County launches FEMA portal

(Updated: Tuesday, 5 p.m.)

Nonprofits and municipalities in Suffolk County can find information on FEMA assistance on the county website through a new COVID-19 pubic assistance webpage.

Mr. Bellone said it is critical to make sure paperwork is filed correctly so reimbursements can be received promptly.

“I want every dollar possible back into our economy,” he said. “We’re going to face significant economic challenges, budgetary challenges. The focus now is public health, public safety, but I am also thinking we need those reimbursements here.”

The FEMA assistance is limited to nonprofits and local governments, so a business could not apply for employees’ pay based on lost revenue, for example.

The site links to a DR-4480 form as well as a form for anyone with questions about eligibility.

—Joe Werkmeister

Read more here.

Eighth death reported at Peconic Landing in Greenport

(Updated: Tuesday, 2:45 p.m.)

An eighth resident of Peconic Landing has died from COVID-19, officials at the Greenport life care and retirement community said Tuesday.

The member was an 88-year-old man who resided in the skilled nursing facility at the Greenport facility, who had pre-existing health conditions. He first tested positive for the coronavirus on March 17 and was admitted to Stony Brook Southampton Hospital on March 20, Peconic Landing said.

He died Monday.

— Tara Smith

Read the full story

County Executive’s Tuesday briefing

(Updated: Tuesday, 2:15 p.m.)

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is holding a media briefing Tuesday on the latest coronavirus news.

Watch below:

Veteran laid to rest

(Updated: Tuesday, 1:45 p.m.)

The Greenport Fire Department honored 50-year member Tony Volinski Jr. Tuesday morning. A small procession went past the firehouse where more than a dozen firefighters stood at attention. An Air Force veteran, Mr. Volinski, 85, was laid to rest at Calverton National Cemetery.

Mr. Volinski died March 25 after becoming ill with COVID-19.

(Photos by Tara Smith)

L.I. Cauliflower donation

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

The Long Island Cauliflower Association has donated a number of items that are used as protective gear for farmers to Peconic Bay Medical Center, where they can be used by doctors, nurses and first responders.

“We have a lot of this equipment because on the agriculture side, the farmers need protective equipment,” said John Bokina, the CEO of LICA. “They have an agricultural use as well.”

The donated equipment includes “15 to 20 boxes of TYVEK suits, a bunch of nitrile gloves, and whatever goggles we have in stock,” Mr. Bokina said.

“We’ve been reading in a lot of the articles about where the hospital needed supplies and we had plenty,” Mr. Bokina said. “So we just felt, we’re local, and we want to be a part of the community and give back. We’ve been here since 1901 so we know good times and bad times. Agriculture is tough. As a company, we’ve been through some really hard times.”

He said there was a greater need for the hospital to use the equipment.

“If I got sick or you got sick, I want to make sure they are there to help us,” he said.

Most of the area farmers are customers of LICA, Mr. Bokina said. And with the border with Mexico and Canada being closed, “We think the need for produce is going to be pretty large. And you will know that that your food is fresh, and hasn’t been sitting somewhere for a long period of time.”

LICA still has more protective gear in stock, Mr. Bokina said.

“If the hospital needed more, we have it, and if the farmers need more protective gear, we can help them too.”

Andy Mitchell, president and CEO of PBMC, said: “We are greatly appreciative to Long Island Cauliflower and all of our generous donors who have supported the team at Peconic Bay Medical Center during COVID-19. Both these donations themselves as well as the vote of support that comes with them means a lot to our staff. Thank you.”

—Tim Gannon

An example of the TYVEK suit donated to PBMC. (Credit: Courtesy of John Bokina Jr.)

Gov. Cuomo’s Tuesday briefing

(Updated: Tuesday, 11:30 a.m.)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is holding his daily media briefing Tuesday.

Follow along here:

$50M contract awarded for Stony Brook construction

(Updated: Tuesday, 8 a.m.)

The Army Corps of Engineers on Sunday awarded a $50M contract to an international construction firm to build a field hospital at Stony Brook University in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The field hospital, which has been touted by both Governor Andrew Cuomo and President Donald Trump, will bring 1,000 additional beds to the campus, which is already home to Stony Brook University Hospital.

Turner Construction said work on the project will begin Saturday and be completed by April 18.

Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), a member of the Congressional Coronavirus Task Force, called the project “vital.”

“One of the greatest challenges the continued outbreak of coronavirus poses is the strain it puts on our communities’ healthcare system and possible overwhelming of our local hospitals,” the congressman said in a statement. “In New York, every level of government from the President to the Governor to our local officials has worked together to deliver vital resources to Long Island. This injection of federal funding directly into our local community to increase hospital bed capacity at Stony Brook University is the latest aid secured through this bilateral cooperation, and means that more Long Islanders will receive the lifesaving care they need.”

— Grant Parpan

Eastern LI Kampground to open sites to healthcare workers

(Updated: Tuesday, 6:45 a.m.)

Eastern Long Island Kampground will open its sites free of charge to healthcare workers in an effort to offer support amid the outbreak of COVID-19.

Healthcare workers in need of housing will be offered free campsites with water, electric and sewer hookups, according to the owners of the 23-acre Greenport facility.

“[Healthcare workers] are coming to Long Island and having trouble finding housing,” said Sean Magnuson, who co-owns the campground with Chris Winter, in an interview Monday.

“We had someone reach out wanting to camp here from down south who said, ‘Oh, it’s only 80 miles away from Queens,” Mr. Magnuson said, adding that the inquiry planted the seed to do something to help.

The decision to offer the campground was also fueled by calls to action by elected leaders and a Sunday announcement from President Donald Trump that social distancing guidelines will be extended to April 30.

“It hit home that there’s going to be this longer period that we have to deal with,” Mr. Magnuson said.

— Tara Smith

Read the full story

Long Island Aquarium faces its greatest crisis

(Updated: Tuesday, 6:20 a.m.)

COVID-19 isn’t transmittable to marine mammals and fish, but it has the Long Island Aquarium looking square into the face of the greatest crisis in its two-decade history.

The aquarium on East Main Street in Riverhead has been closed to visitors since mid-March because of the coronavirus outbreak, but unlike some other businesses, it cannot close up shop just like that. Animals need to be fed and cared for. Water tanks need to be maintained. The aquarium is also home to the New York Marine Rescue Center.

That means staff needs to be retained to do this work.

And it means revenue isn’t coming in now and for at least the near future. It’s a stressful period for the aquarium.

— Bob Liepa

Read the full story

Cuomo: School, library board elections postponed

(Updated: Tuesday, 6 a.m.)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo today issued an executive order postponing the circulating and filing of nominating petitions for any office, something that was originally scheduled to begin on March 31.

This means that upcoming school board elections and library elections will be postponed.

The order cites the governors’ March 7 disaster declaration for New York State due to the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc across New York City and Long Island.

— Tim Gannon

Read the full story

Drive-thru testing in Riverhead

(Updated: Monday, 4:45 p.m.)

ProHealth has opened a drive-thru COVID-19 testing facility in Riverhead, officials announced Monday.

The facility, located at 1149 Old Country Road, will test patients by appointment only. According to a press release issued by Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor), the drive-thru testing site is open to all, not just current ProHealth primary care patients.

There were approximately five cars queued up awaiting a test Monday afternoon.

ProHealth is also operating drive-thru testing sites at their facilities in Queens, Jericho and Lake Success. Those sites are open exclusively to ProHealth patients, according to the health provider.

It’s the first drive-thru testing site to open on the East End. Earlier this month, a drive-thru testing site opened at Stony Brook University.

While testing has ramped up locally, the criteria to be administered a test remains the same — those exhibiting symptoms as well as patients who are hospitalized, work in health-care, are first responders or are part of an already-vulnerable population.

During a press briefing earlier Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said New York is now testing more people than any other state, and is issuing more tests per capita than China and South Korea.

Approximately 14,000 people were tested in New York on Sunday alone, the governor said.

Those experiencing symptoms and would like to make an appointment at the Riverhead site should call the ProHealth hotline at 516-874-0411.

—Tara Smith

Four additional deaths in Suffolk

(Updated: Monday, 4 p.m.)

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone confirmed four additional fatalities in Suffolk County, bringing the total to 44, during his Monday media briefing. He did not have many specifics immediately available about the victims and said the county was waiting for confirmation of next of kin being notified for one victim.

He identified the victims as as person in their 90s, a person in their late 70s and a person in their late 40s. They all died at local hospitals.

• Total hospitalizations in the county now stands at 601, an increase from 409 two days ago. There are 85 ICU beds available and 181 in use. That’s an increase in 19 from yesterday.

• Total confirmed cases in the county is closing in on the 6,000 mark. Mr. Bellone said the latest figure is 5,791.

• Mr. Bellone spoke about the county’s effort to communicate to Spanish speaking communities. He said the county had been communicating through Spanish media and radio and delivering messages to a network of community organizations “that are very effective in being able to deliver messages to an often tough to reach audience.”

• A townwide breakdown was not immediately available during the briefing but will be released later in the day.

—Joe Werkmeister

County Executive’s Monday briefing

(Updated: Monday, 2:45 p.m.)

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is holding a daily briefing to update the latest county news on the coronavirus.

Watch below:

Governor issues call to action

(Updated: Monday, 2:35 p.m.)

During his daily briefing Monday afternoon, Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a call to action to health care workers across the nation to help New York battle the coronavirus outbreak, which has now surpassed 66,497 cases statewide.

“The soldiers in this fight are our health care professionals,” he said. 

“Anyone who says this situation is a New York City only situation is in a state of denial,” he added, vowing to return the favor to states who help. “No American is immune to this virus.”

Earlier Monday, Gov. Cuomo welcomed the USNS Comfort to New York Harbor. The 1,000 bed hospital ship will not treat COVID-19 patients but will help relieve strained New York hospitals and be used as “overflow,” Mr. Cuomo said.

He re-emphasized that the pandemic threatens to overwhelm the state’s hospitals, who must increase their capacity to treat patients.

In addition to calling on other states to provide supplies and healthcare workers, Mr. Cuomo called on the state’s hospitals to pool their resources. “No one hospital has the resources to handle this,” he said, in terms of supplies and staff. He called for a “totally different operating paradigm,” for both public and private hospital systems across the state.

He said this morning he convened with the entire health care system to work together to share supplies via a central stockpile and also share staff. “If one hospital doesn’t have enough masks, rather than that hospital have to scramble, let the other hospitals help,” Mr. Cuomo said.

Kenneth Raske, the president and CEO of the Greater New York Hospital Association, agreed that the need for personal protective equipment is dire. “We are going to be one cohesive family in tackling this,” he said.

The governor spoke from the Javits Center in Manhattan, which will also serve as a non-COVID-19 field hospital during the pandemic.

He said New York must get ahead of the problem in anticipation of the virus’ apex, which is expected in mid-April.

“This virus has been ahead of us from day 1,” Mr. Cuomo said. “If you wait to prepare for the storm to hit, it is too late, my friends.”

Here are some key figures from Monday’s briefing:

  • There are now 66,497 positive COVID-19 cases in New York State. While 9,517 patients remain hospitalized, 4,204 patients have been discharged. “People leave the hospital,” the governor said. “That’s important to remember.”
  • The death toll has surpassed 1,000, with 1,218 deaths reported. That’s up from 965 Sunday. “It’s a lot of loss, it’s a lot of pain, it’s a lot of tears and it’s a lot of grief that people all across the state are feeling,” Mr. Cuomo said.
  • The governor did offer a bit of promising news. Last week, the number of positive cases was doubling every two or three days, which is now down to every six days.
  • New York leads the way in testing, swabbing more people per capita than China and South Korea. Approximately 14,000 people were tested Sunday, Mr. Cuomo said.
  • The governor took a sharp tone in addressing people who are not practicing social distancing. He reminded everyone to stay home and if they must go out, keep six feet of distance between others. “I know the isolation can be boring and oppressive,” Gov. Cuomo said. “It is better than the alternative.”

Watch below:

— Joe Werkmeister

Enduring the COVID-19 illness: A survivor’s tale

(Updated: Monday, 6:30 a.m.)

It had been 13 days since Cliff Batuello had visited his brother while on business in California when he started feeling a little sick.

His brother, one of three TSA agents who worked the same checkpoint at a San Jose airport and had recently tested positive for COVID-19, had just been rushed to a hospital intensive care unit.

Mr. Batuello, 69, at first felt like he had a bit of a cold. On March 9, his illness took on a very different and concerning feel, and because of his younger brother’s rapidly deteriorating condition, Mr. Batuello and his wife, Regan, feared the worst.

“It was morphing into what seemed like the flu,” Mr. Batuello said on Thursday from his house in Cutchogue, where he is still under mandatory quarantine, a persistent cough the last symptom remaining of a three-week illness. “On the 10th, I was tested. On the 12th, it came back positive and … the health department sent over a form and some masks, saying that I was basically under house arrest.”

Mr. Batuello, a wholesale wine salesman who has worked the East End for decades, informed his employer of his illness so that they could warn others who had been in close contact (none have developed illness, as far as he’s aware) with him recently.

But beyond that, there was little instruction to be had on what to do next.

— Michael Wright

Read the full story

Mattituck students clean beaches to earn community service, keep active while schools are closed

(Updated: Monday, 6 a.m.)

In the age of coronavirus, people are being urged to stay home and flatten the curve. A series of orders from Gov. Andrew Cuomo has shuttered schools and nonessential businesses and banned gatherings of any kind.

But visit any of the area’s many beaches and trails and you’ll find nature isn’t closed.

It’s something that struck Mattituck High School principal Shawn Petretti recently while he walked along Long Island Sound in Shoreham with his wife.

“We’re doing it on a daily basis,” he said, to try and get outside while working from home. “It hit me while I was walking: there’s no reason our kids couldn’t be out doing community service while we’re on home instruction.”

— Tara Smith

Read the full story

Three additional fatalities

(Updated: Sunday, 3:20 p.m.)

A man in his 60s who lived in Southampton Town died Thursday at his home from complications due to the coronavirus, County Executive Steve Bellone said Sunday.

Mr. Bellone reported three additional deaths across the county, bringing total fatalities to 40.

A man in his 30s who lived in Babylon Town died at a Nassau County hospital Saturday; he is the youngest victim to date among Suffolk residents. A man in his 70s died at Southside Hospital Friday.

All three had underlying medical conditions, Mr. Bellone said.

“We know this virus attacks seniors and elderly, we’ve seen that,” he said. “We know it is also attacking those with underlying medical conditions and people with compromised immune systems.”

—Joe Werkmeister

Watch below and read more here.

Nonessential businesses to remain closed

(Updated: Sunday, 1 p.m.)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday said he had extended the executive order New York State on PAUSE, which mandates closure of nonessential businesses, through April 15.

“I am directing nonessential workforce to continue to work from home through April 15,” he said.

The closure of nonessential businesses began one week ago.

Other notes from Sunday’s briefing:

• A new, less intrusive saliva and short nasal swab test will soon be available for the coronavirus, the governor said.

He said the test can be self-administered in the presence of health care workers. And health care workers can self-administer it. It will start “as soon as next week,” he said.

The test helps limit exposure to health care workers, he said. It was developed by the State Department of Health’s Wadsworth Center.

In terms of testing, Mr. Cuomo said developing an inexpensive home test that can be delivered in massive quantities will be a key to returning to a normal work force.

• “The virus continues its march across the State of New York,” the governor said, noting that all but two counties now have positive cases.

Total positive cases in the state have climbed to 59,513 and there have been 7,195 new cases. The Suffolk County total surpassed 5,000 following 885 new cases.

• A total of 8,503 people are currently hospitalized across the state with 2,037 in the intensive care unit. There have been 3,572 patients discharged, and those numbers are now on the upswing.

From March 18 to March 23, the number of daily discharged patients averaged around 125. By March 25, the number reached 450 and then nearly doubled to 846 by Saturday.

Mr. Cuomo said he expects the number of discharged patients to continue up as more people recover and no longer require hospitalization.

• The statewide total of deaths has climbed to 965, an increase from 728 on Saturday, the governor said. The percentage of cases that end with fatalities has been hovering around 1%. About 1/4 of the coronavirus deaths have been at nursing homes.

“We are lucky it’s only 1/4,” Mr. Cuomo said. “Nursing homes and coronavirus are a toxic mix. This virus prays on the vulnerable.”

He said the step to restrict visitors at nursing homes was a “harsh” but necessary measure.

• Mr. Cuomo spoke of the CDC’s travel advisory issued Saturday and said it’s consistent with what the state is already doing.

“This is not a lockdown,” he said. “It’s nothing we haven’t been doing.”

• Mr. Cuomo said an executive order in Rhode Island that would have allowed police to stop any cars with New York license plates has been repealed.

—Joe Werkmeister

Watch the briefing here:

Zeldin: Nursing home can accommodate 500 beds

(Updated: Sunday, 11:40 a.m.)

Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) is urging New York to consider using the John J. Foley Skilled Nursing Home in Yaphank, which he says is unutilized, as a location to increase hospital bed capacity on Long Island.

The facility can accommodate up to to 500 beds, Mr. Zeldin said in making the announcement alongside Long Island Community Hospital president and CEO Richard Marguils.

“One of the greatest challenges the continued outbreak of coronavirus poses is the strain it puts on our communities’ health care system and possible overwhelming of our local hospitals,” Mr. Zeldin said in a statement. “We must utilize every resource available to expand our hospital bed capacity, and John J. Foley Skilled Nursing Home may be a critical untapped resource. I look forward to continuing to work with the leadership of Long Island Community Hospital and the governor’s office to help ensure Long Islanders have access to the medical treatment they need.”

Remembering a victim of coronavirus

(Updated: Sunday, 11:15 a.m.)

Tony Volinski, Jr., 85, of Greenport died March 25 at Stony Brook University Hospital after complications due to COVID-19, his family said.

Mr. Volinski was a 50-year member of the Greenport Fire Department, an Air Force veteran, and former high school athlete for the Porters.

—Joe Werkmeister

Read more about Mr. Volinski here.

CDC issues domestic travel advisory

(Updated: Sunday, 10:45 a.m.)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a domestic travel advisory Saturday urging “residents of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut to refrain from non-essential domestic travel for 14 days effective immediately.”

The advisory does not apply to employees of critical infrastructure industries, “including but not limited to trucking, public health professionals, financial services, and food supply.”

The advisory is due to extensive community transmission of COVID -19 in the area.

Read more about essential workers here.

—Joe Werkmeister

Instagram video series

(Updated: Sunday, 8 a.m.)

In an effort to engage with Greenport students who are now learning from home, elementary school staff have teamed up to create an Instagram video series for young students to watch before bed. 

Greenport and other school districts in Suffolk County shut down March 16 after state officials mandated a two-week closure to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at a March 17 press conference that it’s “probably a safe assumption” that there will be another two-week school closure will begin March 30.

Greenport staff are shifting attention away from the pandemic by going live at 8 p.m. each night on the district’s Instagram account, @greenportufsd, to read children’s books to students. 

—Kate Nalepinksi

Read more here.

Pandemic’s impact on farming

(Updated: Sunday, 6:45 a.m.)

As the outbreak of the novel coronavirus continues to disrupt virtually all industries, farmers are calling on the federal government to ensure a crucial lifeline for their operations remains in place for the upcoming season.

Federal officials last week suspended in-person processing of new H-2A agricultural guest worker visas in Mexico in an effort to reduce transmission of the virus. Though waivers may be available for workers who have previously come to the U.S., agricultural advocates are concerned about the labor supply with the spring planting season now weeks away.

According to data from the U.S. Department of State, a total of 204,801 H2-A visas were issued in FY-2019. Of those, the majority—188,758—came from Mexico. New York Farm Bureau spokesman Steve Ammerman said Tuesday that last year, approximately 8,100 guest workers came to work on New York state farms under the H-2A program.

In a statement, the bureau said halting the hiring of foreign workers could delay planting and harvesting on local farms and thus result in lower yield.

In a letter to President Donald Trump last week, NYFB president David Fisher stressed the importance of these workers, who play a crucial role in ensuring food security for the nation. “While we are not asking the Administration to jeopardize public health and safety or border security, NYFB requests that the Department of Labor and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ensure that all H-2A visa applications are reviewed and acted upon in a timely manner to ensure the flow of approved H-2A workers into the U.S.,” Mr. Fisher wrote. “It is imperative that no borders, where there have not been widespread cases of Covid-19, be completely shut to allow the entry of these essential workers.”

The Times Review Media Group interviewed Rob Carpenter, the administrative director for the Long Island Farm Bureau, recently.

—Tara Smith

Read the interview here.

How many confirmed cases of the coronavirus are in your neighborhood?

(Updated: Saturday, 7:30 p.m.)

A pair of links on Suffolk County’s website could give you the information you’ve been waiting for if you’re curious to know how many people have tested positive in your hamlet or are waiting on the results of your own test.

The links, which have gone largely unpromoted, take you to a heat map breaking down each town in the county’s positive cases by community and a laboratory testing site where someone who has been tested at the Stony Brook mobile site can enter their information and find out the result of their tests before they have been notified by the New York State Department of Health.

Read the full story

— Grant Parpan

Bellone: A seventh member at Peconic Landing has died from the coronavirus

(Updated: Saturday, 2:30 p.m.)

A seventh member of Peconic Landing has died from the coronavirus, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone reported at his daily media briefing Saturday.

The woman, who was in her 90s, died Friday evening at Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport, Peconic Landing said in a statement.

She is one of seven newly reported Suffolk County deaths from COVID-19, bringing the overall death toll to 37. At least 15 new deaths have been reported since Thursday.

“This is the worst part of these updates every day,” Mr. Bellone said as he announced the latest fatalities.

Peconic Landing said Saturday that the woman was a resident of The Shores skilled nursing facility. She had been at ELIH since March 14 and suffered from pre-existing conditions.

“To the family and loved ones of this beloved member, we express our heartfelt sympathies and support during this tragic time,” said Peconic Landing president and CEO Bob Syron.

The county’s number of positively diagnosed coronavirus cases rose to 4,138 Saturday an increase of more than 730 in the past day. Mr. Bellone said 16 percent of these patients are over the age of 65.

“These are moms and dads, grandmothers and granddads,” he said from his office in Hauppauge where he returned Saturday after two weeks in mandatory quarantine for being exposed to the virus. “[They] are critical to us as individuals to our families and to our communities. This whole effort is about doing everything we can to reduce impact on our loved ones our friends and our neighbors and reduce the number of deaths.”

Mr. Bellone said 409 COVID-19 patients are currently hospitalized in Suffolk County with 139 being treated in intensive care. That leaves 570 regular hospital beds available and 78 ICU beds.

The county executive said the number of hospital beds across Suffolk has not increased, but plans are being made.

“All the work to do that is happening right now,” Mr. Bellone said. “Right now we’re working on space still, then equipment will follow and then the staffing.”

Read more about the county executive’s briefing

— Grant Parpan

Gov. Cuomo: Acquiring ventilators remains a top priority in fight against COVID-19

(Updated: Saturday, 1:30 p.m.)

Governor Andrew Cuomo on Saturday stressed the need for the state to acquire thousands of additional ventilators at a media briefing where he demonstrated the challenges of alternative methods.

The governor operated a bag valve mask, which he said functions like a manual ventilator but requires someone to continuously squeeze the bag to generate air. He said relying on such an alternative would require the training of National Guard personnel to operate the masks 24 hours per day.

“Short answer is no thank you,” the governor said. “Let’s go back to finding the ventilators.”

Complicating matters, the governor said, is rising costs of ventilators up to $45,000 as demand and competition increases. He also said that ventilators are being used on average between 11 and 21 days, up from the three to four days they were needed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The state needs about 30,000 ventilators, he said, adding that the state must build a stockpile before hitting its hospitalization apex in 14 to 21 days.

“You go to war with what you have not what you need … because it’s too late to do the preparations,” Gov. Cuomo said. “The ‘but’ is that until you’re at that point, you do everything you can.”

The governor said all hospitals across the state are reporting an adequate supply of personal protective equipment, but no one has what they might need long term, so the state must also continue to acquire those supplies as well.

Here are some more takeaways from Saturday’s briefing:

• The number of positive coronavirus tests in New York State has risen to 52,318, including

4,138 in Suffolk. There have been at least 728 deaths reported, the governor said.

• Hospitalization has increased to 7,328 COVID-19 patients across New York, including 1,755 in intensive care units.

• New York’s presidential primary has been pushed back from April 28 to June 23, a date previously designated for state and other local primaries.

• The governor is asking pharmacies across the state to begin delivering at no charge to the customer. He said he is currently having conversations with major chains to begin implementation.

“There are long lines at pharmacies right now,” he said. “That’s no good.”

— Grant Parpan

Cedars Golf Club closes due to social distancing concerns

(Updated: Saturday, 11 a.m.)

Cedars Golf Club in Cutchogue, which for the past two weeks had allowed the public to play for free Monday through Friday, has decided to close for the time being.

While the course put in some social distancing rules they found those guidelines weren’t only followed.

“As a result we have decided to close the course effective immediately,” the owners said in a note to the community.

Read the full statement below.

— Grant Parpan

North Fork teachers join up to ensure students in need have laptops for home use

(Updated: Saturday, 8 a.m.)

As schools pivot to online learning, educators are grappling with how to ensure equal access to technology for students.

To answer that question, teachers associations across the North Fork are teaming up to provide Google Chromebooks to students in need. The North Fork Tech Project, comprised of educators from Oysterponds, Greenport, Southold, Mattituck-Cutchogue and Riverhead, pooled their resources to make an initial purchase of 50 Chromebooks—and they’re hoping to raise funds to help even more students.

“The number of computers that our schools have to give to families are finite,” said Riverhead Central Faculty Association president Gregory Wallace. “As teachers we are concerned that the most vulnerable of our students might not have the tools they need to succeed remotely. We are doing our best to ensure equity for all of our students during this time,” he said.

Read the full story

— Tara Smith

North Fork business community innovates and unites for good in uncertain times

(Updated: Saturday, 7 a.m.)

The massive parking lots at Riverhead’s Tanger Outlets were empty on a beautiful afternoon Saturday. Security turned away any drivers who came in, unaware of the closure.

Nearby shopping centers on Route 58 were also closed, as well as major retailers like Best Buy and Bed Bath and Beyond.

Farther east, along Main Road in Southold Sunday, merchants hung “closed” signs in their windows. A man stood outside Magic Fountain in Mattituck, in the final hours before the shop was forced to close. He wasn’t in the usual line, bustling with families yearning for a sugar cone with black cherry bourbon ice cream and sprinkles. He was practicing appropriate social distancing at a time when the focus is on stopping the spread of COVID-19.

Still, traffic hummed across the North Fork, along Routes 58 and 25, as people proceeded to destinations like Costco and grocery stores, stocking up as they prepared for life in prolonged quarantine.

Most other shops had already closed or were preparing to as part of a mandatory shutdown of non-essential businesses ordered by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“You get nervous for your employees,” said Debbie Schade of Special Effects Salon and Tea in Greenport. “It is hard, because we are getting a huge chunk of our business starting in the spring to the fall for weddings.”

Read the full story

— Grant Parpan, Felicia LaLomia and Joe Werkmeister

Q&A: PBMC deputy executive director says hospital prepared to add more space as needed

(Updated: Friday, 6 p.m.)

Amy Loeb is the deputy executive director of Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead. She answered questions by phone on Friday morning. 

Q: What are you seeing in the last couple of days, as far as the number of cases coming into the hospital? Is it increasing significantly now?

It is, although we are not seeing the [number of] cases that they’re seeing farther west. I’m assuming that’s related to the population density differences. And people really adhering to the quarantine and isolation — people being really great citizens out here and doing what they need to do, and I think that’s really helping.

Q: You do believe that’s reflected in the numbers you’re seeing?

I mean, we’re seeing increases — don’t get me wrong. But … we’ve already seen 10 people discharged from the hospital who came in with COVID-19. So that’s very positive.

Read the full interview

— Joseph P. Shaw

Faces of the front lines at Peconic Bay Medical Center

(Updated: Friday, 4 p.m.)

hey’re moms and wives and girlfriends.

If they could take their masks off, their faces may be familiar to you, because some are your friends, neighbors and caregivers, too.

They are the nurses on the front line of the coronavirus pandemic at Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead.

Hospital President and CEO Andy Mitchell sent us photos Friday of four nurses standing in front of signs that tell us a little bit about their lives outside of the hospital. For now though, much of their time is occupied working to save lives as part of PBMC’s COVID-19 ICU team.

See the photos

— Grant Parpan

Eight more fatalities across Suffolk

(Updated: Friday, 3:30 p.m.)

An additional eight Suffolk County residents have died due to complications from the coronavirus, bringing the county total to 30, County Executive Steve Bellone said Friday.

All eight people had underlying medical issues, he said. The youngest person was a man in his late 40s who died Wednesday at Long Island Jewish Medical Center. Six of the patients were in their 80s or older. And a man in his 60s died at Stony Brook University Hospital.

He said based on the current numbers, more fatalities are expected.

“On behalf of all the people of Suffolk County, to all of these families who have been impacted, who have lost loved ones, our hearts break for you,” Mr. Bellone said.

Read more from Friday’s briefing here.

—Joe Werkmeister

No cases reported at San Simeon

(Updated: Friday, 2:45 p.m.)

Since the novel coronavirus began spreading across the North Fork, protecting the vulnerable elderly population has become a top priority at care facilities.

In a memo issued Friday, Steve Smyth, administrator at San Simeon By the Sound said there are still no confirmed or suspected cases of coronavirus in their Greenport facility.

“A critical part of our ability to remain virus free was our swift action to restrict visitation and screen all visitors and staff for symptoms,” he said, thanking family members for their understanding during the pandemic.

Mr. Smyth said staff at San Simeon has made arrangements for residents to check in with their loved ones via video and to contact the nursing home directly to make arrangements.

— Tara Smith

County Executive’s Friday update

(Updated: Friday, 2:15 p.m.)

County Executive Steve Bellone is holding a media briefing Friday. Watch live here:

3D printing face masks

(Updated: Friday, 1:10 p.m.)

Stony Brook University’s iCREATE Innovation Lab has been using 3D printing technology to develop and create personal protective equipment like face masks.

Suffolk County libraries have also donated more than 40 face shields created by 3D printers to Stony Brook Medicine, the university announced Friday.

The donated frames are being brought to campus in shifts and assembled by the iCREATE team, according to a press release.

“Our supply chain professional are working diligently to secure additional supplies and substitutable items. We are working with businesses in the community who can develop compliant face shields at mass quantities,” Stony Brook said.

Charlie McMahon, the university’s interim senior VP for information technology, said in a video posted by the university this week that there’s enough material to make 800 and they’re acquiring material to make 5,000.

A fundraising effort is also underway to raise $750,000 for critical COVID-19 supplies and treatments for workers at Stony Brook University Hospital. The Della Pietra family launched the fundraising challenge and each donation will doubled by the family. The original $500,000 goal has already been surpassed.

“Please accept their challenge. Help us purchase the supplies we need to protect and care for our community,” said Kenneth Kaushansky, MD, Senior VP of Health Sciences and Dean of the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University.

Stony Brook is also hosting a donation drive where people can either drop off supplies in person or through the mail. To donate items, email [email protected] so a drop-off time and location can be arranged.

As resources are expected to become strained, health care workers at Stony Brook University Hospital, Stony Brook Southampton and Stony Brook Eastern Long Island are using extension tubing to avoid entering a patient’s room to monitor IV bags. Stony Brook ELIH chief administrative office Paul Connor said in an interview that any patients requiring a ventilator due to COVID-19 will be treated at either Stony Brook University or Southampton hospitals.

Other ways health care workers are trying to address PPE shortage are:

• Installing physical barriers such as glass or plastic windows at reception areas to limit contact between triage personnel and potentially infectious patients.

• SBUH is accepting iPad donations to provide telecommunication for patients to connect with medical staff.

• Elective surgeries and procedures have been postponed.

Gov. Cuomo extends school closures to April 15

(Updated: Friday, 12:30 p.m.)

All schools across New York State will remain closed through at least April 15 in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced at his Friday media briefing.

The governor, who had initially ordered schools closed from March 16 through March 30, did not rule out another extension is mid-April nears, saying the state will reassess the school closures again in the coming days. The 180-day waiver has been extended, meaning kids will not be required to attend 180 days of school this year.

“I don’t do this joyfully,” Gov. Cuomo said.

Most schools on the North Fork voluntarily closed prior to the mandatory closing, which was first announced by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone on March 15. School districts are instead using distance learning techniques with students connecting with their teachers online.

— Grant Parpan

Read the full story

Note from the publisher: We appreciate your support — now more than ever

(Updated: Friday, 11 a.m.)

As the coronavirus continues to disrupt business as usual in Southold Town, our staff is more determined than ever to deliver in a clear and timely way the news that matters most to you, from the spread of the disease in our community to its effects on our schools, the local economy and the people we all know and love.
We’ve long prided ourselves on our ability to cover a major news event comprehensively. In recent years, we’ve found ourselves facing down storms, on the scenes of countless tragedies and now reporting at a time when our friends and neighbors are finding themselves overcome with sickness, worry and uncertainty.
It is a most challenging time — for all of us.

Our newsroom is still primarily funded through display advertising. As the coronavirus has forced many of our partners in the community to close shop or make drastic cuts, we will need to rely more than in the past on the willingness of our readers to pay to access our content.

We are asking, humbly, that you consider purchasing a digital subscription ($52 per year/ $6 per month) at a time when we need each other more than ever.

The impacts of the virus have already forced us to make the difficult decision of reducing payroll through furloughs. Your support would help us more easily bring our staffing levels back to where they were just weeks ago when this pandemic rocked the world around us.

But make no mistake about it, the news does not stop and neither will our newsroom.

Each of our remaining reporters and editors — their hearts heavy for their colleagues and others who have suffered from sickness and hardship — are working longer days than ever to stay on top of what’s happening to get you the information you want and need during these most difficult of times.

Read the full note

A look at the numbers as confirmed cases of the coronavirus grows

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

Sunday will mark three weeks since the first confirmed COVID-19 case was announced in Suffolk County.

As anticipated, the number of cases has grown each day since. We’ve been tracking the local curve each week in our print editions. Here are two charts, one showing the rise in Suffolk County and the other taking a closer look at Southold and Riverhead towns.

On Thursday, the county health department reported 2,735 confirmed cases in Suffolk, 123 in Southold and 45 in Riverhead. It isn’t clear why Riverhead’s total went down. One theory is that cases in the hospital might have been misappropriated, or it could have been an incomplete accounting of Thursday’s totals, given that county officials said earlier in the day they were still trying to catch up.

The county has been releasing its updated data shortly after 2:30 p.m. each day. You can track that through the Department of Health.

— Grant Parpan

A Greenport hospital faces down the COVID-19 monster

(Updated: Friday, 7 a.m.)

Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport was the first to receive a COVID-19 patient on the East End and has been on the front lines for two weeks. This 70-bed facility that sits alongside Stirling Harbor is pretty much where, at least in our area, the COVID-19 pandemic first reared its ugly head.

The hospital has had to make fundamental changes to meet the challenge, as the number of confirmed cases grew, the demand for testing grew, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo asked each hospital in the state to dramatically increase the number of overall beds and ICU beds to meet an expected surge in cases. As a result, Stony Brook Eastern Long Hospital now has a total of 100 beds available.

The Times Review Media Group interviewed Paul Connor, the facility’s chief administrator officer.

— Steve Wick

Read the interview

Zeldin on COVID-19: ‘I can’t compare this to anything’

(Updated: Friday, 6 a.m.)

The House of Representatives is expected Friday to pass a $2 trillion emergency stimulus package that will provide relief for Americans severely impacted by the outbreak of COVID-19.

Senators struck a deal early Wednesday morning on the bill, after days of heated negotiations and is now the largest rescue package in American history.

The Times Review Media Group asked Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) about the bill.

— Tara Smith

Read the interview

Six Peconic Landing members now recovered

(Updated: Thursday, 4:55 p.m.)

Peconic Landing reported on Thursday that there have been no new positive cases of COVID-19 among the members as of Thursday afternoon. Six of the 13 members who have tested positive for the virus have now recovered.

“We continue to closely monitor our members in all neighborhoods within the health center and are providing the best care possible to those who have tested positive,” Peconic Landing said in a statement.

Members are being offered bereavement counseling following the six reported deaths linked to COVID-19. The case management team also continues to be available to provide support to members in independent living.

“We have received many messages of love and support through our [email protected] email address. Thank you to those of you who have shared your thoughts and kind words.”

Messages of either a few words, a letter or even short video taken on a smartphone can be sent to the above email address.

“This global pandemic is bigger than all of us, and we continue to work together to protect our members, our team and our local community.  We thank all of the local community partners who have shown us great support through this trying time.”

—Joe Werkmeister

Bellone: Number of COVID-19 patients in Suffolk ICU units has doubled in 48 hours

(Updated: Thursday, 3:50 p.m.)

The number of Suffolk residents occupying intensive care units in local hospitals has doubled in the past two days, County Executive Steve Bellone reported in his daily COVID-19 media briefing Thursday.

A confirmed 103 patients are currently being treated in ICU, up from about 50 on Tuesday, he said. There are only 305 ICU beds in Suffolk, county officials have said.

“The hospitals are working on innovative solutions here,” Mr. Bellone said of the steps being taken to increase the number of ventilators available to patients suffering from the virus. “They’re working on unique ways to try to treat this.”

He said using anesthesia machines as ventilators is among the things hospitals are doing to assure the equipment needs are met as demand increases at local hospitals.

The county executive reported two more coronavirus deaths Thursday, bringing the county total to at least 22. One was a man in his 80s who had pre-existing conditions and was being treated at Southampton Hospital. The other, whose death was reported by The Suffolk Times earlier this week, was a resident of Peconic Landing, where six people have died.

“This is the eighth day in a row we’re continuing to see fatalities from the coronavirus,” Mr. Bellone said.

State and county officials said Thursday the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Suffolk has risen to 2,735 with 287 hospitalized.

— Grant Parpan

Read the full story

‘We Miss you!’

(Updated: Thursday, 1:30 p.m.)

The faculty and staff at Oysterponds Elementary School teamed up to create a video with messages to let families know that they are missed as schools remain closed during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Please make a rainbow to display in your window,” the video directs viewers at the end. “Teachers would love to see a picture of your rainbow.”

Watch the video here:

Revenue shortfall for state

(Updated: Thursday, 12:53 p.m.)

The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Suffolk County has reached 2,735, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Total cases in New York now stands at 37,258, a figure that would rank sixth among all countries that have reported cases, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

At his daily press briefing Thursday, Mr. Cuomo spoke of the economic fallout of the pandemic and said the estimated loss of revenue for the state is between $10 billion and $15 billion. He criticized the recent federal action as falling short to accommodate the state’s needs beyond the money targeted specifically for COVID-19 expenses.

He said the state will receive $5 billion for COVID-19 expenses, but it “does nothing for lost revenue.”

Read more here

Governor’s Thursday briefing

(Updated: Thursday, 11:30 a.m.)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is holding his daily briefing on the latest coronavirus news in New York. Watch the live feed below:

Induction ceremony rescheduled

(Updated: Thursday, 11:22 a.m.)

In light of the COVID-19 health crisis, the Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame announced it is rescheduling its Class of 2020 induction to the fall. The new date for the induction, originally set for May 26, will be Oct. 1 at Watermill Caterers in Smithtown.

Longtime Shoreham-Wading River High School cross country and track and field coaches Paul Koretzki and Bob Szymanski will be inducted along with late Shoreham football player Tom Cutinella.

—Bob Liepa

Thursday’s front page

(Updated: Thursday, 10:25 a.m.)

Volunteers to deliver food, essential items to homebound neighbors

(Updated: Thursday, 6 a.m.)

Together with local civic groups and nonprofit organizations, Southold Town officials are looking to mobilize volunteers to deliver food, medications and other essential items to homebound neighbors amid the coronavirus outbreak.

While the town’s senior center has delivered more than 1,500 meals to seniors this week so far, councilwoman Jill Doherty said that there may be residents who don’t need meals, but require help with other daily tasks.

“A lot of people are afraid — they don’t want to go out,” Ms. Doherty said in an interview Wednesday afternoon. “It’s not like a hurricane, where three days later we’re all back, just cleaning up our yards. It’s a long-term thing and we have to think of each other.”

— Tara Smith

Read the full story

Bellone: Suffolk seeking additional hospital beds

(Updated: Wednesday, 4:40 p.m.)

The number of COVID-19 coronavirus cases continues to rise, with 2,260 positive cases reported in Suffolk, County Executive Steve Bellone announced Wednesday.

He said that three more deaths have been connected to the coronavirus: a man in his 80s, a woman in her 80s and a woman in her 70s who all had underlying conditions. The death toll now stands at 20, county officials said.

Heeding Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s call to more than double the number of hospital beds available for treating COVID-19 patients, Mr. Bellone said that he is working with state and hospital officials to meet the demand. He reported that there’s been “tremendous outreach” from different entities who may have properties that could be used in order to increase hospital bed capacity in response to the virus.

— Tara Smith

Read the full story

Supervisor Russell calls on Gov. Cuomo to enact East End travel ban

(Updated: Wednesday, 3:45 p.m.)

At President Trump’s Tuesday afternoon press conference, Dr. Deborah Birx, the response coordinator for the White House’s coronavirus response team, made a comment about visitors to the East End of Long Island:

“Everybody who was in New York should be self-quarantining for the next 14 days to ensure the virus doesn’t spread to others, no matter where they have gone, whether it’s Florida, North Carolina, or out to the far reaches of Long Island. We’re starting to see new cases across Long Island that suggest people have left the city. This will be very critical.”

Her message was heard.

On Wednesday, Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said in a press release, “A new trend is taking place that puts our residents at further risk — people seeking refuge from the metropolitan areas. It is simple math: the more people that come, the greater the spread and the greater the confirmed cases.”

To that end, Mr. Russell said he is urging Governor Andrew Cuomo to issue a travel ban to the East End.

— Steve Wick

Read full story 

Gov Cuomo: Feds need to consider ‘rolling deployment’ focused on NY first

(Updated: Wednesday, 1 p.m.)

Governor Andrew Cuomo called for more support for New York from the federal government during his daily COVID-19 briefing Wednesday, requesting more aid be directed here in a stimulus bill being considered by the U.S. Senate and asking the White House to send equipment and personnel here first.

Calling New York a hot spot in the fight to stop the spread of the coronavirus, the governor urged President Donald Trump to consider a “rolling deployment” of ventilators and medical personnel first to this state before moving to other regions.

“We can take the equipment, we can take the personnel, we can take the lessons to the next area in need,” Gov. Cuomo said.

New York State has now surpassed more than 30,800 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus, with 2,260 in Suffolk County. About 3,800 people are being treated for the virus in New York hospitals with 888 in intensive care units.

— Grant Parpan

Read the full story

Sixth member of Peconic Landing dies from COVID-19

(Updated: Wednesday, 11 a.m.)

An 89-year-old Peconic Landing member has died from COVID-19, the Greenport retirement and life care community said in a press release Wednesday.

It is the sixth death at Peconic Landing from the virus this week.

The member, a man whose identity is not being released “out of respect for the family,” was the first and, to date only, resident of the independent living section of the community to contract novel coronavirus. He had no known pre-existing conditions, Peconic Landing said.

— Steve Wick

Read the full story

‘Unprecedented’ number of unemployment applications amid COVID-19 pandemic

(Updated: Wednesday, 7 a.m.)

The New York State Department of Labor has been overwhelmed with an “unprecedented” number of unemployment applications amid the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

An increasing number of New Yorkers out of work due to the virus outbreak are turning to the state to stay afloat. A spokesperson for the NYSDOL said that, between Monday, March 16, and Saturday, March 21, officials logged nearly 2.3 million visits to their website and over 1.7 million phone calls during a record-breaking surge. Typically, they field an average of 10,000 calls a day, but reached seven times that last Tuesday with 75,000 calls, according to data released by the department Monday.

— Tara Smith

Read the full story

Town supervisors request state extend date residents can pay property taxes without penalty

(Updated: Wednesday, 6 a.m.)

Suffolk County’s town supervisors are asking Gov. Andrew Cuomo to extend the date by which people can pay their property taxes without incurring a penalty from the current May 31 to Aug. 1.

The supervisors also are seeking extensions for grievance day from the third Tuesday in May to the third Tuesday in August, and an extension on the deadline for town assessment rolls to be approved from May 1 to April 1.

— Tim Gannon

Read the full story

Senior Center still delivering hot meals

(Updated: Tuesday, 7:02 p.m.)

Karen McLaughlin, one of the unsung heroes of Southold Town government, wants the town’s senior citizens to know the Senior Center in Mattituck is delivering hot meals to homes.

Ms. McLaughlin, the town’s director of human resources, said seniors over 60 can call the Senior Center at 631-298-4460 to arrange for a delivery. “We can deliver hot meals Monday through Friday to seniors’ homes and provide frozen meals for the weekend,” she said.

Meanwhile, over at the town police department, Chief Martin Flatley said all non-emergency calls that don’t require a response will be handled over the phone only.

—Steve Wick

Supplies for Peconic Landing

(Updated: Tuesday, 6:55 p.m.)

Peconic Landing continues to accept donations of personal protective equipment such as face masks, gowns, non-latex gloves, disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer and other related supplies. Anyone wishing to donate can contact Diane Radigan, director of member services at [email protected].

In a press release, Peconic Landing said: “We would like to express our most sincere gratitude to those who have already provided much needed supplies including Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, Stony Brook University Hospital, Stony Brook ELIH, PBMC Northwell Health, San Simeon by the Sound, East End Group of Yaphank, the Oysterponds School District, the Halyard, and Flavor Fields.”

Messages of support have been posted on the in-house communications channels for all to see. Photos, notes and videos of 20 seconds or less can be sent to [email protected].

“We are grateful for the outpouring of support shown by our local community and beyond,” said Robert Syron, Peconic Landing’s president and CEO. “Together, we will get through this difficult time.”

—Joe Werkmeister

Meal Train at Stony Brook ELIH

(Updated: Tuesday, 6:45 p.m.)

A Meal Train has left the station headed for Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport.

Volunteers can sign up for specific dates and times to donate food and water for hospital staff members. Peconic Bay Medical Center launched a similar effort Monday and slots quickly filled up through early April.

“Due to the overwhelming outpouring of community support through food donations, we have created this Meal Train account ensure that your food donation is efficiently distributed to staff who need it,” the Meal Train page says. These donations are very much appreciated by the nurses, doctors, and entire staff who are working on the front line of defense amidst the COVID-19 situation.”

Homemade meals cannot be accepted. Donated food must be packaged from restaurants or grocery stores.

For additional information, contact Linda Sweeney, vice president, Foundation/External Affairs at (631) 477-5164.


—Joe Werkmeister

Donations of medical supplies

(Updated: Tuesday, 3:45 p.m.)

Eastern Suffolk BOCES donated a large stockpile of medical supplies to the Suffolk County Supply Drive Monday at the Suffolk Fire Academy in Yaphank.

Julie Lutz, chief operating officer at Eastern Suffolk BOCES, said the county reached out over the weekend to inquire if they had any medical supplies, particularly masks, gowns and gloves. 

“At BOCES, we also do regional purchasing, so we have a connection,” she said.

Staff members spent the weekend sorting through inventory and figuring out what could be donated while maintaining supplies needed for students once a regular schedule resumes. BOCES offers several different medical training programs where students would use many of the types of equipment currently in such high demand during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We spoke with our nurses, our administrators to see what we could donate and we got that together [Monday] morning and had our couriers pick it up and bring it to the donation site in Yaphank.”

Ms. Lutz said she did not have specific numbers on the total of items donated.

“It was quite a bit,” she said. “Every little bit helps.”

— Joe Werkmeister

Bellone: Four more coronavirus deaths means six straight deadly days in Suffolk

(Updated: Tuesday, 3 p.m.)

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone on Tuesday announced four more COVID-19 deaths on a day Southold Town saw its number of confirmed cases eclipse 100.

Mr. Bellone noted that it’s the sixth straight deadly day in Suffolk’s fight against spread of the coronavirus. The county death toll is at least 17.

“This is one of the heartbreaking elements of this,” Mr. Bellone said.

Suffolk’s total number of coronavirus cases is now at 1,880 — with more than 7,000 residents tested — and the county executive spent the majority of his media briefing reminding the public of the importance of social distancing.

“I know spring is here and it’s warm and it’s sunny, but I urge people to play their role here,” Mr. Bellone said. “Honor the work that’s being done on the front lines.

“You’re not only protecting your loved ones, you’re also gonna be making sure our hospital system is able to meet the needs of everyone.”

Southold Town is now at 104 cases with Riverhead at 33 and Shelter Island still at two.

Across the county, 163 patients have been hospitalized with 50 in intensive care units.

During the call, Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said her department has done 35 checks on calls for assembled gatherings since March 18. When necessary, officers have given warnings over writing citations, she said. She listed four possible charges individuals might face for gathering in public with others: obstruction of governmental administration, unlawful assembly, disorderly conduct and criminal nuisance.

Cuomo: COVID-19 cases spike in NY with worst still weeks away

(Updated: Tuesday, 12:30 p.m.)

Speaking from the Javits Center in New York City Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave an update on coronavirus cases, which have now surpassed 26,000 cases statewide.

“The rate of increase of infection is doubling every three days,” Mr. Cuomo said, adding that the worst could still be 14 to 21 days ahead.

The governor said the situation was first likened to a freight train coming.

“Now, we are looking at a bullet train,” the governor said.

— Tara Smith

Read the full story

Winter championships canceled

(Updated: Tuesday, 9:45 a.m.)

The New York State Public High School Athletic Association announced Monday the cancellation of its remaining winter state championships. The impacted events include the boys and girls basketball regionals and state championships as well as the ice hockey and bowling championships. The NYSPHSAA said plans are being made to honor and formally recognize the students and teams that qualified for these championships. No local teams or athletes were involved.

“It is with great disappointment that we make the decision to cancel the remaining winter championship events,” NYSPHSAA executive director Dr. Robert Zayas said in a statement. “Our association’s focus is to benefit students through participation in interscholastic athletics and unfortunately this rapidly developing situation has prevented our association from providing a quality championship experience. We certainly sympathize for the students who are being impacted by this crisis but at this time they deserve honesty from the leadership of our association.”

The NYSPHSAA said factors that played a role in the decision included the COVID-19 public threat, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mass gathering recommendations, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s declaration of a state emergency, President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency, input from the 11 state athletic sections and extended school closures.

“This is one of the most difficult decisions the Officers of the NYSPHSAA have ever had to make,” said NYSPHSAA president Paul Harrica.

The NYSPHSAA said the status of the spring state championships will be determined on or prior to April 27.

— Bob Liepa

11 COVID-19 patients at PBMC

(Updated: Tuesday, 9:30 a.m.)

Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead is treating 11 COVID-19 patients as of approximately 7 p.m. Monday, according to a Northwell Health spokesperson.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently announced hospitals in New York must provide a plan to increase capacity by 100% with a minimum mandate of 50%. PBMC last week finalized a lease agreement with the Diocese of Rockville Centre for the former Bishop McGann-Mercy property that will be used for additional parking to start.

On Monday, the spokesperson said Northwell Health has identified 1,000 additional beds that could be made available on top of the 5,500 already in place. Northwell operates 23 hospitals.

“Clearly, if the crisis continues to get worse, we would find whatever space is available,” the spokesperson said. “The biggest challenge at this point is finding enough staff to care for patients.”

— Joe Werkmeister

Gas prices could dip to lowest point since 2002 as people shelter at home

(Updated: Tuesday, 4 a.m.)

The decline in travel as essential businesses shut down in the tri-state area during the COVID-19 pandemic has helped lead to a dramatic drop in gasoline prices.

A drive through Riverhead and Riverside will turn up several gas stations with prices less than $2 per gallon.

The three 76 gas stations on Flanders Road in Riverhead are all selling gas at $1.99 per gallon, as is the Mobil station on East Main Street, which was charging $2.09 per gallon less than a week earlier.

On Route 58, the Mobil station was at $1.89, while the 7-Eleven toward the west end of Route 58 was at $1.95.

— Tim Gannon

Read the full story

Fifth Peconic Landing member dies

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

An 88-year-old Greenport man has been confirmed as the fifth coronavirus related death at Peconic Landing in the past six days.

Robert Greenberger died Monday at a local hospital, his son Jeff Greenberger said. Peconic Landing confirmed the death is now the fifth related to COVID-19.

Peconic Landing said he was a resident of Harbor North for Assisted Living and was diagnosed Sunday while being hospitalized for symptoms of the virus. He did have known preexisting conditions. 

Mr. Greenberger is also survived by his wife Joan, his daughter Caryn Greenberger Sheckler and son Richard Greenberger.

— Joe Werkmeister

Read more here.

Child care to essential workers

(Updated: Monday, 7:40 p.m.)

As the coronavirus spreads across the North Fork, schools and day care facilities have shut their doors, leaving children at home. Their parents, in most cases, remain home with them under an executive order issued by Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week.

But for parents working in ‘essential’ fields: health care, first responders, grocery store employees and so on, the question of who will watch the kids remains?

Local school districts, in a partnership with Southold Town, are stepping up to ease that burden.

Mattituck-Cutchogue Union Free School District together with Champions, the child care provider for the district’s before- and after-care program, will launch a child care program for the children of doctors, nurses, police and first responders within the district on Tuesday. The program, held at Cutchogue East Elementary School, will run on an as-needed basis — if they have 10 or more students — from Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“The school put a very good structure in place to offer child care for school-age children of first responders, medical professionals and others who work in fields vital to the response to combat this current crisis,” Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said.

— Tara Smith

Read more here.

Bellone provides update on hospital capacity, jobs loss, supply drive

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

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone hosted his daily COVID-19 briefing with the Media Monday afternoon.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the call:

• Mr. Bellone reported Suffolk’s 13th death from the coronavirus, a woman in her 80s, who had been a patient at St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in Smithtown.

• There are now 116 hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Suffolk County, with 38 under intensive care. County health commissioner Dr. Gregson Pigott said there are currently 608 available hospital beds in Suffolk County and 87 ICU beds.

“We’re going to do everything we can to step up those efforts to increase capacity,” Mr. Bellone said.

• The county executive also provided an update on the work of the business recovery unit, which is surveying local business to report job loss and to try to mitigate economic distress in the county.

To date, about 700 businesses have been surveyed and reported nearly 4,000 furloughed or laid off workers.

Mr. Bellone said the unit is beginning to reach back out to those businesses to provide support. He said the county hopes to help companies keep employees on the payroll and that he believes state and federal assistance is on the way.

“We want to make sure those small businesses are still there,” he said.

• Mr. Bellone said day one of the county’s supply drive at the fire academy in Yaphank was a success. He also added that the county will be donating close to 700,000 pieces of personal protection equipment in its possession to area hospitals, nursing homes and first responders.

• The county executive will be fielding questions from constituents during a Facebook Live Town Hall at 6:30 p.m. Monday. You can participate at the Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone page on Facebook.

— Grant Parpan

Peconic Landing confirms positive diagnosis in member of Independent Living

Peconic Landing, the lifecare facility in Greenport that has reported four deaths from COVID-19, has been notified of its first positive diagnosis of the virus in a member of Independent Living.

A press release from the facility said the member is the spouse of a Health Center resident who tested positive on March 21 and is currently at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital. The infected person lives in the East Apartments at the facility.

Additional diagnosis are expected, the release said. The latest case brings the total at Peconic Landing to 15.

— Steve Wick

Read the full story

DMV to close all district offices

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

The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles will close all 27 district offices in the state, effective March 23.

In a press release, Assemb. Fred W. Thiele Jr. (I,D,WF-Sag Harbor), said the closure – which includes the Riverhead DMV office – will also result in the suspension of road tests, at least for a month.

Mr. Thiele also said that expiration dates for driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations will be extended; customers with reservations at any of the district DMV offices will have an opportunity to reschedule; and he said many DMV functions can be done at the website,

— Steve Wick

Gove. Cuomo: Much-needed supplies are headed for Long Island

(Update: Monday, noon)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo at an earlier briefing. (Credit: Mike Groll/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)

Much needed protective supplies that have been secured by the State of New York will begin to be distributed to Long Island today, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in his daily media briefing Monday.

The number of masks, gloves, gowns and face shields being distributed to Long Island will total more than 175,000.

“We’re going to be dispatching them across the state today,” the governor said. “This won’t get us through the entire situation but it will get us started.”

The news comes as testing has ramped up to as many as 16,000 people a day across New York, with more than 1,000 tested in Suffolk County over the past 24 hours, the daily total for the entire state just a week ago, according to Gov. Cuomo.

In total 5,962 individuals have been tested across Suffolk to date, with 1,458 receiving a positive diagnosis, according to State Health Department figures. The state eclipsed 20,000 confirmed cases today with more than 150 deaths.

This is all to be expected, Mr. Cuomo stressed, as municipalities attempt to flatten the curve or “break the wave,” as the governor has been calling it.

“The question is what is the point of the break and when the wave crashes and does it break over the health care system,” he said. “The wave is still going up and we have a lot of work to do to get that down and get the hospital capacity going up.”

Currently 2,635 positively diagnosed patients across New York (13%) are being treated in hospitals with 621 occupying intensive care units.  That means 24% of all hospitalized coronavirus patients are in the ICU.

In the efforts to increase hospital capacity, President Donald Trump approved Gov. Cuomo’s request for a FEMA hospital at Stony Brook University, where the Army Corps of Engineers will soon add 250 beds in a tent-like facility. The president has authorized FEMA to cover 100% of the costs, Gov. Cuomo said Monday.

— Grant Parpan