may not be adequate to the anticipated need, Bellone said.

“The surge may be happening much earlier than anticipated,” Bellone added. “It is a reminder of what we need to do.”

To prepare the health care community and first responders for that increase, Bellone has been urging people to donate personal protective equipment. Two days after his office started collecting the gear in Yaphank, Bellone has received 284,000 pieces of equipment, which includes five van loads from Eastern Suffolk BOCES. Over the next 24 hours, Bellone’s office is working to create additional donation sites on the Western and Eastern ends of Suffolk County.

As testing for the coronavirus Covid-19 increases, so, too, do the number of positive cases. As of this morning, 1,880 residents had the virus among 7,000 who were tested. The number of people in Intensive Care Unit beds has increased to 50 from 38 yesterday.

For the sixth day in a row, Bellone’s office announced additional COVID-19 related deaths, as four people passed away with the virus, all of whom also had underlying medical conditions. A woman in her 80’s died at Mather Hospital on March 19, a man in his 60’s died at Huntington Hospital on March 20, a woman in her 80’s died at Huntington Hospital on March 22 and a woman in her 70’s died at Southside Hospital yesterday.

Bellone extended his condolences to the families. The death toll for the virus in Suffolk County is now 17.

Meanwhile, Stony Brook Hospital is expected to receive 25 ventilators, although the delivery date is undetermined at this time.

Bellone said Amneal Pharmaceuticals, which manufacturers an anti-malarial treatment that the state is testing as a potential treatment for coronavirus called hydroxychloroquine, has donated two million pills to the state.

“We are grateful that a local company is helping to contribute to this effort,” Bellone said. Amneal, which is headquartered in Bridgewater, New Jersey, has a factory in Yaphank.

During the pause in activities in New York that  Cuomo created and that started yesterday, landscapers can continue to perform necessary maintenance functions. Bellone said he was still awaiting clarity from the governor’s office about construction jobs.

Stock photo

In the first day of soliciting donations of Personal Protective Equipment to help health care workers and first responders, County Executive Steve Bellone was pleased with the outpouring of support from the community.

“Today we have seen, in the spirit of cooperation, an outpouring of generosity of people who come together in a time of crisis,” Bellone said on his daily media call with reporters.

Residents and business leaders brought 40,000 gloves of various sizes, 3,000 N95 masks, 1,500 gowns and over 3,000 ear loop masks to the Suffolk County Fire Academy in Yaphank. Bellone is seeking donations from 10 am to 2 pm during the weekdays.

Given the shortage of masks, some people have started sewing homemade masks.

Gregson Pigott, the commissioner of the county Department of Health Services, cautioned people about their effectiveness.

“That’s not advised,” Pigott said on a conference call. The masks need to be “properly tested and certified.”

Stony Brook has started to make face shields with 3-D printers, which hospital personnel has reviewed and determined to be medically compliant. The team that designed these shields, call iCREATE, made some parts of the shield replaceable so health care professionals could change them out.

Today also marked the first day of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s (D) order to pause, as he asked all non-essential businesses to close to reduce the spread of the coronavirus Covid-19. Suffolk County received some clarity from the governor’s office about whether landscapers would be able to continue their work. Landscapers can continue to work for maintenance and the control of pests. These workers, however, cannot do any ornamental planning and are restricted to mowing lawns and protecting the public against health risks that might occur if they didn’t do their jobs.

Meanwhile, the number of people with coronavirus continues to climb, with 1,458 people testing positive. Among those with the virus, 116 are in the hospital, with 38 in the Intensive Care Unit. The County suffered another coronavirus-related fatality, as a woman in her 80’s passed away at St. Catherine’s Hospital. The death toll in Suffolk County stands at 13.

Bellone said he is working with town supervisors and mayors to encourage residents to follow the governor’s order. As with other parts of the country, Suffolk County is working to encourage younger people to maintain social distancing.

Younger people may feel “they are not vulnerable to the virus,” Bellone said. “They [need to understand] that they can not only contract it, but they can also contract it and can transmit it to others around them. They pose a danger to vulnerable populations.”

The county executive added New York Mets pitcher Steve Matz, who is a graduate of Ward Melville High School in Setauket, has been putting out the message.

At the same time, Bellone has been gathering information about the impact of the virus on businesses. Over, 4,000 furloughed or laid off employees have reached out to the County Executive’s office through 311.

These are “some of our more vulnerable employees,” Bellone said. His office is reaching out to the employers, so they can connect with their staff so they “don’t fade into the background.”

In his daily press conference, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) urged the Donald Trump (R) administration to invoke the Defense Production Act, which would allow them to order manufacturers to increase production of much-needed PPE items. The president has signed an executive order invoking the act, but has yet to make a single order. Cuomo said those companies would be “paid handsomely” for the effort, but that it was needed more than ever.

The governor also said he was signing an executive order mandating hospitals around New York State to increase the number of available beds by at least 50 percent, with the goal being to reach a turnaround of 100 percent. Stony Brook University is also the planned site of an additional hospital pavilion to add extra beds to the area, though Bellone said details on that are still being worked out.

At the urging of his wife, Bellone himself contacted the mobile unit at Stony Brook Hospital to seek a coronavirus test. He was exposed to the virus from meetings with one of his deputy chiefs, Peter Scully, who tested positive last week.

Bellone called the mobile unit number, waited half an hour on the phone to speak with a medical professional, and is awaiting a call back for an appointment.

Bellone plans to have a Facebook live town hall on his page tonight at 6:30 pm to provide an update to residents.

“There continues to be a lot of anxiety,” Bellone said. “our lives have been turned upside down.”