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Thanksgiving

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Comsewogue school administrators and the owners and coach at Port Crossfit gather for a donation of 20 turkeys and 51 gift cards to go to residents in the district. Photo by Kyle Barr

Members of Port Crossfit in Port Jefferson Station are giving back to the needy in the local community through the Comsewogue School District.

The crossfit gym delivered a host of turkeys and gift cards to Boyle Road Elementary School Tuesday, Nov. 24. 

Gym members raised money by asking family and friends to donate funds for every pound or inch on their waistline they lost over the past few weeks. As members lost over 100 pounds and a whole lot of inches, the gym acquired close to $2,000, which they used to purchase 20 turkeys and 51, $25 gift cards for Stop & Shop, the total of of which were worth approximately $1,200.

“It’s less about the turkeys and less about the gift cards — it’s always good to feed people in need — it’s more about the support system in the community,” Port Crossfit co-owner Kyle Tiringer said. “You’re inner circle, your family, those are the people that help you push through struggles to reach your goals. If we can pull together our powers to keep families together, maybe they can help accomplish a whole lot more for themselves and ultimately the community will benefit from that.”

Principal of Boyle Road Elementary School Nicole Sooknanan said the district’s nurses and social workers combined their efforts to identify families in need at this time of year. The turkeys will be going to families not just at Boyle Road but throughout the district.

The food and gift cards supplement a food drive hosted by the school where they gather nonperishables to put together  thanksgiving dinners for local families. 

“Comsewogue is really about family and coming together,” Sooknanan said. “Obviously this year has brought on new circumstances for families, and I’m proud to be able to help our community. We help one another — that’s what we do here.”

Port Jefferson Farmer's Market

While 2020 certainly had its downfalls, Thanksgiving is approaching and it’s reminding us what we’re grateful for this year. Our reporter, Julianne Mosher, headed down to the Village of Port Jefferson’s weekly Farmer’s Market to ask stand owners and their friends what they’re thankful for this year, and what they’re doing for Thursday’s holiday.

Erin Reid, NahMaStay Vegan

I’m thankful for love. Love is something everyone lives for, and that’s why I do this because I love what I do.

 

 

 

Rob, Darlene, Bobby and Francesca Baslie

Rob: We’re just so happy to be healthy.

Bobby: I can’t wait to eat corn on Thanksgiving. Francesca likes Lunchables.

 

 

Gary Newman, Beewitched Bee

I’m still working, so that’s really good. I’m thankful I was working throughout the pandemic. A lot of people weren’t, so I’m lucky I was.

 

 

 

JoAnn DeLucia, JoAnn’s Desserts

Family. That’s the first and foremost important thing. I’m thankful for our health and for our family.

 

 

 

Agathe Snow, Mushrooms NYC

I’m thankful for my health, but more importantly my parent’s health. I’m also thankful for our farm surviving – we moved from NYC to Mattituck to expand and it’s going really well!

 

 

Theresa DeGregorio, Bambino Ravioli

I’m thankful for health, my family and good food that we’ll be eating this week.

 

 

 

Marc, Jacob and Melissa Gordon, Sweets by Amy G

We’re thankful for family and having time with our family.

 

 

 

Danielle Paul, Pecks of Maine Jams

I’m thankful for my family and friends – and being able to work during a pandemic. It’s been hard for everyone.

 

 

 

Naela Zeidan, Naela Organics

We’re thankful for our health. Luckily our whole family has been COVID free this whole time, and we’re keeping Thanksgiving small this year.

 

 

Photos by Julianne Mosher

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By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Thanksgiving 2020 will surely be remembered by all. Other Thanksgivings blend into each other on the impressionist edges of memory, in a sepia-colored haze. But this one will stand out like a gargoyle, in bas-relief at the center. Never before have we disinvited our children from our homes during this holiday. Never have we set the table for so few. Never have we been urged not to travel to reconnect with our families. Never have we been drilled on the three Ws: wash your hands, watch your social distancing, wear your mask. COVID-19 overhangs our lives.

Nonetheless, for most of us, there is so much to be thankful for, even as we have to push past the anxiety and the upending of our lives the pandemic has caused to remind ourselves of the many ways we can be thankful.

First is for the good health most of us are lucky enough to enjoy: for our own and that of our loved ones. Perhaps, never has good health been viewed as such a blessing as now, as hundreds of thousands fall ill. Even without the coming vaccine, we can work to keep the virus at bay by diligently following the three Ws.

Next is the love we have in our lives that has become so manifestly important to acknowledge and declare. It is that love: for our spouses, our parents, our children, our dearest relatives and friends that is our safety net during these challenging days. We have always been aware of that love but perhaps not so appreciatively as now. The need to connect with them has not been so vital as now. And if we have a warm home and people who live in it with us, and enough to eat each day, how thankful we can be.

We can be thankful for our jobs, if we have them, and if we don’t, for the country we live in that supports us at least partially during our temporary unemployment. And if we are holding on ourselves, we can help others around us through our churches, soup kitchens and donations to our neighbors in need. To help others is a great privilege.

Though I never particularly embraced the computer when it appeared in our daily lives in the 1970s and 1980s, I am thankful for technology. Because of my computer, I can see my children and grandchildren regularly. I even have a place in the house nicknamed the Zoom Room. I can also see my friends, attend meetings, albeit virtually, and learn new subjects if I choose.

I escape from the news and the responsibilities of daily life with movies on Netflix and other streaming services. I still cannot stop marveling at Siri and the ability to find the answers to all sorts of questions by just pushing a button on my cellphone.

I sometimes think of my husband, whose poor sense of direction was legendary in the family, and how he would have loved the GPS. The ability to call someone from this marvelous invention I hold in my hand and tell them I am on my way but will be 15 minutes late or that I need help because I have a flat tire is a commonplace miracle of the 21st century. How lucky we are to be alive in these times, when a vaccine to overcome our version of the black plague can be developed in a matter of months.

Difficult times force us to turn inward and find the resilience to cope. And we can cope, we all can. If we believe in ourselves and have faith that this pandemic will end, which it surely will, we can then build back our lives and our world again. We can give thanks for that inner strength. Governments must help, charities and philanthropies do help, and we can help ourselves and each other. We can take inspiration from the natural world, which goes on in all its seasons of beauty despite periodic upheavals, and thankfully we will too.

Thanksgiving 2021 we will all together sit around the dinner table and profoundly give thanks.

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By Beverly C. Tyler

Celebrating Thanksgiving Day as the end of the season of harvest was and still is an important milestone in people’s lives. Diaries, journals and letters provide some of the earliest records of seasonal activity and how people connected with each other to mark occasions. In America, before the telephone became a standard household item, family members and friends stayed in touch through the U.S. Postal Service.   

In 1873, a new phenomenon began when the United States Postal Service issued the first penny postcards. During the first six months, they sold 60 million. The post office department stated: “The object of the postal card is to facilitate letter correspondence and provide for the transmission through the mails, at a reduced rate of postage, of short communication, either printed or written in pencil or ink.”

With the postcard, brevity was essential due to the small space provided. Long descriptive phrases and lengthy expressions of affection, which then were commonly used in letter-writing, gave way to short greetings.

Soon after the first government postal cards were issued, American greeting card manufacturers began to print Christmas, Easter and other greetings on the back of the cards. By the 1890s, picture postcards were widely sold in many European countries, but in the United States, privately printed cards cost 2 cents to mail.

On May 19, 1898, an act of Congress was passed in the U.S. allowing privately published postcards the same message privileges and rates (1 cent) as the government-issued cards. These were to be inscribed, “Private mailing card – Authorized by Act of Congress May 19, 1898.”

Then in December 1901, new regulations were issued saying that private cards would have the word “Post Card” at the top of the address side and government-issued cards would say “Postal Cards.”

Before the telephone, the postcard was an easy and pleasant way to send a message. A postcard sent from one town in the morning usually would arrive in a nearby town that afternoon. A postcard sent from another state would not take much longer. Edward Griffin took the steamer “Priscilla” from New York to Boston, arriving at 8 a.m. on Aug. 27, 1902. He wrote a brief note on a postcard when he arrived, addressed it to his mother in Brooklyn, and dropped it in the mail. The postcard said: “Arrived ok this morning at 8 o’clock – Eddie.” The postcard was postmarked in Boston at 11:30 am and postmarked again in Brooklyn at 8:30 pm the same day.

In October of 1907, the United States, following the lead of other countries, changed the rules and began allowing messages to be written on half of the side reserved for the address. This left the whole of the other side for pictures or photographs. Postcards then became a major collecting craze, and for many, a profitable business. They were produced in such quantities that they were often given away with copies of popular magazines.

The feasting aspect of Thanksgiving has continued to be an essential part of the holiday and many of the postcards that were sent reflected that theme. In addition, the postcard helped to tie the family members together with those who were absent during the holiday.

As the telephone became more widely used, the postcard became less and less important as a means of daily communications. However, it provided us with a view of the early years of the twentieth century that became a permanent record of contacts between family members and friends.

Beverly C. Tyler is the Three Village Historical Society historian and author of books available from the society at 93 North Country Road, Setauket. For more information, call 631-751-3730 or visit www.tvhs.org.

All images from Beverly C. Tyler’s postcard collection

Turkeys waddle around Raleigh’s Poultry Farm in Kings Park as customers stop by looking for potential Thanksgiving meals. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Despite new state restrictions on gatherings, some local small businesses are thankful this year for all the support they’ve received at the start of the holiday season. 

In pre-COVID times, a typical Thanksgiving dinner could host a dozen or even more people. But as of last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced new guidelines for the upcoming holidays, asking people to host small gatherings of 10 people or less. 

Lisa Harris, the owner of Torte Jeff in Port Jefferson, said although they are down in sales, people are still buying Thanksgiving day pies. Photo by Margot Garant

But small groups aren’t stopping people from spending time with their loved ones — just less of them this year. And with the tradition of family get-togethers comes the big Thanksgiving meal, full of sides, pies and of course, turkey.

Cathy Raleigh-Boylan, co-owner of Raleigh’s Poultry Farm in Kings Park, said sales have actually increased this year, much to her surprise. 

“There are a lot of people asking for small or medium sized turkeys, but people are still having Thanksgiving,” she said. “Even if they’re not having a large gathering, they still want a big bird and just have a lot of leftovers.”

The farm has been a staple to the Smithtown community for more than 61 years, she said, and usually people come from all over to pick up their Thanksgiving meats. This year is a little different, but not necessarily in a bad way.

“With COVID, we’re realizing a lot more people are eating at home with families and teaching the young kids how to cook,” she said. “Generations are going back a bit. As bad as COVID was, a lot more family time came out of it.”

Raleigh’s also sells pies, making it a one-stop shop for local Thanksgiving needs. “We’ve sold more pies than ever,” she said. “I think people just want to make Thanksgiving special this year. We can’t do a lot of things right now, so people are looking for some normalcy.”

Some people are opting not for the bird this year, and are switching it up. At Cow Palace in Rocky Point, owner Debbie Teitjen said there are other options they offer. “A lot of people are doing turkey breast or turkey London broil,” she said. “We’re doing tons of catering for smaller events and a lot of curbside catering.”

But Arthur Worthington, of Miloski’s Poultry Farm on Middle Country Road in Calverton, said many of his customers are choosing to size down. 

“There definitely are still a lot of people going along with the tradition,” he said. “There are a lot of inquiries similar from years before.”

He said customers who still want the bird are preferring smaller ones for this year’s dinner. 

“They’re looking for the 12 to 16 pound range, which is tough because everything we do with raising turkeys, we have to plan years in advance,” he said. 

But over in Huntington, Nick Voulgaris III, owner of Kerbers Farm on West Pulaski Road, said it’s been busier than typically this time of the year. 

Turkeys waddle around Raleigh’s Poultry Farm in Kings Park as customers stop by looking for potential Thanksgiving meals. Photo by Julianne Mosher

“This is normally the busiest time of the year for us,” he said. “We’re slightly above normal, which is a good thing especially during the current economic climate.”

Voulgaris said people are gravitating towards smaller birds for smaller groups, but as of right now, they have completely sold out of turkeys for the holiday. 

“We’ve seen a 20% increase in sales over the last six months, or so,” he said. 

While they’re out of birds for the upcoming holiday, they still have plenty of pies to preorder before Sunday Nov. 20, he said. 

Lisa Harris, owner of Torte Jeff Pie Co. on East Main Street in Port Jefferson, said her shop has been down about 25% in sales from last year because gatherings are smaller, but people are still looking to celebrate with their favorite pies for the holiday. 

“We’re selling less pies, but to the same amount of people,” she said. “We have definitely had a request for smaller pies.”

Although it’s a small hit to her business, she’s still happy people want to shop small. Some, she said, are starting new traditions ordering and bringing home her savory Thanksgiving Day pie.

“It’s everything you would have on Thanksgiving in a traditional pie,” she said. “That’s becoming really popular.”

To deal with COVID-19, Harris implemented online ordering through Nov. 20 on a new portal on the shop’s website. 

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By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

Father Frank Pizzarelli

It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving is once again upon us and the holiday season is fast approaching. This time of year is a time to give thanks. With all that has happened, with all the senseless loss of life because of the pandemic, we are reminded in the midst of all of that how blessed we are.

Our human landscape has changed so dramatically this past year. However, it has reminded me even more profoundly that all life is sacred, all life is fragile and we need to be so much more attentive to each other. We need to focus on all the things that bring us together rather than the things that separate us. This holiday season should be about building new bridges and not new walls.

With the election season behind us, we have an opportunity to begin a new chapter in our American journey; an opportunity to reclaim our soul as a nation, heal our wounds, stand together and celebrate all that makes us great. We are a tenacious people, diverse but extremely talented and gifted.

In the midst of all this chaos, I have continually been humbled and inspired with the random acts of kindness and compassion from ordinary people in our neighborhoods. On their own initiative, countless student groups have done extraordinary things for the poor and homeless in our larger community. The doctors, nurses, first responders and all of the support staff in our hospitals have been courageous and heroic in their response to the virus. They are a living example of what commitment to public service and community is all about.

We have an incredible opportunity to stand in solidarity with each other and work to make a better tomorrow or we can feed the divisive rhetoric that has become infectious and remain complicit by our silence.

This Thanksgiving will be my 41st Thanksgiving in Port Jefferson. I am forever grateful for these past 41 years. I have seen a community of tremendous diversity and talent stand with each other through good times and bad, always looking to build upon the goodness and kindness in our midst. This experience has inspired me to stay the course and to do my best to help make our community a better place. Every day I see miracles of hope and transformation take place because of the collaborative spirit to reach out to the most vulnerable and broken among us.

As we celebrate the holiday season, no matter what our faith tradition, let this be a time for renewed hope, a time for compassion and renewed understanding, a time for realizing that each and every one of us, no matter where we’re from or what we do, have the power to make a difference that really does count.

May we all be blessed and renewed during the holiday season.

Fr. Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.

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Diet choices trump exercise for weight loss

By David Dunaief, M.D.

Dr. David Dunaief

To quash guilt about Thanksgiving meal indiscretions, many of us will resolve to exercise to burn off the calories from this seismic meal and the smaller, calorically dense aftershock meals, whether with a vigorous family football game or with a more modest walk.

Unfortunately, exercise without dietary changes may not actually help many people lose weight, no matter what the intensity or the duration (1). If it does help, it may only modestly reduce fat mass and weight for the majority of people. However, it may be helpful with weight maintenance. Ultimately, it may be more important to reconsider what you are eating than to succumb to the rationalization that you can eat with abandon during the holidays and work it off later.

Don’t give up on exercise just yet, though. There is very good news: Exercise does have beneficial effects on a wide range of conditions, including chronic kidney disease, cognitive decline, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, fatigue, insomnia and depression.

Let’s look at the evidence.

Exercise for weight loss

The well-known weight-loss paradigm is that when more calories are burned than consumed, we will tip the scale in favor of weight loss. The greater the negative balance with exercise, the greater the loss. However, study results say otherwise. They show that in premenopausal women there was neither weight nor fat loss from exercise (2). This involved 81 women over a short duration, 12 weeks. All of the women were overweight to obese, although there was great variability in weight.

However, more than two-thirds of the women (55) gained a mean of 1 kilogram, or 2.2 pounds, of fat mass by the end of the study. There were a few who gained 10 pounds of predominantly fat. A fair amount of variability was seen among the participants, ranging from significant weight loss to substantial weight gain. These women were told to exercise at the American College of Sports Medicine’s optimal level of intensity (3). This is to walk 30 minutes on a treadmill three times a week at 70 percent VO2max — maximum oxygen consumption during exercise — or, in other words, a moderately intense pace.

The good news is that the women were in better aerobic shape by the end of the study. Also, women who had lost weight at the four-week mark were more likely to continue to do so by the end of the study. This was a preliminary study, so no definitive conclusions can be made.

Other studies have shown modest weight loss. For instance, in a meta-analysis involving 14 randomized controlled trials, results showed that there was a disappointing amount of weight loss with exercise alone (4). In six months, patients lost a mean of 1.6 kilograms, or 3.5 pounds, and at 12 months, participants lost 1.7 kilograms, or about 3.75 pounds.

Exercise and weight maintenance

However, exercise may be valuable in weight maintenance, according to observational studies. Premenopausal women who exercised at least 30 minutes a day were significantly less likely to regain lost weight (5). When exercise was added to diet, women were able to maintain 30 percent more weight loss than with diet alone after a year in a prospective study (6).

Exercise and disease

As just one example of exercise’s impact on disease, let’s look at chronic kidney disease (CKD), which affects 15 percent, or one in seven, adults in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (7).

Trial results showed that walking regularly could reduce the risk of kidney replacement therapy and death in patients who have moderate to severe CKD, stages 3-5 (8). Yes, this includes stage 3, which most likely is asymptomatic. There was a 21 percent reduction in the risk of kidney replacement therapy and a 33 percent reduction in the risk of death when walkers were compared to non-walkers.

Walking had an impressive impact; results were based on a dose-response curve. In other words, the more frequently patients walked during the week, the better the probability of preventing complications. Those who walked between one and two times per week had 17 and 19 percent reductions in death and kidney replacement therapy, respectively, while those who walked at least seven times per week saw 44 and 59 percent reductions in death and kidney replacement. These are substantial results. The authors concluded that the effectiveness of walking on CKD was independent of kidney function, age or other diseases.

Therefore, while it is important to enjoy the holidays, remember that food choices will have the greatest impact on our weight and body composition. However, exercise can help maintain weight loss and is extremely beneficial for preventing progression of chronic diseases, such as CKD.

So, by all means, exercise during the holidays, but also focus on more nutrient-dense foods. At a minimum, strike a balance rather than eating purely calorically dense foods. You won’t be able to exercise them away.

References:

(1) uptodate.com. (2) J Strength Cond Res. Online Oct. 28, 2014. (3) ACSM.org. (4) Am J Med. 2011;124(8):747. (5) Obesity (Silver Spring). 2010;18(1):167. (6) Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 1997;21(10):941. (7) cdc.gov. (8) Clin J Am Soc Nephrol. 2014 Jul;9(7):1183-1189.

Dr. David Dunaief is a speaker, author and local lifestyle medicine physician focusing on the integration of medicine, nutrition, fitness and stress management. For further information, visit www.medicalcompassmd.com.

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By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Crazy time.”

That was the message a friend in California texted me yesterday. And she certainly summed up perfectly these days of our lives. Let us together count the ways we have gone off the rails. For starters, can you imagine a time when you had to decline a visit from your children at Thanksgiving in order to ensure your health and theirs?

I suspect the same for you; gathering around the table at Thanksgiving and appreciating our lives with our family and close friends has been a tradition for us as long as I can remember. After my children married and joined their wives’ families with ours, we have even traded off other holidays for Thanksgiving at our home every year. I guess we can include thanks this time for and via Zoom.

Could you imagine a political stalemate over the election at the presidential level like the one playing out in the courts in different states across the country? Yes, the 2000 vote was a handwringer, but it pales in drama when compared with this election. Back then, the decision hung on 537 votes. This time, with vital information withheld and with a pandemic raging, more is at stake than the outcome of the election. We are vulnerable to attack as a nation.

And as for that pandemic, as direly predicted this past spring, it is rearing its ugly head now that the weather has cooled and we are living more indoors and closer together. We have learned some things since the affliction started. Masks make a difference in protecting others and also ourselves from the spread of the virus. Fresh air, social distancing and hand washing continue to be vital. HEPA filters are powerful allies. And broad scale testing, followed by tracing, matter. Still, people are hospitalized, emergency rooms and ICU beds fill up and even some patients die, as we wait to be rescued by science. Incredible progress has been made developing a vaccine, and by more than one laboratory, but distribution to and acceptance by the general public of the vaccines will not happen during this imminent winter.

Weather has also been a villain. Violent storms and hurricanes, the ferocity of which has been unleashed, we are told, by climate change, have disrupted life for many in the United States and across the globe, even in the midst of desperate efforts to fight the pandemic. And further complicating rescue are the unprecedented fires burning in California and the far west. Then throw in assorted mudslides and tornados for good measure. Tragic!

The economy continues to worsen for many as it excels for the few businesses that benefit from the consequences of the virus. Restaurants, hotels, travel, transportation, formal entertainment, cultural events, retail, health care, child care, education — all have suffered huge financial blows. And the effects are not, curiously, shared equally among men and women. Most of the jobs in those industries are filled by women, who now have no jobs because of shutdowns, or have jobs they cannot get to because of child care responsibilities. This one issue is being viewed as a significant setback for women in the workplace, and for society as a whole, for years to come. Meanwhile construction, renovation, manufacturing and high tech, that makes Zoom and countless other products now deemed a necessity possible, are mushrooming.

The tenor of watershed events in people’s lives is tarnished. Weddings, graduations, significant and not-so-significant birthday parties, reunions, baptisms, funerals — all are put on hold or otherwise unwillingly altered in timing and attendance. Even an entitlement as innocent as looking forward to a thrilling freshman year in college has now morphed into a two-dimensional, remote experience. And returning college students are considered risks for households and communities.

There is no point in complaining. It will not alter this bizarre year and the troubles it has brought. The one thought I could offer my friend on a return text: “We will be able to say, as we someday will tell the tale, that we lived through it.”

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There’s no good way to put this. We know in a year of hardship so many of us crave the companionship and familial connection of a traditional Thanksgiving, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s something we simply can’t have this year.

Yes, we fought through the worst of the virus in New York, but cases are rising again all over the country. Suffolk stands as a positive test rate of 3.4% as at Nov. 17. Just a few weeks ago we were bragging about how well we were doing at 1%.

Experts have repeatedly said we will enter a second wave of the virus as the weather cools and more people spend time indoors, where the virus can spread more easily.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced new limits on several businesses and gatherings. Bars, restaurants and gyms are mandated to close by 10 p.m. for everything barring takeouts. The state also limited in-person gatherings to 10 people, though it excludes households with residents already numbering 10 or more.

Some have questioned the point of the latter restriction, especially whether the state even has the ability to restrict the number of people in a family home. Though there are residents who have reported large gatherings in backyards, the order should be taken more as a notice and reminder. It’s easy to guess just how quickly COVID-19 spreads when there are 20 or more people sitting shoulder to shoulder shoveling Thanksgiving delights into maskless mouths.

We only have to look at recent superspreader events to know just how dangerous maskless gatherings can be. A Sweet 16 event at the Miller Place Inn in September caused 37 people to come down with the virus, some of whom weren’t even at the event, while a reported 270 were required to quarantine.

Local officials have already cited Halloween parties for an increase in positive cases. One can only think holidays like Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year will do even more harm if we don’t take the initiative now.

With that said, there are still many local businesses who depend on Thanksgiving sales, whether it’s the local butcher or bakery. We ask people to still patronize your neighboring establishments even if you might not need as much this year as previous. I mean, don’t we all look forward to Thanksgiving leftover sandwiches?

But likely more people are concerned about not seeing their family sitting around the table as they do every year. There’s no way around it, no, you shouldn’t. Keeping it to household members only will be hard, but there are ways to talk to friends and family through video and phone. We know some people in our office will offer toasts over Zoom and other facilities. And we know that we will be toasting the many people who work and continue to work, making sure people are safe during an unprecedented time. We also need to thank the many volunteers providing food for the needy during an especially difficult  time, and hope all those hungry people find some meal and companionship this holiday.

So, combined with people still traveling home for Thanksgiving, with more visitors likely to come from out of state, we are left with few good options. Some people say something to the effect that “we can’t let the virus control our lives.”

We would counter that thought with the following: If every single one of us having a smaller Thanksgiving for one year saves even just one life, then it would have been worth it.

Is Thanksgiving canceled? Maybe a traditional one is, but the spirit of the holiday certainly won’t be, not if our goal is to keep those around us safe and healthy.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. File photo by Alex Petroski

On the night before Thanksgiving, high school and college students typically come together to reconnect, share stories and share a drink.

This year, as COVID-19 cases climb throughout the U.S., including in Suffolk County, County Executive Steve Bellone (D), along with the Suffolk County Police Department and local enforcement offices, are discouraging gatherings that might cause further spread of the virus.

Enforcement efforts will using social host laws, which fine residents for allowing underage drinking, and state-mandated gathering restrictions, which combined, could lead to “serious consequences,” Bellone said on a conference call with reporters Nov. 17.

“No matter where you are or what you are doing, social distancing and mask guidelines must be followed,” Bellone said. “We’ve come too far to go back now.”

With new state restrictions that limit the sale of alcohol after 10 p.m. through bars and restaurants, Bellone said enforcement efforts would be on the look out for gatherings at private residences. Some of these viral spreading events have occurred during smaller gatherings.

“The spread of COVID-19 at these types of parties is very, very real,” Bellone said. “We’ve seen it countless times. We all need to take personal responsibility,” which includes parents who need to comply with social host laws and the state’s gathering limits in homes.

Bellone announced a partnership between the Suffolk County Department of Health and the nonprofit Partners in Prevention, which is starting a social media campaign to inform the community about social host laws. Bellone called this information “critical” leading up to Thanksgiving celebrations.

While Suffolk County enforcement efforts will respond to calls about larger group gatherings, Bellone said police would use “common sense” and would not be “going door to door to check on the number of individuals in a house.”

As for the infection rates, the numbers continue to rise, returning to levels not seen in months.

“We expect our numbers [of positive tests] to be around 400 today,” Bellone said. The positivity rate is about 3.4 percent, while the number of people hospitalized with symptoms related to the virus approaching 100.

“We have not been above 100 since June 18,” Bellone said. In the last 24 hours, the number of people who have required hospitalization from the virus increased by 16.

While the virus has exhausted people physically and mentally, the county cannot “jeopardize our continued economic recovery” and the health of the population by stepping back from measures such as social distancing, mask wearing and hand washing that proved so effective in reducing the spread earlier this year, Bellone said.

“Now is the time to double down on common sense measures that work,” he added.

Some of the positive tests are coming from people in nursing homes, who are among the most vulnerable population.

“With the nursing homes, that is obviously a big concern,” Bellone said. The county is “making sure they have the PPE [personal protective equipment] they need.”

The Department of Health is staying in close contact with these facilities as cases continue to climb.

Bellone urged residents who dined at a Friendly’s restaurant in Riverhead on Nov. 5 or 6 to monitor their symptoms for the next two weeks. Six adults who worked at the restaurant have tested positive for the virus.

Anyone who is exhibiting symptoms of the virus, which include fever, a runny nose, lost of taste or smell, fatigue, shortness of breath, can find a testing site at suffolkcountyny.gov/covid19.

Separately, when asked about the possibility of schools closing in response to the increasing incidence of positive tests, Bellone urged schools to remain open at this testing level.

“We are not seeing the spread happening in the schools,” Bellone said. “The protocols being put in place and the execution in the schools has really worked.”