COVID-19

Coronavirus on North Fork: All schools closed two weeks, confirmed cases in Southold Town climbs to 21

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Southold Town remains home to more confirmed COVID-19 coronavirus cases than any town in Suffolk, according to County Executive Steve Bellone.

There are now 21 residents who have tested positive of at least 50 countywide, according to numbers provided by Southold Town and Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Meanwhile County Executive Steve Bellone announced the closure of all schools in Suffolk County for two weeks.

Continue to scroll below for each update from our first week of coverage.

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Mattituck Schools: Staff member has confirmed case of COVID-19

(Update: Sunday, 9:50 p.m.)

The Mattituck-Cutchogue School District informed parents and students Sunday night of a “confirmed case of COVID-19” among its staff.

The employee does not live in the district, the message states.

“The Department of Health is conducting an investigation with this individual to identify who they have been in contact with and will begin reaching out to those individuals, if necessary,” superintendent Jill Gierasch said in the message. “I have personally reached out to the Suffolk County Health Department and spoken with our representative to ensure there are open lines of communication.”

The district declined to release other specifics about the employee, citing HIPAA laws.

This is at least the second confirmed case within a local school district. A Southold staff member tested positive for the coronavirus Saturday.

County officials said Sunday afternoon that 19 of Suffolk’s 48 COVID-19 cases have involved Southold Town residents.

Mattituck-Cutchogue School District issues learning plan in wake of school closures

(Update: Sunday, 5 p.m.)

In the wake of Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone’s closure of all school districts in the county for two weeks, Mattituck-Cutchogue School District Superintendent posted a notice on the district’s website about learning plans that will be sent to homes.

Superintendent Jill Gierasch said,We just received notice that the County Executive has issued an Executive Order that mandates districts are required to close schools for two weeks to reconvene on March 30, 2020.

“As you know this is a rapidly evolving situation. As circumstances have changed, we have continued to provide information as we have received it following guidance from State and local officials including the Suffolk County Health Department.

“With that said, both tomorrow and Tuesday the staff will be working to finalize our remote distance learning plans,” she said. “Please look out for guidance on this topic tomorrow afternoon regarding distribution of learning materials as well as school lunches for our families that require further support.

“I am not prepared to commit to any further guidance regarding the school calendar. I am awaiting guidance from the New York State Education Department related to distance and remote learning opportunities.”

In a note to parents, the district also laid out class schedules. The note says that junior and high school students must log in to the district and be present at each online class. “Teachers will be engaging with students, creating assignments, and providing feedback,” the note says. “Our goal is to continue to prepare our students for the State Assessments, Advanced Placement exams, Regents exams and to fully cover the curriculum for each of your child’s classes. Teachers will be taking attendance during each period and students will be receiving a participation grade.

“…classes will be 20 minutes long with a 3 minute break between classes,

Period 1: 9:00 – 9:20

Period 2: 9:23 – 9:43

Period 3: 9:46 – 10:06

Period 4 10:09 – 10:29

Period 5: 10:32 – 10:52

Period 6: 10:55 – 11:15

Period 7: 11:18 – 11:38.

Mobile testing could be coming to East End

(Update: Sunday, 3:30 p.m.)

County Legislators Al Krupski, Bridget Fleming, Southold Supervisor Scott Russell, Police Chief Martin Flatley and Greenport Village Mayor George Hubbard Jr. are holding a briefing to update the latest news on the coronavirus.

Posted by The Suffolk Times on Sunday, March 15, 2020

Mobile COVID-19 coronavirus testing could soon bee coming to the East End, Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming said at a press briefing at Mitchell Park in Greenport Sunday.

Ms. Fleming and fellow County Legislator Al Krupski joined Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell, police chief Martin Flatley and Greenport Mayor George Hubbard to give an update on local efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Standing at a distance from her colleagues and the media, Ms. Fleming said state officials are looking to bring mobile testing to the entire state and County Executive Steve Bellone is aiming to place two sites in Suffolk County.

“He recognizes that the incidents here in Southold would warrant a mobile site farther east than you might normally see,” she said. One center would service the East End, she said.

Mr. Russell stressed that not everyone will be tested, urging people to call 311 or visit the Southold Town website for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

Ms. Fleming said that as of 3 p.m. Sunday, there were 48 confirmed positive tests in Suffolk County, including 19 in Southold.

The officials said the briefing was to assure the public layers of local government are working together.

Mr. Krupski also commended first responders throughout the county during the past week.

“We want to let everyone know we’re working to keep everyone safe and want to calm fears,” Mr. Hubbard said.

Northwell Health to cancel elective surgeries

(Update: Sunday, 3 p.m.)

As part of its efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus, Northwell Health on Monday will begin canceling elective surgeries and procedures performed in its hospitals, the hospital system, which includes Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead, said in a statement.

Emergency surgeries will not be impacted by the decision.

Essential elective surgeries, endoscopies and other invasive procedures in the health system’s outpatient settings will continue to be performed when deemed clinically necessary, the hospital system said.

“With appropriate screening of patients and when deemed clinically necessary, some planned cases will continue to be performed,” said Northwell Chief Medical Officer David Battinelli, MD. “Patient care that may appear routine could, if canceled, can result in significant negative impact on our patients’ health.”

This new approach will apply to surgeries and procedures scheduled through April 15.

Governor Andrew Cuomo on Thursday said a statewide cancelation of elective procedures would free up 30 percent of New York’s hospital beds.

Northwell patients with scheduled appointments who have any questions can call: 833-4UR-CARE

Northwell Health is cancelling elective surgeries and procedures performed in its hospitals through April 15. (Credit: Northwell Health)

Suffolk schools closed until March 30

(Update: Sunday, 1:40 p.m.)

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone has announced a local emergency order closing all schools in Suffolk County for two weeks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus.

He sent the following statement to the media this afternoon.

“Based on the recommendation of the County Health Commissioner and in consultation with the Superintendent’s Association, today I am issuing a Local Emergency Order to close all Schools within Suffolk County for a period of two weeks beginning tomorrow, Monday, March 16.   As we prepared over the last several days for the potential closure announcement, we had discussions with State officials and the Suffolk County School Superintendent’s Association about critical issues involving meal programs for kids and childcare.    

“There is evidence that the virus is already present in many communities we serve, and our efforts now must be aimed at preventing its spread. As part of our larger social distancing efforts, we believe that closing schools is the right thing to do at this time.  While kids are home from school we encourage parents to continue to follow County Health Department guidance and practice social distancing and to wash hands frequently to help contain the spread of the virus.  If anyone in the family is symptomatic please stay home and quarantine yourself on a precautionary basis.  

“While schools are closed for instruction, administrators and teachers will still have access to school buildings for local district planning, distance-based education purposes, temporary grab-and-go meal programs and childcare issues.”

Confirmed Southold Town cases at 18

(Update: Sunday 10:50 a.m.)

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said the latest figure of confirmed COVID-19 patients in Southold Town is 18. He said the town received confirmation of that figure from the Suffolk County Department of Health Saturday night.

Southold Town remains the highest cluster of confirmed cases in Suffolk County since the first COVID-19 case was reported one week ago.

The number of positive cases in New York has climbed to 613, according figures released Saturday night by the state health department. There are 120 cases on Long Island (79 in Nassau and 41 in Suffolk). Testing still remains very limited and likely won’t increase until sometime next week.

The total across the nation is nearing 3,000, with at least 57 confirmed deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

In a Sunday morning tweet, Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged New Yorkers to stay home.

Diagnosed with coronavirus, Southold woman improving after frightening ordeal

(Update: Sunday, 6 a.m.)

From her hospital bed at Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital, there’s not much for Jill Johnson to do.

The Southold resident has a television with no remote control. Her cell phone is at her side, but the conditions aren’t ideal for gabbing. The only visitors she’s allowed are doctors and nurses, who take extreme precautions before entering her room.

Most of the time, “it’s just me looking at a brick wall,” she said.

This is the new, albeit temporary, reality for one of Suffolk County’s first positively diagnosed COVID-19 coronavirus patients. Ms. Johnson, a 54-year-old part-time copy editor for Times Review Media Group, received her diagnosis Thursday, March 12 after being tested for the illness three days earlier. She had entered the hospital with pneumonia last Sunday, March 8.

Read the full story

Unsure of what your symptoms mean? Soon, there will be an app for that

(Update: Sunday, 6 a.m.)

People feeling symptoms that may be caused by the coronavirus are encouraged to avoid traveling directly to a doctor’s office or emergency room without first consulting with a medical professional.

For those unsure of what there symptoms mean, now there’s an app for that. 

Or, at least, there will be in a few days.

Dr. Soumi Eachempati, a former emergency room surgeon and professor of public health, is working on a mobile app and web site with Ashley John Heather, the founder of The Spur, an organization and gathering place for local entrepreneurs, that was been based in Southampton and East Hampton.

Read full story

School staff member tests positive

(Update: Saturday, 8:38 p.m.)

The first confirmed COVID-19 case has been confirmed in local schools.

Southold superintendent David Gamberg said Saturday night in a robocall and message on the district website that a staff member at Southold tested positive. He did not provide additional details on the staff member, their role in the district or any recent interactions with students.

“We are awaiting direction from The Suffolk County Health Department in terms of next steps as far as a continuing investigation with this case. 

We are cancelling the staff conference day on Tuesday, March 17th.”

The Mattituck, Southold and Greenport school districts are already closed all next week per recommendation from the health department.

At least 14 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed so far in Southold Town as of Saturday.

County shuts down casino

(Update: Saturday 6:40 p.m.)

County Executive Steve Bellone announced Saturday evening that he issued an executive order to direct Jake’s 58 Casino in Islandia to close beginning at 6 p.m.

“Since the outset of this public health crisis, Suffolk County has made its decisions based on the recommendations by our County health officials. At my direction, I am issuing an Executive Order to suspend operations of Jake’s 58 Casino beginning this evening to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus and to ensure the safety of our residents. We will continue to monitor the situation and make an assessment at a later time to determine when casino operations may resume.”

Earlier this week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered businesses and gatherings of more than 500 people to shut down for 30 days. Businesses with seating capacity under 500 were to cut capacity by 50%.

Newsday reported earlier today the casino remained open after the directive took effect at 5 p.m. Friday.

Second death in New York

(Update: Saturday 6:30 p.m.)

A second confirmed death in New York has been linked to COVID-19, according to media reports.

A Rockland County man who lived in Suffern died Thursday and a test result Saturday revealed he was positive for the coronavirus. The 65-year-old man had “significant health problems,” according to The New York Times.

The county’s chief medical examiner had issued a statement Thursday saying the death was being investigated and they would be “testing for influenza and other common respiratory illnesses as well as COVID-19.” 

Earlier Saturday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced an 82-year-old woman in New York City who had emphysema had died.

Revised visitors’ policy at PBMC

(Update: Saturday 2:45 p.m.)

Peconic Bay Medical Center has revised its visitors’ policies across a number of areas, effective immediately. No one will be allowed to visit patients if that person:

  • Has signs or symptoms of respiratory infection, such as fever, cough or difficulty breathing
  • Has had contact with someone with a suspected or a confirmed case of COVID-19
  • Is under 18 years of age (exceptions may apply to Maternal Child Units)

In addition, all visitors to the hospital are required to wear a mask. Also, no visitors will be allowed in the emergency department, with the exception of pediatric patients; in outpatient and ambulatory surgery areas; in maternity areas (one adult permitted); in the cafeteria or to anyone in the facility in isolation.

The hospital encourages caregivers to use the front entrance of the hospital to drop off patients. If someone wants to enter the building to the main lobby, that person must wear a mask and maintain social distance with anyone else of at least six feet.

As for visiting a patient in the hospital, only one per patient will be allowed, and that person must wear a mask. No visitors will be allowed in isolation areas.

“For areas where restrictions on visiting have been implemented, we encourage loved ones to please use the patient’s bedside phone, cell phone, FaceTime, Skype or other means of communication to help you connect to your loved one during this time,” according to a press release.

Statewide cases surpasses 500

(Update: Saturday 2 p.m.)

The latest figures from the New York State Department of Health show 521 confirmed COVID-19 cases across New York. Westchester County remains the highest total with 172 outside of New York City.

The vast majority of statewide cases remain in NYC, Long Island and Westchester areas.

San Simeon statement

(Update: Saturday 1:24 p.m.)

There have been no confirmed COVID-19 cases at San Simeon by the Sound in Greenport, the nursing and rehab facility said Saturday. Three employees have been confirmed positive at neighboring Peconic Landing.

A message posted on its website and social media began:

“As you may be aware, there are several confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Southold. While the risk of spread is very high, San Simeon staff have taken significant steps to ensure the safety of our residents. To date, we have no confirmed or suspected cases of Coronavirus among our resident population or our staff. Of course, this can change at any time, especially with a virus as contagious as this one appears to be.”

Click here to read more.

Hospital capacity

(Update: Saturday 1 p.m.)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in a radio interview Saturday afternoon with WCBS Newsradio 880, said as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases rises as more testing is done, the important figure to watch relates to hospital capacity.

“All we’re doing here as a country is trying to slow the spread so that our hospitals can deal with the number of acute cases,” he said. “That’s all this is about.”

He said 80% of the people infected with the coronavirus will self-resolve, meaning they can recover at home without requiring additional medical care. The other 20% may be ill enough to require hospitalization. Those at greatest risk continue to be elderly and people with compromised immune systems.

Earlier Saturday, Mr. Cuomo announced an 82-year-old New York City woman who had emphysema died, marking the first confirmed COVID-19 related death in the state. The coronavirus can act like an accelerant for people dealing with illnesses such as emphysema, much in the same way the flu can, he said.

“We’re at deep breath time,” he said, trying to limit people’s anxiety and curb unnecessary fear.

“I don’t know what people are going to do with so many paper towels,” he said of reports of people bulking up on household items.

He maintained that the decision to close schools remains up to local districts. There has not been a statewide directive for schools to close. Locally, the Mattituck, Southold and Greenport school districts will all be closed next week as per a recommendation from the Suffolk County Department of Health. There are 14 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Southold Town.

Mr. Cuomo also on Saturday directed insurers to waive co-pays for telehealth visits.

Saturday briefing

(Update: Saturday 12:15 p.m.)

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is providing an update on the coronavirus Saturday.

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Southold Town has increased to 14, the most of any Suffolk County town. There are now 37 positive cases in the county, he added.

There are seven cases in Brookhaven; six in Huntington; four in Babylon; three in Smithtown; two in Islip and one in East Hampton. No cases have yet to be confirmed in Riverhead, Shelter Island and Southampton.

There are 104 people under mandatory quarantine.

Mr. Bellone spoke at Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation Center to distribute a shipment of New York State Clean, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that is being provided to New Yorkers free of charge. Mr. Bellone said the hand sanitizer will be distributed to 55 assisted living facilities in the county.

Watch below:

Suffolk County Executive Bellone provides update on County’s response to Coronavirus:

Posted by Suffolk County Executive Steven Bellone on Saturday, March 14, 2020

Greenport Village Hall to close Monday for cleaning of building, carousel

(Update: Saturday, 11:30 a.m.)

The Village of Greenport will close its offices Monday for a deep-cleaning as a “proactive measure” in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19.

The carousel in Mitchell Park, which remains closed, will also receive a deep cleaning.

When Village Hall re-opens Tuesday, public access will be restricted, the village said.

An empty Mitchell Park on Friday afternoon. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

First death in New York

(Update: Saturday 11 a.m.)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Saturday morning the first COVID-19 related death in New York.

An 82-year-old woman in New York City who had emphysema, a lung condition that causes shortness of breath, died.

Health officials have said the elderly and people with pre-existing conditions such as weakened immune systems are at greatest risk for COVID-19.

Total deaths in the U.S. connected to the coronavirus is at least 48.

PBMC prepares for worst-case scenario; CEO says ‘we are prepared’

(Update: Saturday 6 a.m.)

Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead is preparing for a worst-case scenario if the number of confirmed COVID-19 patients overwhelms the 182-bed facility. 

“We have ordered tents if the need comes to that,” said Peconic Bay’s president and CEO, Andy Mitchell.

“We had a whole bunch of people [Thursday] come into our emergency room wanting to be checked out,” he said. “We are always here for our community. We ask people who are not showing symptoms to contact their primary doctor before they come to our emergency room. We want to reserve our resources for the truly sick.”

Read full story

Greenport businesses brace for fewer customers, economic hardship as COVID-19 cases rise

(Update: Saturday 6 a.m.)

‘Social distancing’ to help curb the spread of the coronavirus may have a dramatic economic impact on North Fork business owners.

Whether forced to close due to employees who have contracted COVID-19 or closures out of an abundance of caution, many businesses are making swift decisions to stay afloat during a time of year that’s already challenging.

“Town is very quiet,” said Scott Raulsome, who owns Burton’s Bookstore on Front Street in Greenport Village. The bookstore remains open, but quiet, he said. “We haven’t had more than two customers in the store at the same time.”

Read full story

As nursing homes limit access, families communicate digitally with loved ones

(Update: Saturday 6 a.m.)

Acadia Center in Riverhead. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

Nursing homes across the North Fork have closed their doors to visitors and are switching to digital forms of communication as the number of COVID-19 cases grows in Suffolk County. 

To further prevent the spread of the virus, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone announced early Friday that only medical related visits would be allowed at nursing homes. 

The state has also asked these facilities to set up Skype accounts with residents and other online communication capacity so families can see their loved ones digitally.

Read the full story

Schools to close all next week

(Update: Friday 6:10 p.m.)

School districts in Southold Town will be now be closed all next week following consultation with the Suffolk County Department of Health.

Mattituck superintendent Jill Gierasch and Greenport-Southold superintendent David Gamberg made the announcements to each district Friday.

Mr. Gamberg said in a letter to Greenport parents that the district would remain closed through March 20 in “an effort to be proactive in protecting the health and safety of our students and staff.”

There has not been a positive result of COVID-19 for a student or staff member, he said, but there are cases within the surrounding communities and overall numbers continue to rise.

Staff in Greenport will report to school Tuesday to continue preparations for extended learning if the district needs to remain close for an extended period, Mr. Gamberg said.

All after-school activities are canceled through March 20. Earlier Friday, Section XI announced all athletic games and scrimmages in the county are suspended until April 3.

“Please know this decision was not made lightly, and we recognize the impact such closure will have on our families,” he said. “The district will continue to monitor this evolving situation and communicate any additional scheduling changes should they be warranted.”

Ms. Gierasch also said there is no confirmed COVID-19 case in the Mattituck-Cutchogue School District.

“All evening events and all outside community events using district property are also canceled,” Ms. Gierasch wrote. “The Board of Education meeting scheduled for Wednesday, March 18 has also been canceled. Should the Suffolk County Department of Health recommend an extension of this closing beyond next week, parents will be notified.

“On Friday, March 20, the district will begin delivering instruction through an online platform for grades 5-12. Instructional packets for grades K-6 have also been prepared. More information will follow as to how to access these materials no later than Tuesday, March 17. Families will be notified regarding these documents through email and the district’s website.”

All of the district’s snow days and conference days in Mattituck will now be eliminated.

No new cases at Peconic Landing

(Update: Friday 4:41 p.m.)

Peconic Landing issued a statement Friday afternoon saying they have not received any notification of additional confirmed cases of the coronavirus.

Three prior confirmed cases in Southold Town involved employees at the Greenport retirement community.

“Visitation to the campus remains suspended until further notice. All non-medical visitation continues to be suspended for the health center. All team members in the health center are wearing surgical masks at all times. All employees are undergoing screening protocols prior to reporting for their shift. These protocols were put into place prior to Governor Cuomo’s order.

“In an effort to keep families connected during this time we are offering Skype calls. To get more information or to schedule a Skype call with your family member please dial the appropriate number listed below:

Health Center members: 631-593-8288

Independent Living Members: 631-593-8210

“We continue to offer every assurance to our members, members’ families and employees that Peconic Landing will be following all recommendations and will act in the best interests of our entire community.”

Q&A

(Update: Friday 4:15 p.m.)

The Suffolk Times asked Southold Supervisor Scott Russell, whose town is at the epicenter of the virus in Suffolk County, to answer some questions as to where we stand now.  Click here to read the interview.

SWR to close Monday, Tuesday

(Update: Friday 2:40 p.m.)

The Shoreham-Wading River School District will be closed Monday and Tuesday, Superintendent Gerard Poole said Friday. The district was open this week after abruptly closing Monday for fears a security guard may have been exposed to the coronavirus.

Mr. Poole said the days will be superintendent conference days so staff and faculty are expected to show up as normal. He said he would send out additional information to parents about the decision.

Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming (D-Sag Harbor), who’s running for Congress in the 1st Congressional District, sent a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo Friday urging him to close all New York schools to “mitigate the impact of the growing crisis of COVID-19 and to contain the spread of the virus.”

Mr. Cuomo has so far been against closing all schools due to the effects that can have on families who must arrange to either stay home or find a caretaker.

“The closing of schools is a very difficult decision and a complicated decision and there’s pluses and minuses,” Mr. Cuomo said.

He said students who are not in school are likely still to interact with each other. Another factor is the number of children who rely on school for breakfast and lunch. And a concern is for parents who work in the health care system who are then forced to stay home with their children.

Ms. Fleming said while she understands the decision is difficult, “allowing children and staff to attend school creates opportunity for COVID-19 to spread putting at risk the extremely vulnerable such as the elderly and those who are immunocompromised.”

‘Beyond the Expected’

Update: Friday 2 p.m.

Three Stony Brook University experts are discussing the coronavirus pandemic during a Facebook live that begins at 2 p.m.

Stacey Finkelstein, Ph.D, Sharon Nachman, MD and Nancy Tomes, Ph.D will address public health, economic and historic impacts of pandemic response.

Watch the feed below:

Beyond The Expected: The Coronavirus Effect

Beyond The Expected: The Coronavirus Effect

Posted by Stony Brook University on Friday, March 13, 2020

Statewide cases up to 421

(Update: Friday, 2 p.m.)

New York State has 421 confirmed cases as of Friday afternoon, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced.

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence authorized New York State to allow testing at labs — the 28 labs that Mr. Cuomo announced Thursday have contracted with DOH for testing capability.

To date, about 3,000 individuals have been tested in New York. Mr. Cuomo said he anticipates testing to ramp up to do 6,000 per day next week.

County cases rises to 28

(Update: Friday 1:15 p.m.)

As of Friday afternoon, there are now 28 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Suffolk County, according to Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.

Southold has the highest total with 11.

There are five cases in Brookhaven, four in Huntington, two in Islip and Smithtown, three in Babylon and one in East Hampton.

Shelter Island, Riverhead and Southampton are the only Suffolk towns with no confirmed cases so far.

Fifty-seven individuals in Suffolk County remain under mandatory quarantine, Mr. Bellone said.

There are 76 confirmed cases across Long Island in Nassau and Suffolk, according to officials. At a press conference earlier Friday, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said that there is a possibility that drive-through testing facilities for coronavirus could be brought to Long Island.

Mr. Bellone did not address that possibility during his remarks Friday afternoon. He assured that testing efforts are ramping up and reminded people they shouldn’t expect to be tested. If they’re feeling sick, he reminded them to stay home and consult their doctor — via phone — first.

He did, however, note that a shipment of New York made hand sanitizer — NY Clean — has arrived and will be distributed first to nursing homes in Suffolk County.

As an additional precaution, Mr. Bellone said the county Department of Health Services has recommended schools suspend all non-instructional after school activities. Civil service exams have been suspended for the next two weekends and the department of labor has suspended upcoming job fairs.

Suffolk County police officers, Mr. Bellone said, have also been instructed not to go inside a home on a call with emergency personnel unless deemed necessary. That’s specific to calls involving potentially sick patients.

“What we’re trying to do is limit exposure where we can, particularly for first responders,” he said.

The county executive also acknowledged that small businesses throughout the county are facing economic uncertainty due to the coronavirus.

“There are real impacts to businesses here,” he said, announcing that the Suffolk County department of economic development and IDA is working to identify what concerns and needs are for business owners who have and will be harmed by the outbreak.

County Executive’s Friday briefing

(Update: Friday 12:50 p.m.)

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is providing an update on the county’s response to the coronavirus Friday.

Southold Town has reported the number of confirmed cases in the town at 11 Friday.

A total of 28 cases are now confirmed in Suffolk County, Mr. Bellone said. There are still none in Riverhead.

There are fives cases in Brookhaven, four in Huntington, three in Babylon, two in both Islip and Smithtown and one in East Hampton.

Watch below:

Suffolk County Executive Bellone provides update on County’s response to Coronavirus:

Posted by Suffolk County Executive Steven Bellone on Friday, March 13, 2020

Drive-through testing in New Rochelle

Update: Friday 11:30 a.m.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday morning that the state is opening a drive-through testing facility for the coronavirus in New Rochelle — the epicenter of the New York outbreak.

The facility, which will test patients by appointment only, will have six lanes of testing where medical staff comes up to a vehicle and performs the swab tests, which will then be tested in a lab. Mr. Cuomo estimated the staff to be able to test patients in 200 cars per day.

The process will take approximately 15 minutes, the governor said.

“It’s not only faster and easier, it’s also smarter and safer,” Mr. Cuomo said, than a symptomatic person entering a hospital’s emergency room facility to seek testing, thus exposing other members of the public and hospital staff.

The governor did say that residents of New Rochelle and vulnerable populations — the elderly, and those with underlying immune and respiratory issues — will continue to be prioritized for testing.

Northwell Health CEO Michael Dowling said during the press briefing that the facility is “unique,” but said his organization was working with state officials to be on the “frontlines” of creativity and innovation.

“We will deal with this issue practically and we will win,” Mr. Dowling said.

The governor also said the challenge remains not so much in test kits, which are the swabs used on a patient. Those are plentiful. It’s a matter of having labs with the capability to then process and test those swabs.

High School sports on hold

(Update: Friday 9:24 a.m.)

Section XI announced Friday morning that all games and scrimmages have been suspended until April 3. At that time, the situation will be reassessed.

Individual districts can still decide whether to conduct practices.

The first slate of spring sports games were scheduled to begin toward the end of March. The first day of spring sports practice was March 9.

Read more about sports on hold here.

Volunteer programs suspended at county jails

(Update: Friday, 8:45 a.m.)

Three days after ceasing visitation at Suffolk County correctional facilities, Sheriff Errol Toulon announced Friday that volunteer programs at the jails will also be put on hold.

“By limiting the number of people entering our facilities, we can better protect our staff, inmates, and the general public from community spread of COVID-19.” 

The sheriff said there are no confirmed cases within correctional facilities in Suffolk.

Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital issues safety precautions

(Update: Friday, 8:30 a.m.)

Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital Chief Administrative Officer Paul Connor released a memo Thursday evening detailing proactive measures being taken at the hospital regarding COVID-19 coronavirus.

Here are some of the key takeaways:

• In an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19, all non-hospital personnel will be verbally screened upon entry to the hospital.

• Visitation has been significantly halted with no visitors allowed for adult patients, emergency patients and outpatient and ambulatory surgeries, with some exceptions for emergency and surgical patients requiring assistance. Pediatric patients will be allowed one adult visitor.

• The hospital also shared links for information.

For updated Coronavirus FAQs and information from Stony Brook experts, visit https://elih.stonybrookmedicine.edu/Coronavirus.

New York Department of Health Website: https://www.health.ny.gov/

EMTs taking extra precautions when responding to calls, transporting sick patients

(Update: Friday, 6 a.m.)

The coronavirus outbreak has led to heightened awareness and precautions for first responders who are already trained to protect themselves when responding to calls of sick patients.

Mike Caron, assistant chief with the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps, said the process begins with an initial 911 call.

Dispatchers will ask a particular line of questioning to determine if any patients calling 911 are exhibiting signs and symptoms potentially related to the current virus, COVID-19.

The EMS agencies responding are then notified if the call is flagged if there’s a potential risk factor, Mr. Caron said.

“What I’d like to tell everybody is we operate in a constant state of vigilance against any potential threat or come in contact with any pathogen,” he said. “With the recent outbreak, we’re taking a few extra precautions. We’re reminding our personnel of the importance of hand washing and wearing proper protective equipment, if the need does arise.”

Read the full story

Robotics team sent home from competition

(Update: Friday, 6 a.m.)

A dejected team on the bus ride home. (Credit: Team 870)

Members of Southold/Greenport Robotics Team R.I.C.E. 870 were left feeling disappointed Thursday after they traveled on a bus all the way to Rochester for a competition – only to be told after they unpacked their equipment that the event had been cancelled.

A group of over 35 students and faculty from the North Fork team climbed aboard a coach bus Wednesday morning and headed to the Rochester Institute of Technology for the regional robotics competition, scheduled March 13 and 14. Last year, the team nailed down a first-place victory and was invited to attend the FIRST Robotics world championship in Detroit, MI. 

In high spirits, team members traveled from their hotel to RIT’S Gordon Field House Thursday morning and unloaded the robot, only to be informed the regularly scheduled practice had been cancelled. That was followed by word that the entire event – the  2020 Finger Lakes Regional FIRST Robotics Competition – was cancelled as a precautionary measure in the wake of the coronavirus.

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Mattituck, Oysterponds Schools close

(Update: Thursday, 10 p.m.)

The Mattituck School District and Oysterponds schools both announced they will be closed Friday and Monday.

State of Emergency in Southold

(Update: Thursday, 4:23 p.m.)

Southold Town buildings will be closed to the public effective 4 p.m. Thursday and a State of Emergency goes into effect, Supervisor Scott Russell announced. All public meetings, hearings and town-sponsored programs are also canceled until further notice. Various departments can be accessed by phone or email.

Residents who are sick are urged to stay home for their own safety and safety of others.

Mr. Russell said since the first diagnosis was in Southold Town, it was inevitable that infections would spread faster than in other towns.

The state of emergency gives the town authority to act in what they believe is the public’s best interest, including seizure of supplies and equipment, imposing policy on public assembly and sets aside procurement and bidding policy of New York State, he said. He added that restricting public assembly would only be done if absolutely necessary.

Three Peconic Landing employees diagnosed

(Update: Thursday, 4:13 p.m.)

Two additional employees at Peconic Landing has been diagnosed with COVID-19, bringing the total to three, the retirement community announced Thursday afternoon.

The Suffolk County Department of Health notified Peconic Landing Thursday morning of the positive tests. The health department is undergoing an investigation to identify individuals who may have had direct contact with the employees. They will be contacted directly by the health department.

“As a cautionary measure, we are suspending outside visitation until further notice,” the notice from Peconic Landing said. “We are not under quarantine. We are, however, identifying additional opportunities to protect our members’ and employees’ safety and well-being.

“At this time, our focus is on ensuring the safety and well-being of our members and our employees. We are communicating all updates to our members and employees via a multitude of internal communication channels. We will be providing on-going updates via our webpage and social media channels for families, media and the greater community.”

A per-diem employee at Peconic Landing was the second confirmed case in Suffolk County and that was announced Tuesday night. At least eight confirmed cases in Suffolk are among the 20 countywide total.

Governor Cuomo: We’re in a ‘public health emergency’

Update: Thursday 2:45 p.m.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state officials at Thursday’s briefing. (Credit: Gov. Cuomo’s Office)

Governor Andrew Cuomo said we’re in a public health emergency at his Thursday afternoon media briefing, where he outlined a variety of actions the state will take in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus and treat the growing number of people infected.

Here are some of the key takeaways:

• 328 residents are now infected across the state, including 112 new cases.

• A total of 2,314 individuals have been tested for the virus across New York state.

• The state is contracting with national labs in an effort to increase the number of tests to 5,000 per day by next week.

• Broadway is being effectively shut down due to a ban on gatherings at gathering spaces with 500 or more seats.

• The state is considering canceling elective surgeries to free up 25 to 35 percent of the hospital beds across New York.

• Retired doctors and nurses are being urged to contact their former hospitals and medical practices to work on an on-call basis if needed.

20 Suffolk cases

(Update: Thursday 2:10 p.m.)

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Suffolk County doubled from Wednesday into Thursday as more test results come in, County Executive Steve Bellone said at a media briefing Thursday. Gov. Cuomo later clarified the total Suffolk County number as 20.

Eight of those cases are in Southold Town.

Mr. Bellone also announced a State of Emergency in Suffolk County, which will allow for the government to more quickly respond with purchasing of supplies like sanitizer, protective gear and to move employees where staffing needs are required.

Ten of the people with a confirmed diagnosis remain hospitalized and in mandatory isolation. Six others are in mandatory isolation at home.

“Investigators have begun a thorough analysis looking at patients’ contacts and it is believed these cases, each of the 16, were contacted in community transmission,” Mr. Bellone said.

An additional 49 people are under mandatory quarantine, the county executive said. Another 76 people are being monitored under precautionary quarantine and those are travel related cases. Those people remain asymptomatic.

Mr. Bellone also announced that the health commissioner recommended all St. Patrick’s Day parades over the weekend be postponed. Organizers of the Cutchogue St. Patrick’s Day Parade had already announced a cancelation earlier Thursday. The county will also not issue any mass gathering permits for events with more than 5,000 people. The county typically issues about 25 in a year.

“We’ve been in contact with each of our towns,” he said. “We remain in close contact with local officials as well as school superintendents. We’ve spoken to them about senior programs and services provided and recommended they alter operations to encourage social distancing.”

“As the virus continues to spread, we need to remind the public that we’re going to get through this, we’re going to get over this. We will ultimately come out in a good way.”

The situation remains fluid, but people should not panic, he added.

Suffolk County Executive Bellone provides update on County’s response to Coronavirus:

Posted by Suffolk County Executive Steven Bellone on Thursday, March 12, 2020

Increasing testing

(Update: Thursday 12:48 p.m.)

New York State is taking testing for the novel coronavirus into its own hands.

During a press briefing Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that New York State will contract with 28 private laboratories to increase testing capacity.

“Our testing capacity is nowhere near what it needs to be,” the governor said Wednesday, pointing out that countries like China, where the virus originated, had been processing up to 200,000 tests per day. To date, Gov. Cuomo said, there have been just 5,000 tests performed nationwide.

“What changed the trajectory of the incline of the number of cases…was a tremendous amount of testing and investigation,” he said.

The 28 private labs, Gov. Cuomo said, specialize in virology and have experience working with the New York State Department of Health. 

The labs will require some approvals from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which could “complicate” the situation, the governor said, emphasizing the urgency of ramping up testing efforts in order to contain the spread.

“We’re not in a position where we can rely on the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] or the FDA to manage this testing protocol,” he said.

Meanwhile, Northwell Health Labs in Lake Success has now begun semi-automated testing for COVID-19 that will dramatically increase the speed of testing and results back to the patient. Manual testing began at the Northwell lab on Sunday night that saw 133 tests completed by midweek. The FDA Tuesday issued an emergency use authorization for automated testing, which spokesperson Terry Lynam said will allow for 150 tests per day to be conducted, with the results sent back to the provider almost immediately. 

By comparison, manual testing in a lab can handle about 60-70 lab tests a day. Mr. Lynam said by the weekend, the semi-automated system will allow for up to 500 a day and they are expecting to be fully automated by next week, when they will be able to do 2,000 a day. They are the first facility on Long Island to implement this system.

Though efforts are being made to expand testing capability, County Executive Steve Bellone said Wednesday that people should not have an expectation that if they are felling ill, they will automatically be tested for the coronavirus. Tests will be done based on specific CDC guidelines, he said.

Northwell officials said testing will continue to be reserved for those at risk for severe disease or those who have had confirmed close contact with an infected person.

 “Only people who meet that criteria will be tested, and that testing is currently being performed at hospital emergency departments and urgent care centers,” said John D’Angelo, MD, chair of emergency medicine at Northwell, in a statement. “Even as our testing capacity increases, we will continue to screen people judiciously so we can focus our attention on those most at risk for severe COVID-19 infection who require more immediate and intensive medical attention. All others who are concerned about exposure but who have mild or no symptoms should recuperate at home.”

What to do if you’re symptomatic:

Practice social distancing and isolate at home if you’re feeling ill. Avoid public areas and large gatherings. 

Monitor yourself for symptoms, which include fever, cough and shortness of breath, for a 14-day period.

Alert your healthcare provider, who will guide you in your next steps. But seek immediate medical attention if your conditions are worsening or if you have difficulty breathing.

Call the state coronavirus hotline: 1-888-364-3065 for information about the virus, or Suffolk County 311.

Southold schools to close

(Update: Thursday, 12:09 p.m.)

Southold Superintendent David Gamberg said the Southold School District will be closed Friday and Monday. There has been no positive COVID-19 case in the district, he said.

“This is out of an abundance of caution and will allow the District to complete a deep, thorough cleaning of the buildings. We will remain in constant contact with the Suffolk County Department of Health,” Mr. Gamberg said in a statement. 

“I will continue to keep staff and families apprised of any additional information we receive. Please continue to check the District Website, social media, email, etc. for next steps after Monday, March 16th.

Thank you and have a good afternoon.”

As of now, Greenport remains on schedule to reopen Monday.

Bellone to provide update

(Update: 10:22 a.m.)

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone has canceled a press conference originally scheduled for Thursday on the upcoming 2020 U.S. Census in order to provide an update on COVID-19. The press conference is later Thursday.

Parade, SATs canceled

(Update: Thursday 9:12 a.m.)

The Cutchogue St. Patrick’s Day Parade originally scheduled for Saturday has now been canceled, organizers announced Thursday. The announcement follows the postponement of many other of the world’s most prominent parades, including the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which had been held every year since since 1762.

“We just decided to cancel it,” said North Fork Chamber of Commerce board member. “We tried to hang in there as best we could, but wth the cases out here we really needed to think about the public and take the appropriate action.”

The SAT Exam scheduled to be administered at Mattituck High School on Saturday has also been canceled.

Fourth confirmed case

(Update: Thursday 8:52 a.m.)

A fourth confirmed diagnosis of the coronavirus in Southold Town was reported Thursday morning as a part-time staff member at Times Review Media Group based in Mattituck.

The company announced in a statement that the staff member who has been receiving medical care at Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital has tested positive for COVID-19. The staff member is expected to make a full recovery.

The statement read:

“We have learned that a part-time member of our staff has tested positive for COVID-19 after seeking medical attention at Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital. This employee has not worked since March 3 and we will work closely with the Suffolk County Department of Health, State Health Department and CDC following their recommended protocols. 

The employee does not interact with the public in their role on our staff, but we have proactively put procedures in place. Our office will be temporarily closed to the public and our employees will work from home until further notice. The good news is our colleague is feeling significantly better and is well on their way to making a full recovery.”

The third confirmed case was reported Wednesday night as a staff member at Southold Fish Market. The total number of cases in Suffolk County now stands at at least nine. Additional figures from the county executive’s office were not yet available Thursday morning.

Across the U.S., total cases has surged past 1,300.

Third confirmed case

(Update: 9:23 p.m.)

The staff at Southold Fish Market announced Wednesday night on Facebook that an employee has been diagnosed with COVID-19. That would be the third confirmed case in Southold Town since Sunday and at least the seventh in Suffolk County.

“As a precaution we have sanitized the entire establishment and will close tomorrow so the Board of Health can be notified and a protocol can be established. Thank you for your understanding,” the message read.

It’s not immediately clear if there’s a connection to the other two confirmed cases.

Charlie Manwaring, owner of Southold Fish Market, said he couldn’t comment when reached by phone Wednesday night.

“We have to talk to the Board of Health about how to handle this,” he said.

The Suffolk County Executive’s office did not yet provide additional numbers of confirmed cases Wednesday night.

Greenport closed

(Update: 9:13 p.m.)

The Greenport School District will be closed Thursday and Friday, according to a message from superintendent David Gamberg.

The message to parents Wednesday night read:

“Although the district has not received a positive result of COVID-19 in a student or staff member, we have made the decision to close tomorrow, March 12th and Friday, March 13th. This is out of an abundance of caution and will allow the District to complete a deep, thorough cleaning of the building. We will remain in constant contact with the Suffolk County Department of Health.

I will continue to keep staff and families apprised of any additional information we receive.”

Earlier Wednesday Mr. Gamberg said three students who had exposure to a confirmed positive COVID-19 coronavirus patient are now in self-quarantine at home.

Additional districts across Long Island have announced various closures, including Sag Harbor, which announced it will be closed through March 22. Most other districts that have announced closures are in Nassau County.

Peconic Landing statement

(Update: Wednesday, 5:34 p.m.)

Peconic Landing issued a statement Wednesday afternoon requesting people limit any visitation to the community.

The statement read:

“To further our proactive measures, we are strongly encouraging no visitation from outside the community for the time being. We are not under quarantine. We are, however, identifying additional opportunities to protect our members’ safety and well-being. When asked about retirement communities and visitation, the Suffolk County Health Commissioner stated, “Out of an abundance of caution I think it is a good idea to have visitation limited at this time.” Based upon the recommendation of the Suffolk County Health Commissioner, we are asking you to strongly limit any visitation to the community.”

Family member: Ride to hospital led to second positive coronavirus test in Greenport

(Wednesday, 1 p.m.)

A cleanup worker at the brewery Wednesday morning. (Credit: Kate Nalepinski)

A 22-year-old Greenport woman drove the first person diagnosed with coronavirus in Suffolk to Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital and has since tested positive for the illness, a family member said in an interview Wednesday. She is now the third person in Suffolk County to contract the virus, which was declared by the World Health Organization to be a global pandemic on Wednesday.

Despite the positive diagnosis, the woman has not yet felt any symptoms, said the family member, who lives with her.

“She doesn’t feel anything,” the family member said.

The patient, an employee at Peconic Landing in Greenport who also drives a cab part-time, is remaining upstairs in the home she shares with several family members while others are staying downstairs.

In a call to the school community late Wednesday morning, Greenport superintendent David Gamberg said three students who had exposure to a confirmed positive COVID-19 coronavirus patient are now in self-quarantine at home. Under advisement from the Suffolk County Health Department, school is remaining open, he said.

The students have not exhibited symptoms, the superintendent said.

“While we want to follow the protocols that the county health department is telling us … we know we have a public that is questioning that,” Mr. Gamberg said.

“I am, as a superintendent, prepared to close schools when I am directed to do so by the authorities.”

Mr. Gamberg said at least one of the three students had exposure to the first person diagnosed on the North Fork and at least one had exposure to the other.

Clean-up efforts also got underway at Greenport Harbor Brewing Co. Wednesday, where Miller Environmental could be seen working. The first local patient diagnosed with the virus worked there, the brewery confirmed Monday.

Southold cases connected

(Wednesday, 10:30 a.m.)

Suffolk County now has six confirmed coronavirus cases, including two connected cases in Southold Town, county officials said Wednesday morning.

During a media briefing in Hauppauge, County Executive Steve Bellone gave an update on the cases, which include a 42-year-old Greenport man who remains in isolation at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital and a Southold Town woman in her early 20s who is under home isolation. Mr. Bellone declined to say how the two are connected, but said there is a “direct” connection.

Three Brookhaven residents — a man in his early 20s, and two men in their 30s — are being treated in isolation at Stony Brook University Medical Center. A sixth patient, a man in his 80s, is being cared for at St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in Smithtown, the county executive said.

County officials are currently investigating each of the patients’ recent contacts.

“It is believed that all of these cases involve community transmission,” Mr. Bellone said.

In addition to the confirmed cases, there are eight Suffolk County residents who are under mandatory quarantine. Health officials are also monitoring 72 individuals under precautionary quarantine. Each of those people recently returned from trips abroad, officials said, and are currently asymptomatic.

“This is an entirely precautionary measure,” Mr. Bellone said.

As testing kits become more available locally, the county executive said confirmed cases will continue to rise. Results of the coronavirus tests are taking three days.

“There is not a cause for panic,” he said, reiterating the importance of hand-washing and other measures.

Health Commissioner Dr. Gregson Pigott said that while younger populations are expected to recover from the virus, seniors are more susceptible and are being urged to take additional precautionary measures, such as avoiding large crowds and gatherings. 

As of Wednesday morning, Dr. Pigott said they are awaiting the results of at least 12 more coronavirus tests, but warned that there could be additional tests pending since LabCorp and Northwell Health are also performing the tests in their labs.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone updates the media on the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus after the number of positive tests rose to 6.

Posted by The Suffolk Times on Wednesday, March 11, 2020

County executive schedules 9:45 a.m. press conference to discuss coronavirus

(Update: Wednesday, 7:30 a.m.)

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone will be joined by health and emergency response officials to provide an update on the county’s response to help contain and prevent the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus.

The media briefing is set for 9:45 a.m. at the Dennison Building in Hauppauge.

Mr. Bellone announced Tuesday evening that three more people in Suffolk County have tested positive for the virus. All four coronavirus cases in Suffolk are believed to have been contracted through community transmission.

Two of the county’s four coronavirus patients are from Southold Town. One is a woman in her early 20s in isolation at home and the other is a 42-year-old Greenport man being treated at Southampton Hospital.

We’ll carry the press conference live in this feed.

Peconic Landing employee — two others in Suffolk — test positive for coronavirus

(Update: Tuesday, 7:45 p.m.)

A per-diem employee at Peconic Landing, a lifecare and retirement community that’s home to more than 450 residents aged 62 and older, has tested positive for COVID-19, coronavirus, a community spokesperson has confirmed.

The announcement came Tuesday evening as County Executive Steve Bellone announced that three more people in Suffolk County have tested positive for the virus. Mr. Bellone said all four coronavirus cases in Suffolk are believed to have been contracted through community transmission.

One of the patients is a woman in her early 20s who lives in Southold Town and is currently under home isolation, according to a county press release. The others are a Town of Brookhaven man in his early 20s who is currently in isolation at Stony Brook University Medical Center and a male in his 80s in isolation at St. Catherine’s Hospital, the release states.

The county said 11 more test results are currently pending and eight county residents are under mandatory quarantine.

The Peconic Landing employee worked for about four hours after being exposed to the virus, according to a statement from Peconic Landing. In an interview, Robert Syron, president and CEO of Peconic Landing, said that shift was on Friday, March 6. While he declined to identify the individual further, Mr. Syron said the employee is being treated at home.

“Pending further guidance from the Suffolk County Department of Health, Peconic Landing has taken the precautionary step of placing employees that have been identified to have worked in close proximity with this employee on leave,” they announced. “We offer every assurance to our members, members’ families and employees that Peconic Landing will be following all recommendations and will act in the best interests of our entire community. 

“Peconic Landing notified members of the situation this evening. Due to the timing of the notification by the Suffolk County Department of Health, family members will be notified [Wednesday].”

About 300 members live independently at Peconic Landing with more than 100 additional residents receiving assisted living and skilled nursing care. It has about 280 employees, 80 percent of whom live in Southold Town, according to its media kit.

Older adults — and people with heart disease, diabetes and lung disease — are at higher risk of getting “very sick” from the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Our goal is our residents and employees and we want to maintain a sense of calm here,” Mr. Syron said Tuesday evening. “We don’t want to panic. We are being more proactive than we need to be. We have been monitoring here long before we knew we had this individual exposed. We are extra vigilant. We have been screening individuals entering our buildings since Monday.

“We are a fully transparent organization. Tomorrow we will call our members and ask which family members they want us to call to answer questions. We want to reassure everyone that their loved ones are safe here.”

On Monday, prior to the positive test, Mr. Syron said that Peconic Landing has always had infection control protocols in place for the flu and other illnesses. Those protocols, guided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the New York State Department of Health, have been upgraded over the past several weeks since the COVID-19 outbreak.

The home has been evaluating people, from visitors to employees and members — especially those who have recently traveled.

Last week, the staff put up informative signage and started looking more closely into members’ health. And on Monday, it made an announcement suspending large-group events.

Winery suspends tastings

(Update: Tuesday, 3 p.m.)

Raphael Winery in Peconic has suspended tastings over the next two weeks in response to the first positive coronavirus test in Suffolk County, the winery announced Tuesday.

Wine club manager Diandra Schultz said the winery has also canceled upcoming reservations and a wine club event Sunday that was expected to draw about 150 people.

Instead, when the winery re-opens for business Friday through Monday the next two weeks it will limit tasting room activity to outside bottle sales.

Ms. Schultz said the winery’s close proximity to Greenport Harbor Brewing Co.’s tasting room played a factor in the decision. The brewery confirmed Monday that an employee tested positive for the virus and has closed its tasting room through the end of the week.

“Hopefully everything is OK, but I would rather be safe than sorry,” Ms. Schultz said, adding that she expects other local tasting rooms to soon follow suit.

Patient improving

(Update: Tuesday, 1:30 p.m.)

Stony Brook Southampton Hospital issued a statement Tuesday afternoon saying the patient who has been reported to be recovering there from the coronavirus is in fair condition.

The statement read: “The patient recently referenced in news reports continues to be cared for at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital and is in fair condition. According to Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, Chief Medical Officer, Fredric Weinbaum, M.D., the patient is improving with good prospects for further recovery. At this time, the patient is requesting privacy.”

173 cases

(Update: Tuesday, 12:55 p.m.)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday afternoon that the total number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus had increased by 31, bringing the statewide total to 173. There are no new confirmed cases in Suffolk County. Two new cases were reported in Nassau County, bringing the total there to 19.

The largest cluster of cases remains in the New Rochelle area of Westchester.

“These test cases are not representing a random sample, they are not statistically accurate to the growth or to the spread of the disease because this is a selective sampling,” he said. “We are primarily sampling people who are associated with people who test positive.”

Of the 173 people who have tested positive, 14 are currently hospitalized, the governor said.

“People are at home recovering from flu-like symptoms,” he said.

The governor reiterated that people at greatest risk are seniors and people with underlying illnesses or compromised immune systems.

“That’s who we’re trying to protect here,” he said.

New York, Washington and California have the highest number of confirmed cases out of the more than 760 across the U.S.

Precautions at church

(Update: 5:23 p.m.)

The Diocese of Rockville Centre has outlined recommended health precautions for all parish churches to abide by amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Until further notice, the first directive reads, the precious blood of Christ, or the chalice, “is not to be distributed to anyone other than clergy (priest/deacons), or to those who for personal health reasons must only receive the previous blood.”

The second precaution prohibits giving or exchanging the sign of peace, commonly understood as an embrace, during Holy Mass.

The third and final precaution explains that the obligation to attend Holy Mass does not apply to those who are ill. Parishioners, the guidelines say, should remain home if they are sick. 

“Those who are able to attend Mass should frequently wash and sanitize their hands and observe proper health and hygiene practices,” according to the Diocese’s list.

Infection control

(Update: 3:26 p.m.)

Local nursing homes and retirement communities are taking further measures to increase infection control protocol for their primarily elder population.

Robert Syron, president and CEO of Greenport’s Peconic Landing retirement community, said the facility has always had infection control protocols in place for the flu and other illnesses. Those protocols, guided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the New York State Department of Health, have been upgraded over the past several weeks since the COVID-19 outbreak.

“I’ve been working with health care institutions and nursing homes, specifically, for over 30 years and we’ve always had infection control protocol regarding the flu,” Mr. Syron said.

Last week, Mr. Syron said, staff put up informative signage and started looking more closely into members’ health.

Greg Garrett, licensed Peconic Landing administrator, said: “We do not have anything that is abnormal in regards to what we would have on a regular basis during this season. We have not experienced any flu in our health center this season because the infection control policies are strong, because our vaccination policies and procedures are very strong.”

Close to 100% of the home’s members are vaccinated, he said.

Peconic Landing in Greenport is taking steps to limit non-essential visitors to the campus. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

The home is evaluating people, from visitors to employees and members — especially those who have recently traveled.

“We have established a question for visitors now and members who were out of the area to determine whether we think they are coming from a place of risk,” Mr. Syron said. “We developed a screening process and we’re actually putting it into place today.”

Peconic Landing residents, Mr. Syron said, are particularly vulnerable because of their age.

“We’re temporarily suspending large-group events,” he said. “We take this very seriously. We’ve also been working in concert with Eastern Long Island Hospital, Stony Brook, all along. We have their infection control protocols. Last week, we started additional sanitizing of common areas and we upgraded that this morning even further. For our health center, where our members who would be most compromised if they acquire this virus are, we’re limiting visitation to basically essential visitation and limiting their transportation to off-site appointments unless absolutely necessary.”

Mr. Syron made the announcement to suspend large-group events Monday afternoon in his third memorandum to members in the past week.

Mr. Garrett said administrators and staff will continue monitoring the virus and any developments, as per CDC and DOH guidelines. In reviewing the retirement community’s pandemic policy, which is included under their comprehensive infectious diseases policy, Mr. Garrett said, “We’ve reeducated our staff on infectious procedures and policies. We are educating them on the signs and symptoms and not to come to work if they’re feeling them. We will begin to question visitors coming in, screen them prior to entrance.”

In terms of sanitization, the facility is focusing on common areas, doorknobs, counter spaces, elevator buttons and even sign-up sheets with attached pens members use. Administrators have temporarily suspended self-service areas in dining venues. Mr. Syron said Peconic Landing is also working closely with their medical director, Dr. Nathanael Desire, as well as Paul Connor, chief administrative officer at Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital.

“As we move through this process, we’ve taken prudent steps and as information has evolved and of course [with] the confirmed case here locally, we believe that additional steps are necessary” said Mr. Garrett. “We urge calm; we do not believe there is a reason to be panicking at this moment, but we want to be prudent and take the necessary steps to protect the health of our members and our team members.”

Steve Smyth, administrator at San Simeon By the Sound in Greenport, said staff there are limiting visitation and the amount of events held outside the building. They are also screening all staff who walk into the building every shift for signs or symptoms. Those who exhibit any will be sent home.

SWR to reopen Tuesday

(Update: 2:44 p.m.)

The Shoreham-Wading River school district will reopen Tuesday after the abrupt closure Monday morning, Superintendent Gerard Poole announced Monday morning.

“Please be assured that the decision to close today was not one that the district made lightly,” Mr. Poole said in a message on the district website. “The information we received early this morning was limited and initially indicated that a member of our security team might have been exposed to an individual with the coronavirus.”

Mr. Poole said the district felt it was prudent to close in order to be overly cautious while they awaited further clarification from the Department of Health. The Department of Health has since confirmed that no individual in the the district has tested positive for the coronavirus as of Monday afternoon.

“While the situation today developed, please be assured that the district worked internally to take several proactive steps to further our past efforts,” he said. “We once again completed a thorough and deep cleaning of all surfaces in our schools and our buses went through a deep disinfecting process. All after-school activities for today will remain cancelled, as our custodial staff prepare our schools for tomorrow.”

Southold Town suspends meals program

(Update: 2 p.m.)

Out of an abundance of caution, Southold Town is suspending is congregate meals program offered weekdays at the Southold Town Human Resource Center. Meals for the homebound, however, will continue to be provided, according to the supervisor’s office.

“Protocol has been put in place that will protect, to the greatest extent possible, those who rely on this much needed service. For seniors over the age of 60 who are mobile but want to limit their own risk of exposure are invited to call the Human Resource Center at 631-298-4460 for meals that will be served curbside. People must call and register prior to receiving this service.”

The statement also notes that Southold Town is working closely with other government agencies, law enforcement and representatives from organizations charged with public safety to address the threat posed by the coronavirus.

“We urge all residents to take the appropriate steps to protect themselves and loved ones from spread of the virus. We will bring all information to the public regularly as we continue to work in partnership with public health agencies.”

State producing hand sanitizer

(Update 1:32 p.m.)

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Monday afternoon that New York State will begin producing hand sanitizer to provide to government agencies, schools, the MTA, prisons and others.

“We’re hearing from local governments that acquiring hand sanitizer has been a real problem,” he said.

The hand sanitizer is labeled NYS Clean, which the governor said is 75% alcohol.

A new policy for schools will require a school to be closed for 24 hours if a student tests positive for coronavirus as an assessment of the situation can be done. At that point, a determination will be made about whether to close the school for longer.

He added that eight of the 142 positive cases are hospitalized, about 6%.

On Saturday, Mr. Cuomo declared a state of emergency to help New York “quickly and effectively contain the spread of the virus.” The emergency declaration allows for expedited procurement of cleaning supplies, expedited procurement of testing supplies and equipment, expedited leasing of lab space and to provide clear basis for price gouging and enforcement investigation.

Mr. Cuomo also announced on Sunday that after days of advocating the federal government to expand coronavirus testing capacity, Northwell Laboratories has been authorized to test under Wadsworth’s emergency use authorization. Manual testing of 75-80 samples per day will began immediately.

“While this approval is a good first step, the FDA must increase the coronavirus testing capacity for the state and private labs,” he said. “Approving automated testing would allow labs to perform thousands of tests per day.”

County Executive Steve Bellone addresses the coronavirus outbreak Monday. (Credit: Kate Nalepinski)

‘Prudence and precaution’

Update (12:20 p.m.)

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said 35 people are under cautionary quarantine and there remains one confirmed case of the coronavirus in the county. Mr. Bellone, speaking a press conference Monday morning in Hauppauge, said the response is about “prudence and precaution” and urged residents to not be overly concerned. 

“Making sure that we’re doing everything we can to contain the virus as much as we can is the prudent thing to do,” he said. “This is a new virus. There are some things we may not know about it. There is no reason to panic.”

Mr. Bellone did not provide many new specifics about the confirmed patient who is being treated at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital. He did say the patient is improving. He said the county is following guidelines from the state and CDC to provide limited information on a confirmed individual.

“There’s a need to protect the privacy of individuals while reassuring the public that everything is being done with respect to individuals who have been confirmed to isolate and investigate who they have contacted.”

The Greenport Harbor Brewery in a statement confirmed the patient is a staff member at the Peconic location.

Dr. Gregson Pigott, commissioner of Suffolk County Department of Health Services, said the communicable disease staff will interview a patient who is confirmed to find out where they work and live and investigate further. He said that process began Sunday morning for the patient at Southampton Hospital.

Mr. Bellone could not confirm whether the patient first visited Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport before being transferred to Southampton or whether anyone at the Greenport hospital is under quarantine.

“Suffolk County Health Department has been working closely with all hospital officials and staff to determine who is in close contact and to provide any testing that’s necessary,” he said.

The Shoreham-Wading River school district closed all of its buildings this morning and sent students home due to a possible coronavirus case involving a staff member’s spouse. Mr. Bellone did not have any additional information on that. 

The 35 people under cautionary quarantine are in addition to 22 students at Stony Brook Southampton University who will be quarantined for an additional 12 days following a trip overseas. He said none of those students have showed symptoms. The quarantine is 14 days.

Mr. Bellone reiterated that people should not have an expectation that if they are felling ill, they will automatically be tested for the coronavirus. Tests will be done based on specific CDC guidelines, he said. There have been 18 people tested in the county, he said.

The number of cases should continue to rise, he said, and should not be cause for alarm. Some people may be infected and unaware because they have no symptoms or symptoms may seem like nothing more than a cold or flu.

Governor Andrew Cuomo said there have been 142 cases confirmed across the state, a jump from 105 a day earlier. The majority remain in Westchester with 98. There are 19 confirmed cases in Nassau County.

“The agencies that are in charge of working on these cases are working every day, every case is being investigated and that will continue to happen,” he said.

Testing capabilities are coming from the CDC, he added. A medical professional will make a determination about a specific person’s need for testing and then will be in communication with the county health department, working in conjunction with the state health department, he said.

We’re live from the Dennison building in Hauppauge, where county officials will provide an update on Covid-19 in Suffolk County

Posted by The Suffolk Times on Monday, March 9, 2020

Greenport Harbor Brewing Co. closed

Update (11:08 a.m.)

Greenport Harbor Brewing Co. in Peconic will be closed this week after it learned Suffolk County’s first positively diagnosed coronavirus patient is a staff member there, the brewery said in a statement.

The brewery said the employee had not been to work since Feb. 24. He personally notified them of his diagnoses Sunday afternoon, the statement said.

“Upon being informed, the company initiated contact with the Suffolk County Department of Health (DOH), notified all employees, and followed CDC recommended guidelines,” the statement continued. “The DOH expressed their approval and full agreement with these actions.  

“As such, any food service and our tasting room in Peconic will remain closed through the end of this week.  A qualified cleaning company has been contracted to perform a deep cleaning of the premises.  Questions about specifics of this case should be directed to the DOH.”

The Mattituck-Cutchogue School District has also ordered a staff member who worked a weekend job at the brewery to stay home until they are declared by a doctor to be unaffected, Superintendent Jill Gierasch wrote in an email to the school community Monday morning.

The superintendent said the employee has not been in contact with the patient in 11 days and is showing no signs of illness and school has remained open.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said the county received confirmation of the positive COVID-19 patient Sunday morning. County officials identified the patient only as a 42-year-old male, however more details have since been released in messages from local school districts to parents.

Greenport-Southold superintendent David Gamberg in a call home to parents Sunday night said the man checked in to Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport and was transferred to Stony Brook Southampton.

While no additional cases have been announced yet, Shoreham-Wading River schools were closed Monday amid fears of a possible coronavirus case related to a staff member’s spouse.

The entrance to Shoreham-Wading River High School was closed Monday morning. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)

SWR closed

(Update 8:18 a.m.)

The Shoreham-Wading River School District abruptly closed Monday morning just after the first students began to arrive for the day amid fears of a possible coronavirus case related to a staff member’s spouse.

SWR Superintendent Gerard Poole sent a message to parents at 7:21 a.m. alerting them that the district would be closed for the day.

Many students were already at the high school preparing for the start of the week when word came that the students would be heading home. Students typically begin arriving around 7 a.m. and the first bell is 7:20 a.m. Some parents noted online that their children who were on buses heading to school were rerouted back home.

Calls to the district buildings were unanswered Monday morning.

Mr. Poole said in a statement to the News-Review that the district has been in contact with the Suffolk County Department of Health to await confirmation and guidance from them. School was canceled “out of an abundance of caution.”

The district was notified by a member of the high school security team that their spouse may potentially have the coronavirus, Mr. Poole said. There are no confirmed cases within the school community at this time, he added.

The entrance to Shorheam-Wading River High School and the North Shore Public Library was blocked off Monday with a security guard posted. The library will also be closed Monday.

In a letter to families dated March 6, Mr. Poole said the district has been reviewing digital learning options “in the drastic event a school closure continues beyond two weeks.”

Options include the use of Google Classroom and learning platforms such as I-Ready (ELA K-8, math K-2) and ALEKS (math 3-12).

“I encourage all parents to review and check that the log-ins for I-ready and ALEKS for their students are functioning at home.”

Mr. Poole noted additional cleaning protocols have been put in place in accordance with CDC guidance. An additional cleaner has been placed at each building who is disinfecting frequently touched surfaces such as door handles, faucets and counters throughout the school day.

The Suffolk County Department of Health held a regional meeting for schools last week where districts were advised that if a student from a specific district was diagnosed with coronavirus, the superintendent would be notified by the Department of Health. Districts were advised that closing of schools is a worst case possibility. The district would begin to use snow days in accordance with the academic calendar. The school currently has two snow days available that would not impact the calendar. Days 3-9 would ultimately lead into the April spring break.

Additional Information

CDC

Suffolk County Health Department