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Tests

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

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

Stony Brook University Hospital

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Northwell Health: Mather and Huntington hospitals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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As we count down the days of summer on our hands and feet and we prepare for yet another tour around the academic merry-go-round, some of us are squeezing in leisure activities that become increasingly harder to do amidst trigonometry tests, English exams, soccer practices and musical rehearsals.

Some summer revelers go to amusement parks, where their bodies travel in directions that defy the typical linear motion from our beds to our cars to our offices.

What is it about those moments when we fly around the corner of a roller coaster, or when we tilt back and forth in a machine that moves incredibly quickly that people find so thrilling? Is it the feeling of our stomachs moving inside our bodies, the moment when we experience something completely new and more akin to that which another animal, like a bird, might feel — or is it something more basic?

The answers depend on who you are and what you consider fun. I think, however, at the base of these wild rides is something we share in different degrees and circumstances. We enjoy the moment between when we exercise what we feel is the usual level of control over our lives, and that instant which balances between thrill and terror when we give up control.

Yes, I know there are people who crave control to such a degree that almost all the decisions they make seem rooted in the power to influence each element or variable in their lives. To return to a scene from childhood, they are holding a crayon in their hand and carefully staying within the lines of life’s coloring book.

Maybe I wasn’t enough of an artist, or maybe I just enjoyed the entropy that comes from my universe which always seems to be moving toward a greater state of disorder, but those undirected marks outside the lines always seemed so liberating. The lines were the equivalent of someone instructing me to, “Do this, stay here, do that.” My squiggly and nonrepresentational lines were enshrined in my response: “No, thanks.”

Recently, my son, brother and I went sailing in a strong wind. My brother, who captained the small boat, delighted at the sudden surge of speed as we flew across Port Jefferson Harbor. We were flying through the water at speeds that rivaled nearby motorboats, leaving behind a bubbly, foamy water trail. After several trips back and forth, the wind picked up enough strength that it submerged half of the boat. We heeled so far that my brother and son were heading toward the water. Still planted on the higher side of the boat, I reached for my son’s life jacket and held on, trying to use our combined weight to keep us from capsizing.

Seconds before we reached that tipping point, however, my brother let the sails out, dumping the wind and righting the ship just in time. While the outing was enjoyable up to that point, it reached a whole new level of excitement, especially for my son, who couldn’t wait to tell his cousins about how we started to tip. Naturally, their reaction was to put on their bathing suits, grab their life jackets and head for the boat.

So, what is it about those out-of-control moments that are so enjoyable, particularly in the retelling? Maybe, it’s just that — for the precise instant when gravity seems optional, when our routine experiences aren’t enough to allow us to predict the future with certainty the way we can with so many other things — anything is possible. And our minds, like our bodies, jump into the excitement of the unknown.

Northport-East Northport Superintendent Robert Banzer. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Northport-East Northport Superintendent Robert Banzer updated the school board and audience members about the changes in Common Core Learning Standards at a meeting last week.

The Oct. 22 presentation covered upcoming state assessment changes and teacher and principal annual professional performance reviews (APPR) shifts.

According to Banzer’s presentation, as far as learning standards go, the English language arts and math common core standards have been adopted and implemented, the social studies standards have been adopted but not implemented and the science standards are only under review and have not yet been adopted or implemented.   

Several shifts are happening in the ELA and literacy, social studies and mathematic standards. The shifts in ELA and literacy are mostly focused on having students engage with the text more.

Students will have a “true balance of informational and literary texts,” according to the presentation and students will build knowledge about the world “through text rather than the teacher.”

The math changes include striking a balance between practicing and understanding math skills in the classroom.

“Both are occurring with intensity,” according to the presentation. There is also an emphasis on students “deeply understanding” math concepts. “They learn more than the trick to get the answer right. They learn the math.”

New social studies standards mirror those in ELA and literacy.

These include using informational text to support an argument to help students “develop the skills necessary for 21st century college, career and citizenship standards.”

In June 2018, a new global history and geography exam will be administered based on the new framework, and in June 2019 a new US history and government exam will follow.

For science standards, a steering committee was formed in August 2014 and a public survey is currently being developed to gather feedback on a new set of science learning standards for grades pre-kindergarten to 12. Adoption of a five-year strategic plan is anticipated in 2016.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has created a Common Core task force amid growing boycotts of standardized tests.

According to the governor’s website, the task force is a diverse and highly qualified group of education officials, teachers, parents and state representatives from across New York. The group will complete a review and deliver its final recommendations by the end of this year.

There are also changes to assessments, including a greater input from teachers in the test development process.

In grades three through eight, ELA tests will have fewer questions in 2015-2016. Computer based testing will also be field-tested.

Changes to APPR are also on the way.

A new education law requires districts to negotiate new annual professional performance review criteria by Nov. 15, unless the district applies for and receives a hardship waiver, which would extend its deadline.

Banzer said that Northport-East Northport has applied for and received its hardship waiver just last week. The waiver is for four months and a district can apply again for another extension, according to the presentation.

“Knowing from May to November, for many districts, to negotiate would be impossible or impractical to try,” Banzer said. “We bought ourselves some much needed time with this process.”

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Port Jefferson students had a 94 percent passing rate on the Common Core algebra Regents this year. Stock photo

Several dozen students will get better grades in algebra after Port Jefferson school officials agreed not to count their final exam scores.

For the 92 students who took algebra this past school year — some of them eighth-graders and some ninth-graders — and sat for the Common Core-aligned Algebra I Regents exam, those test results originally counted for 20 percent of their course grades, according to high school Principal Christine Austen. But the large majority of the kids saw their course grades, and thus their overall GPAs, drop after those test scores were considered.

It was just the second year that the new Algebra I Regents was administered, and Superintendent Ken Bossert said at the school board meeting Monday night the test was not aligned with the Common Core algebra materials and resources the state provided to schools. He said his teachers called the test “unfair,” “brutal” and “rigorous.”

Last year, when the new algebra Regents was administered for the first time, students were also permitted to take the old Integrated Algebra Regents, and use the higher of their two scores on their transcripts. But Bossert said that safety net was not in place this year.

There has been some controversy in Long Island schools over whether districts were allowed to administer the Integrated Algebra test again this year, and let students use the higher of their two scores — some did and some did not. Port Jefferson was one of the districts that did not, and Bossert cited differing interpretations of a state memo to explain the discrepancy.

The memo from the New York State Education Department, dated December 2014, says if students began algebra instruction before September 2014, school districts could choose to administer both tests to those specific kids. Eighth-graders who took the Algebra I Regents this June, for example, would have had to begin algebra instruction in seventh grade in order to qualify.

The memo states the June 2015 exam period was the last time the Integrated Algebra Regents would be administered, ruling out that backup exam for future algebra students.

While Bossert spoke against students in other school districts receiving what he called “an unfair advantage” on their Regents scores, he said Port Jefferson could take some action at least on the local level — recalculating algebra course grades so the Regents exam results did not negatively impact students.

“I believe it’s the right thing to do,” the superintendent said.

Most of the difference in Regents scores between Common Core algebra and Integrated Algebra was in the number of students testing at mastery levels, scoring at least 85 percent.

According to a presentation at Monday’s meeting by Maureen Hull, Port Jefferson’s executive director for curriculum and instruction, 94 percent of Port Jefferson’s test-takers passed the Common Core algebra Regents this year, but only 19 percent scored at the mastery level. In 2014, the first year the new test was administered, those numbers were 90 percent passing and 16 percent mastery — significantly higher than the numbers statewide. But the kids did better on the Integrated Algebra exam that year, with a 95 percent passing rate and a 47 percent mastery rate.

Bossert called the struggle with mastery levels — while other school districts have students who are failing and cannot graduate — “a good problem to have.” But in light of exam difficulty and the discrepancy in how tests were administered, he suggested the district should not count the 2014-15 algebra students’ Regents scores toward their final grades as a “one-time solution,” and in the future reevaluate how final exams should factor into student grades. The board of education unanimously supported the idea.

Austen explained in an interview after the meeting that for the 80 students whose algebra grades dropped due to their Regents scores, school officials would remove the scores from their course grades and recalculate both their final grades and their GPAs.

There were also five students whose saw their grades boosted by their Regents scores and seven who saw no change, Austen said, and those students’ grades will not be touched.