Latest COVID-19 updates from Times Review Media Group

LIVE: Governor’s Monday briefing

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

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is holding his daily media briefing on the latest coronavirus news. Watch here:

On Fishers Island, protocols in place to limit spread of virus

(Updated: Monday, 6:15 a.m.)

As the coronavirus spread rapidly through the rest of Southold Town, Fishers Island residents have banded together to avoid potential catastrophe on their remote, four-square-mile island.

Just two cases of COVID-19 have been documented among islanders, according to officials at the Island Health Project, a nonprofit formed to raise funds for Dr. Chris Ingram, the small community’s only physician.

The first patient was evacuated via marine Sea Stretcher Friday, March 27, to Lawrence & Memorial Hospital in New London, Conn., and discharged April 1. That patient and a family member who also tested positive are now both recovering at their primary residence off-island, officials said.

Read the full story

— Tara Smith

Roanoke Avenue could be renamed ‘Heroes Way’ around PBMC

(Updated: Monday, 6 a.m.)

It’s a common occurrence these days for a group of family members to wait outside the main entrance to Peconic Bay Medical center as a loved one is wheeled out of the hospital on their way home to life after being treated for COVID-19.

Joining them is often more than a dozen staff members from the Riverhead hospital. The cheers at first are directed toward the patient on their way to a full recovery. Then the applause usually turns to the health care workers.

Now those workers are likely to receive a more permanent salute thanks to an idea floated by the PBMC administration to the Riverhead Town Board.

The portion of Roanoke Avenue between Route 58 and Middle Road could soon be renamed ‘Heroes Way.’

Read the full story

— Grant Parpan

Watch: County Executive daily briefing

(Updated: Sunday, 2:10 p.m.)

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is holding his daily media briefing on the latest coronavirus news. Watch here:

General outline for reopening

(Updated: Sunday, 2:05 p.m.)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo outlined a general two-phase outline for when nonessential businesses can resume, a plan that would vary by region in terms of timeline and would appear to keep most downstate businesses closed at least through May.

Mr. Cuomo said Phase 1 would be to allow construction and manufacturing businesses with low risk to resume. The second phase would involve many of the remaining businesses currently closed and their reopening would be done on a more specific business-by-business analysis.

“If you reopen that business, how much risk are you possibly incurring and how important is that business reopening?” the governor said Sunday during his daily media briefing in Albany. “That matrix will be guiding us through Phase 2.”

There will be two weeks between phases — equal to the incubation period for the virus — for the state to monitor the effects. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guideline is for the state and regional hospitalization rate for the coronavirus to be in decline for 14 days before reopening begins.

“I think the CDC guidance is right,” Mr. Cuomo said.

Read more here.

—Joe Werkmeister

Watch: Governor’s Sunday media briefing

(Updated: Sunday, Noon)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is holding his daily media briefing on the latest coronavirus news. Watch here:

Priest leads virtual services while recovering from COVID-19

(Updated: Sunday, 7:15 a.m.)

Having come perilously close to death’s door, Father Andrew Cadieux has a new outlook on life. He has a greater appreciation for the little things like something as simple as enjoying a well-brewed cup of coffee in the morning.

“I’ve been enjoying life much, much more than I ever have, and with that enjoyment being very thankful,” he told The Suffolk Times in a phone interview Tuesday. “I think I’m looking at everything differently … It’s not just religion, I’m looking at life differently. I told my wife and some friends, I’m looking at this as a second lease on life. I’m taking the time now to enjoy things, really enjoy things.”

Father Cadieux has a great deal to be thankful for, given what he has been through. The priest, who joined the Transfiguration of Christ Greek Orthodox Church in Mattituck in January, is recovering from a serious bout with COVID-19.

Read more here

—Bob Liepa

Editorial: COVID-19 casts a bright, if harsh, light on our society

(Updated: Sunday, 7 a.m.)

The tumultuous recent months — with America largely shut down and millions of us sheltered in our homes — has highlighted many different aspects of the society in which we live and how it functions.

The massive public health crisis playing out before our eyes — in our communities daily and on the news relentlessly — shines a bright, and not altogether flattering, light on many other issues central to our ongoing culture wars, bringing them to the forefront. 

A portion of our population, for example, wants immigration at the southern border stopped cold. But if these people are paying any attention, they also know who is harvesting and processing food on farms and in factories across the country. 

A recent news story about a single poultry processing plant in the South showed a roomful of Hispanic workers. It sure doesn’t look like white people want to process dead chickens or pigs or cut lettuce on farms in California. But other people are doing it — and we have food because of them, not in spite of them.

Read more here

Gov. Cuomo announces expansion in criteria for COVID-19 testing; local pharmacies to play a role

(Updated: Saturday, 1 p.m.)

First responders, health care professionals and essential workers will soon be able to receive COVID-19 tests at pharmacies and testing sites across the state in an expansion plan announced by Governor Andrew Cuomo Saturday.

The governor said he is issuing an executive order that will allow independent pharmacies to collect the tests and send them to state authorized laboratories. The initiative will create the capacity for the state to expand COVID-19 testing criteria to include individuals who are working in the public during the shutdown, the governor said.

“These essential workers, and God bless them, we want to make sure they can get tested,” he said. “These are the people you’re interacting with.”

Testing since the virus hit New York last month has mostly been limited to individuals who are symptomatic of COVID-19, including those suffering from high fevers and shortness of breath. In total about 730,000 New York State residents have been tested for the coronavirus with more than 271,000 testing positive.

Read the full story

— Grant Parpan

WATCH: Gov. Andrew Cuomo gives his Saturday COVID-19 briefing

(Updated: Saturday, 11:35 a.m.)

Southold’s Memorial Day parade canceled over fears of COVID-19

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

Amid the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, the annual Memorial Day parade held in Southold Town has been canceled.

American Legion officials in Mattituck and Southold announced the decision earlier this week.

“It’s just too early and too dangerous right now for the community to come together in close proximity,” Charles Sanders, commander of American Legion Post 803 in Southold, said in an interview Friday.

The parade, planned for May 25, typically rotates between taking place in Greenport Village and Southold Town. This year’s event was to take place in Mattituck.

Read the full story

— Tara Smith

LIVE: County Executive’s daily briefing

(Updated: Friday, 3 p.m.)

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is holding his daily media briefing on the latest coronavirus news. Watch here:

Registered voters to receive application in mail for absentee ballot

(Updated: Friday, 12:45 p.m.)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Friday he will sign an executive order that allows every registered voter in New York to automatically receive a postage-paid application to receive an absentee ballot for the June 23 primary.

The primary date had already been pushed back to June from its original date in April due to the coronavirus pandemic. Mr. Cuomo had signed an earlier executive order allowing all New Yorkers to vote via absentee.

Previous guidelines had said eligible voters can vote via absentee ballot if they are out of county or face one of several specific hardships, such as temporary illness. The executive order a few weeks ago added risk of contracting COVID-19 to that temporary illness, according to Melissa DeRosa, secretary to the governor.

“I know some people thought that this should be you send everybody an actual ballot to vote,” she said. “But we don’t think that’s within our Constitutional right for the governor’s directive powers to override the Constitution and create a mail-in voting system.”

Ms. DeRosa said the latest change will make it easier for people to obtain the application, so people don’t have to download and print it, or physically go to the Board of Elections to get it.

• Mr. Cuomo said the number of new infections in the state, while well below the highest figures from a few weeks ago, have remained relatively flat over the last few days.

“That is troubling,” he said. “About 1,300 new infections every day.”

The number of total hospitalizations continues to decline.

• An additional 422 fatalities linked to COVID-19 were reported Thursday in New York, bringing the confirmed figure past 16,000.

The first confirmed COVID-19 case in New York was reported March 1.

Mr. Cuomo spoke about how the virus was likely here much sooner than first realized. There were likely 28,000 cases in the U.S. in February, including more than 10,000 in New York, new research suggests.

• Mr. Cuomo said the state expects a roughly $13.3 billion (14%) shortfall in revenue from the executive budget forecast. The figure climbs to $61 billion over the financial plan period from fiscal year 2021 to FY 2024.

—Joe Werkmeister

Watch: Governor’s daily update

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

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is holding his daily media briefing on the latest coronavirus news. Watch here:

Peconic Landing CEO tests positive

(Updated: Friday, 10:55 a.m.)

Robert Syron, the president and CEO of Peconic Landing in Greenport, has tested positive for COVID-19 and has placed himself in quarantine.

A press release from the facility released Friday morning said: “In keeping with Peconic Landing’s comprehensive COVID-19 protection protocols, CEO and President Robert Syron has been working remotely from home since the weekend of April 12, when he was informed a member of his family with whom he’d had recent contact tested positive for the disease.

“At that time, he immediately placed himself in quarantine and began carrying out his management duties from his home office. Upon then being tested for the disease, he was confirmed positive. Chief Operating Officer Gregory J. Garrett is managing Peconic Landing in Syron’s absence. Syron remains involved in daily decision-making and planning.”

This month, the lifecare and retirement facility has said nine of its members have died of the coronavirus. A release early this month said there were seven positive cases among members and seven among employees.

Some of the earliest confirmed COVID-19 cases and fatalities in Suffolk County were reported at Peconic Landing. Nursing homes and adult care facilities have been particularly vulnerable to the virus. The latest data from the State Health Department shows there have been 394 deaths at Suffolk nursing homes and adult care facilities. There have been more than 3,500 fatalities across the state at the facilities. Five facilities in Suffolk have reported 20 or more deaths linked to COVID-19.

—Steve Wick

‘Project sweetness’

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

A new initiative by local Lions Club organizations aims to make life on the frontlines of battling COVID-19 a little sweeter.

At Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead on Wednesday, a team of volunteers from the Southold Lions Club unpacked an ice cream truck filled with 500 assorted ice cream bars to give to hospital staff. Before arriving at PBMC, the ice cream truck made a stop at Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport, where a group from the Mattituck Lions Club did the same.

“We call it ‘Project Sweetness,’” said Marianne Tremaroli of Huntington, who serves as the Lions’ district governor for Suffolk County. The program, which will continue for the next two Wednesdays, will provide the treats to staff and patients at nine hospitals across Suffolk County.

Ms. Tremaroli said it was made possible by a $200,000 grant from Lions Club International, $18,500 of which was directed to Suffolk County. 

Read more here

—Tara Smith

Federal assistance for farmers

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

A coalition of New York State Assembly members in the minority are calling on their colleagues in the legislature to provide relief to farmers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, legislative leaders and Richard Ball, the commissioner of the state Department of Agriculture and Markets, note that the spread of the virus has negatively impacted the over 33,000 farms, forcing upstate dairy farmers to dump their products.

The Assembly members, which include Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk), outlined several recommendations to help the agricultural industry recover from the crisis. Their plan calls for suspending DMV registration requirements for farm vehicles and the 60-hour overtime threshold and 24-hour required rest period for farm employees that took effect in January for at least a year.

It also recommends deeming “green nurseries” as essential businesses so they can reopen and follow social distancing guidelines and providing food banks with vouchers so they can purchase locally made products.

Read more here

—Tara Smith

State data estimates 13.9% of New Yorkers have had the coronavirus already

(Updated: Thursday, 1:50 p.m.)

Results from the first round of an “aggressive” antibody testing initiative by New York State show that 13.9 percent of 3,000 people surveyed have developed antibodies for COVID-19, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday.

State health officials conducted the tests this week randomly at grocery stores across 19 counties to see who may have already contracted the coronavirus and recovered.

The results differed regionally and Long Island had the second-highest rate of people testing positive after New York City, at 16.7%. Mr. Cuomo said the data may not hold, since the survey was conducted at grocery stores and thus wouldn’t capture New Yorkers who are either isolating at home or part of the essential workforce. No one under 18 was surveyed, Mr. Cuomo said.

Though the data is preliminary, it may suggest that approximately 2.7 million New Yorkers have been infected and self resolved, the governor said.

Read the full story

— Tara Smith

School districts face the future with a very different financial landscape

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

As school districts continue crafting budgets for the 2020-21 academic year, critical questions about state aid funding remain.

Last month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo suspended school budget votes and board elections until after June 1 and school districts across the East End are waiting to take their next steps. All local districts were initially slated to hold their annual votes May 15, and most were unable to adopt budgets before the pandemic hit.

Read the full story

— Tara Smith

Greenport, Southold students create letters, artwork for hospital staff to show their support during pandemic

(Updated: Thursday, 6 a.m.)

Greenport and Southold students wrote personal letters to members of the hospital staff at Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital to show their support to the health care workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Superintendent David Gamberg and Ryan Case, director of educational technology at Greenport, delivered the several hundred letters to the hospital last Friday.

The project was part of an initiative implemented by both districts to encourage students to engage in “non-screen time” community service activities over the spring break week.

See the photos

Watch: County Executive’s daily update

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

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone held a media briefing on the latest coronavirus news. Watch here:

After ‘productive’ meeting with President, Gov. Cuomo reports new testing, tracing program

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

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s White House meeting with President Donald Trump was a “productive” one, the governor reported at his media briefing Wednesday.

The governor said he reiterated the need for federal aid directed to state governments and municipalities during his meeting with the president. He said all 50 states are “basically in a deficit situation,” and need federal assistance to fund essential services, such as police, fire, teachers and schools.

“We spoke truth, we spoke facts, we made decisions and we have a plan going forward,” Mr. Cuomo said, adding that past political barbs the men have traded are irrelevant.

“We’re not setting up a possible marriage here,” the governor said. “We both have a job to do, let’s do the job. That was the spirit of the meeting yesterday.”

Read the full story here

—Tara Smith

Palumbo, Giglio seek terror declaration for China as way for businesses to recoup insurance money

(Updated: Wednesday, 6:40 a.m.)

State Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) and Riverhead Councilwoman Jodi Giglio were joined by business representatives Tuesday in calling for both President Donald Trump and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to declare China’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic an act of terror. 

Doing so would enable businesses harmed by the virus to access the Terrorist Risk Insurance Fund, which was created after Sept. 11, 2001, and which has close to $1 trillion that currently can’t be accessed unless there is act of terror, according to Mr. Palumbo, who held a press conference Tuesday at his Riverhead office. 

“As it stands now, you cannot sue China under the sovereign immunities act,” he said. “This would allow that to happen.”

Mr. Palumbo, who is running for State Senate on the Republican line this fall, said China has been deceitful and intentionally lied about when they first knew about the virus and how many people have been affected by it.

He said China first knew of the virus on Nov. 17, and the United States didn’t know until mid-to-late January, according to news accounts. 

Read the full story

— Tim Gannon

Oncologist faces two-front battle during coronavirus pandemic

(Updated: Wednesday, 6:00 a.m.)

As if leading her patients in their personal battles against cancer wasn’t daunting enough, Dr. Deepali Sharma and other oncologists like her now find themselves staring square into the face of yet another major health threat at the same time: COVID-19.

Cancer and COVID-19 are a lot to confront, but that is what Dr. Sharma does each day in her work for New York Cancer & Blood Specialists in Riverhead. As with other health care workers on the front lines of the global pandemic, oncologists must deal with the stress of trying to save lives while at the same time not contracting COVID-19 themselves and infecting their families. Adding another level of stress to the oncologists’ work is the fact that cancer patients are especially vulnerable to the coronavirus since their immune systems can be weakened by the cancer itself and its treatments.

“Unfortunately, cancer waits for nobody,” Dr. Sharma told the Riverhead News-Review in a phone interview Monday.

Dr. Sharma said her concern from the start has been for immunocompromised patients, whose white blood cells, which fight infections, are unable to resist effectively. COVID-19 can wreak deadly havoc. Dr. Sharma said the new virus is odd in that some infected people show mild or no symptoms while others can experience severe symptoms or death.

Read the full story

— Bob Liepa

New COVID-19 cases continue to decline

(Updated: Tuesday, 4:00 p.m.)

New coronavirus cases in Suffolk County continue to trend downward, county officials said today.

During an afternoon briefing, county executive Steve Bellone reported that just 587 new COVID-19 cases were reported in the last 24 hours. “For a long time we had been looking at more than 1,000 a day pretty consistently, but that number is down,” he said. “We’ll see if that continues.”

For five straight days, new hospitalizations had been declining, but Mr. Bellone reported that number spiked by 23 patients Tuesday. There are now 1,434 patients in hospitals across Suffolk County and 501 in ICU beds. Of 3,316 beds, 741 are available and 147 or 797 ICU beds are open, Mr. Bellone said.

Sixty-eight more patients were released from county hospitals, according to officials. “We definitely want to see that number higher,” he said.

Just 29 deaths were reported today, a number significantly lower than what has become the norm during Mr. Bellone’s daily briefings. “If there’s any solace to be taken out of that, it is that the increase is smaller than we have seen in a long time,” he said. The death toll is now at 888.

—Tara Smith

Game over

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

The novel coronavirus pandemic has taken another victim: the spring high school sports season.

What some had expected and feared has transpired. The spring season for high school sports teams in Suffolk County has been canceled.

Section XI made the announcement on its website Tuesday and executive director Tom Combs tweeted it as well.

“After much discussion and consideration, the Section XI Athletic Council has voted unanimously to cancel the spring sports season for 2020 at all levels,” the statement reads.

“This decision was made in the best interests of the health and safety of all of our student-athletes, staffs and communities.

“The decision was not an easy one to make, however, in what the world is experiencing at this time, it is the most prudent decision to make.”

Teams began practicing last month before Section XI, the governing body for Suffolk interscholastic sports, suspended all games and scrimmages until April 3 in light of the COVID-19 threat. But that date was pushed back further as schools remained closes, narrowing the opening for a shortened spring season until it was finally closed.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced last week that schools and nonessential businesses would remain closed through May 15.

—Bob Liepa

WATCH: Assemblyman calls on Trump, Cuomo to declare China’s coronavirus response an act of terror

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

The press conference starts at about the one-hour mark of the live video.

Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) called on President Donald Trump and Governor Andrew Cuomo to declare China’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic an act of terror, saying that doing so would allow insurance companies to pay out business disruption claims to small businesses.

Mr. Palumbo, who is seeking to replace Ken LaValle in the State Senate next year, said in an announcement of the press conference that China “knew about the dangers posed by the virus early on, yet did nothing to stop its spread.”

“It is clearly an act of terrorism to intentionally conceal a deadly virus that can infect millions and cause economic devastation around the world,” Assemblyman Palumbo said in his announcement. “With this declaration we can not only sue China for damages, we will also gain access to hundreds of billions of dollars for our businesses under the Terrorism Risk Insurance Fund.

Students document the pandemic

(Updated: Tuesday, 1:50 p.m.)

The assignment?

Document, on camera, how you and your family are reacting to the global coronavirus pandemic.

The videos, created by students in Southold High School’s broadcasting class, ranged from the emotional to the comedic, each presenting day-in-the-life accounts of this historic moment.

“The news captures adults’ reactions,” said Jason Wesnofske, who co-teaches the class with Jim Stahl. “We thought it was important to understand what our students are feeling, too; how we’re living and surviving through this pandemic. The videos they did were touching and unbelievable.” 

Senior Molly Tuthill embraced the assignment by penning a personal message to her peers in the Class of 2020. It’s both specific to Southold students and applicable to any student who has been counting down to the important milestones of prom, senior skip day and graduation.

Ms. Tuthill will be featured on NBC Nightly news tonight.

Read more here.

—Tara Smith

Watch: Governor Cuomo gives Tuesday COVID-19 media briefing

(Updated: Tuesday, 10:50 a.m.)

Q&A: L.I. doctors on front lines publish their experience to help others fight COVID-19 battle

(Updated: Tuesday, 7 a.m.)

Suffolk County has over 28,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Last week, Adam J. Singer, M.D., Eric J. Morley, M.D., and Mark C. Henry, M.D., three leading physicians from Stony Brook University Hospital’s Emergency Department, published an article in the New England Journal of Medicine that details their experience — Stony Brook has seen over 3,500 COVID-19 patients — in an effort to help clinicians in areas that haven’t been hard hit yet, prepare for the inevitable pandemic wave.

The Times Review Media Group recently conducted an interview with Dr. Singer. His answers have been condensed for space and clarity.

Times/Review: What’s the response been to the article in the medical community?

Dr. Singer: We’ve received a lot of emails and text messages from people around the country. I don’t know yet how much this is helping them prepare. At Stony Brook, we were quick to anticipate needs. We knew there was going to be a need for surge capacity for both general beds, ICU beds and ventilators. We also knew that we were going to have many, many patients presented to the emergency department and that we weren’t going to be able to see them using our normal processes.

Read the full interview

— Tara Smith

North Fork residents launch services to run errands for elderly and beyond during pandemic

(Updated: Tuesday, 6 a.m.)

What began as a college student’s hypothetical business model has found a place for itself in the real business world.

Lucas Kosmynka, a Syracuse University freshman, put his project in an Introduction to Entrepreneurship class into real-life practice last month. The results so far have been encouraging, he said.

Mr. Kosmynka, 19, of Cutchogue, a former Mattituck High School tennis standout also known for his skills in video and photography, may have a bright future in business. After Syracuse closed classes in early March in light of the coronavirus pandemic, Mr. Kosmynka headed back home to Long Island, right before things were turned upside down by COVID-19.

“I’m that type of person that needs to be doing something,” said Mr. Kosmynka, a film major who also studies business. “I need to be occupied in any way … I thought it would be cool to bring [the hypothetical business model] to life.”

And so, Flying Fork Errands was born.

He’s one of a handful of locals offering these types of services. And with help from Southold Town, volunteer groups are also assisting the elderly take on ordinary tasks beyond picking up groceries, including post office runs or getting yellow bags for household waste.

Read the full story

— Bob Liepa and Tim Gannon

School counselors aid students from afar

(Updated: Monday: 12:30 p.m.)

The coronavirus pandemic may have closed schools, but that hasn’t stopped school counselors, psychologists and social workers from reaching out to provide students support at home.

In a letter sent to families April 10, support staff in the Greenport school district offered a reminder as they extended sympathy to families who may have lost a loved one to COVID-19: We are here for you.

“We were so sad to hear about so many of our students losing family members and not being able to support them the way we normally would have,” said Brandi Hopkins, guidance coordinator at Greenport High School.

The support team, Ms. Hopkins said last week, has had to adapt now that they’re working from home. “It’s about keeping a constant line of communication,” she said. Initially, support staff worked to determine which students were in need of access to meals and computers. 

School social worker Jillian Johnstone and psychologist Courtney Dubreuil have also reached out to students they regularly work with to continue assisting them during a time of great anxiety.

“This is definitely a first for everybody, but in a way it’s good that we’re all figuring it out together,” Ms. Hopkins said. “We are the support team, but the teachers, staff, administration and community have really stepped up. [Greenport] has always been a community where everybody looks out for everybody else.”

Read more here.

—Tara Smith

Watch: Gov. Cuomo hosts his Monday COVID-19 media briefing

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

Making a difference: Visiting nurse is fighting COVID-19 while living out of RV in Greenport

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

In mid-March, as the COVID-19 infection rate began to grow, Roman Gnatenko received a phone call from an agency in the Midwest that places qualified nurses with hospitals that need extra staff during emergencies.

“I’d always had my eye on [Stony Brook] Eastern Long Island Hospital,” the New York City resident said. “It seemed like a great place to work. Now I was being told they needed staff and I needed to be there in a hurry — like the next day. So I packed up and went.”

The number of people on the North Fork infected with the coronavirus on March 17 when the call came through was low, the wave just beginning to build. But it was expected to begin to grow sharply, and the Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital administration needed to be prepared.

“We called the agency to see what was available, because everything was telling us a surge might be coming,” said Paul Connor, the hospital’s administrator, in a recent interview.

A little publicized part of Long Island’s efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic is the use of nurses and other professionals from agencies that specialize in temporary employment during emergencies. “If you know you are short in one area, or could be, this is what you do,” said Mr. Connor in that interview.

Read the full story

— Steve Wick

Fatalities increase by 132

(Updated: Sunday, 4:30 p.m.)

An additional 132 fatalities in Suffolk County have been reported over the last three days, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said Sunday, after there had been a delay in the day-to-day data from the state Department of Health.

That brings the total number of fatalities related to COVID-19 in the county to 825, about 45% of which have been people in nursing homes or assisted living facilities, according to the state DOH. The statewide total has now reached 13,869.

Mr. Bellone said Sunday represented the largest single-day decline in total hospitalizations since the outbreak began. There are now 1,441 patients hospitalized, a decrease of 97 compared to the prior day. One week ago on Easter Sunday was the first day the county saw a decrease in the number of hospitalizations, but a slight increase followed during the week.

It’s now the fourth straight day of declines, he said.

“That is great news,” Mr. Bellone said of the single-day drop, while also noting the number of patients hospitalized still remains “incredibly high.”

An additional 783 people tested positive for the coronavirus on Saturday, a figure slightly below the average of around 1,000 new cases per day.

Mr. Bellone said it’s still a “huge number of people testing positive still every day for the virus.”

Additional data by hamlets is available here.

—Joe Werkmeister

Antibody testing to begin in NY

(Updated: Sunday, 4:05 p.m.)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Sunday that the state will begin an antibody test survey across the state as the “first true snapshot of what we’re really dealing with.” The survey will be random, as opposed to the diagnostic tests where people who are symptomatic can make appointments to find out if they are positive or negative. 

”We’re going to do that in the most aggressive way in the nation,” the governor said during a media briefing at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset. “We’re going to sample people, thousands of people across the state to find out if they have the antibodies. That will tell us for the first time what percent of the population actually has had the coroanvirus.”

The State Department of Health will run that survey, the governor said.

Antibodies are specific proteins made in response to infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

“Antibodies can be found in the blood and in other tissues of those who are tested after infection,” according to the CDC. “… Antibody test results are important in detecting infections with few or no symptoms.”

Mr. Cuomo said the FDA has approved the state’s antibody test that will be rolled out this week.

Melissa DeRosa, secretary to the governor, said the antibody testing will begin Monday with a sampling of 3,000 people. She noted by comparison Germany did a 3,000-person sample for its population of 83 million. New York has a population of more than 19 million. She said the first results will be available at the end of the week.

Michael Dowling, president and CEO of Northwell Health, said he anticipates getting up to 10,000 antibody tests per day with a goal of increasing that to 20,000 per day in a “short time.”

“We’re also working with all the other health systems in the region,” he said. “All of the lab people from all of the biggest systems are getting together daily, all collaborating to make sure that we expand the capacity for antibody testing. The anticipation is that we will be able to do hundreds of thousands of tests.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said during his media briefing later Sunday that the county “will be ready to work hand-in-hand” when it comes to antibody testing.

“What we need to get out of that antibody testing is an understanding of how many people have had the virus,” he said. “To determine that if you’ve had the virus you are protected, that is critical piece of information. And then beyond that, to understand how long that protection might last. This trial is very important.”

—Joe Werkmeister

Parade of support

(Updated: Sunday, 3:40 p.m.)

In what has become a tradition during the coronavirus pandemic, fire departments from across the East End drove past Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital Sunday in a parade of support for the health care workers who continue to put their lives on the line treating patients.

Watch: County Executive’s briefing

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

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is holding his daily media briefing on the latest coronavirus news.

Watch here:

Marinas can reopen

(Updates: Sunday, 1:50 p.m.)

On a sunny Sunday afternoon, Jeff Strong enjoyed the weather and the good news that his four marinas are now open to boaters who want to enjoy the Peconic Bay.

On Saturday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, along with New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, announced that marinas and boatyards can reopen for personal use.

“This is fantastic news for us,” said Mr. Strong, whose company owns three marinas in Mattituck and one in Southampton. “It allows us to get our tech and yard people back and working.”

In a news release, the three governors said that “boatyards and marine manufacturers will be allowed to open for personal use as long as strict social distancing and sanitization protocols are followed. Chartered watercraft services or rentals will not be allowed, and restaurant activity at these sites must be limited to take-out or delivery only, like anywhere else in the three states.”

Read more here.

—Steve Wick

Watch: Governor’s Sunday briefing

(Updated: Sunday, Noon)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is holding his daily media briefing on the latest coronavirus news from the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset. Watch here:

Calverton man dies

(Updated: Sunday, 7:20 a.m.)

A Calverton man who was admitted to Peconic Bay Medical Center April 8 died Friday after 10 days at the hospital. His mother said he had tested positive for the coronavirus and was placed a ventilator to help him breathe on Monday.

He was 52.

Read more here.

—Joe Werkmeister

Producing hospital gowns

(Updated: Sunday, 7 a.m.)

Though a state mandate ordered Reilly Architectural to suspend its operations last week, volunteers at the Calverton plant have been working to produce hospital gowns for those on the front lines at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital.

The architectural company is part of a team of East End businesses working to create the approximately 10,000 gowns that are much-needed at the hospital. Hospital staff go through an estimated 1,200 gowns each day, officials said.

“No request was too large and everyone eagerly jumped aboard the project, said Ken Wright, who chairs the Southampton Hospital Association, in a statement Thursday. 

Mr. Wright worked with Dr. Darrin Wiggins, vice chair of the Emergency Department at the hospital to produce several prototypes of the isolation gowns until they came up with a design similar to one already used by the hospital’s staff.

Next, Riverhead Building Supply donated 300,000 square feet of polyethylene and 10 miles worth of tape to mobilize volunteers at Reilly Architectural to begin cutting the gowns.

Read more here.

—Tara Smith

Season in jeopardy

(Updated: Sunday, 6:50 a.m.)

The waiting game continues.

Watch and wait. That’s the name of the game for the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League these days.

The HCBL’s 13th season is scheduled to start June 2, but that opening date — as well as the season —is up in the air in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s been 13 years, and this has probably been the most challenging I’ve ever had to deal with,” HCBL president Sandi Kruel, one of the league’s founders, told the News-Review in a phone interview Tuesday. “We know we need to get these kids on fields. We know these kids want to play baseball. We know the scouts want to see them.”

How to make that happen, of course, in this age of coronavirus is the trick.

Read more here.

—Bob Liepa

Shelter Island ferry companies requiring passengers to wear masks in cars

(Updated: Saturday, 4:10 p.m.)

The North and South ferry companies, which operate vessels to Shelter Island, have issued directives that all customers boarding boats, even those in vehicles, must wear face masks or coverings.

General Manager Stella Lagudis of the Shelter Island Heights Property Owners Corporation, which owns North Ferry running from Greenport, said Saturday morning that the order will take effect immediately.

South Ferry, which operates boats to and from North Haven on the South Fork, said it is issuing an identical directive.

This follows the executive order from Gov. Andrew Cuomo that requires all New Yorkers wear masks in public when social distancing is not possible, such as using public transportation.

Read the full story

— Ambrose Clancy

WATCH: County Executive Steve Bellone gives his Saturday COVID-19 briefing

(Updated: Saturday, 2:20 p.m.)

WATCH: Governor Cuomo gives his Saturday COVID-19 briefing

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

Plan to push back property tax deadline hitting snag

(Updated: Saturday, 9 a.m.)

A proposal to push back the due date for property taxes in Suffolk County appears to have run into some opposition at the county level.

The Suffolk County Supervisor’s Association in late March sent a letter requesting that Gov. Andrew Cuomo issue an executive order shifting the deadline by which property taxes can be paid without penalty from the current May 31 to Aug. 1. 

The purpose of the move was “to assist those people who pay their property taxes directly and not through any authorized escrow account held by a mortgage company, lender, bank or mortgage servicing company which are due by May 31, 2020, by allowing for a waiver of penalties and interest for payments made by August 1, 2020,” according to that letter. 

“We also would like to request that the assessment roll final date of May 1 be moved to Aug. 1 and Grievance Day be moved from the third Tuesday in May to the third Tuesday in August,” the letter stated. 

The requests came in response to the flood of layoffs and wage losses caused by COVID-19 and the slew of businesses that have been forced to close to comply with state edicts aimed at preventing the spread of the virus. 

Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) said in an interview Monday that the proposal seems to be losing support in Albany. 

“It’s something that seemed like a no-brainer at the beginning, but now — between school budgets and other municipal budgets that really rely on that revenue — I think the governor is showing some reluctance to do that.”

Read the full story

— Tim Gannon

Updated numbers

(Updated: Friday, 8:30 p.m.)

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Riverhead Town has surpassed neighboring Southold for the first time since the crisis began in early March.

There are 258 cases in Riverhead as of late Friday, an increase of 62 in the last week. In Southold there are 257 cases, an increase of just five in the last week.

The per capita rate still remains higher in Southold Town with more than 11 cases per 1,000 residents. Data on the number of people who have recovered is still not available.

More than 25,700 positives cases have now been confirmed in Suffolk County, an increase of more than 1,000 in the last day.

The number of patients hospitalized and in intensive care units have decreased and 122 patients have been discharged from hospitals in the last 24 hours. More than 1,500 people still remain in Suffolk hospitals for COVID-19 treatment.

—Joe Werkmeister

Welcome home!

(Updated: Friday, 8:20 p.m.)

Eleven days after being released from Peconic Bay Medical Center, Kathleen Hauser of Mattituck was sitting upstairs in her ‘quarantine room’ with an oxygen treatment when she heard a barrage of sirens.

“I thought ‘Oh my God,’ Someone else on my block is getting taken away,” Ms. Hsauser said, bundled up on her front porch Friday evening.

Instead, a parade of more than two dozen family, friends and first responders lined their quiet block, blaring horns, blowing kisses and cheering her on in her battle against COVID-19.

Read more here.

—Tara Smith

LIVE: County Executive’s daily briefing

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

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is holding his daily media briefing. Watch here:

Nursing home data

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

The New York State Department of Health is now providing limiting data on fatalities that have been reported at specific nursing homes and assisted living facilities throughout the state.

The list does not include any nursing homes with fewer than five fatalities due to privacy concerns. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, when repeatedly questioned over the last month about nursing home fatalities and the lack of any specific information, has said there needs to be a balance between privacy and the information released.

The only local nursing home or rehab facility included on the list is Peconic Landing. As of April 5, Peconic Landing had confirmed nine fatalities of members at the Greenport lifecare and retirement community. The data reported to the state shows six fatalities, which occurred in the nursing home part of the complex.

Click here to read more

—Joe Werkmeister

LIVE: Governor’s daily briefing

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

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is holding his daily media briefing. Watch here:

Cloth masks made by inmates

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

Inmates at the Suffolk County Correctional Facility are making hundreds of cloth masks for distribution to other incarcerated people, the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office said this week. The cloth masks will also be distributed to the county’s law enforcement officials and after that, to other essential workers in Suffolk.

The program is being led by several Suffolk County Correction officers who can operate the jail’s industrial-sized sewing machines, along with a group of female inmates, some of whom had sewing skills or expressed a willingness to learn and assist.

More than 800 cloth face coverings have been made in the first few days and 1,200 are expected to be in stock by the weekend.

“I take the public health component of my responsibilities very seriously, and this is just one of a multitude of ways we are working to prevent the spread of coronavirus inside the Suffolk County Correctional Facility,” Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr. said. “The inmates are learning skills while giving back to society and helping to prevent the spread of COVID 19. It’s of great benefit to all.”

All county inmates will be issued two washable cloth masks. Sheriff’s Office employees have essential personal protective equipment and the cloth masks will also be made available to them as needed.

To assist in the effort, the Sheriff’s Office is requesting donations of cotton cloth and elastic for the ear loops that are either 1/8″ or 3 mm flat or round, white or black, woven or braided elastic in spools of any length. Anyone wishing to make a donation can contact Lt. Adeline Kuhnle at [email protected].

—Joe Werkmeister

Inmates are working to sew cloth face coverings. (Credit: Suffolk Sheriff’s Office)

Unsung heroes continue to staff East End Disability in the face of COVID-19

(Updated: Friday 6 a.m.)

Ever since Hurricane Katrina, Joy O’Shaughnessy has wrestled with a recurring nightmare — that a catastrophic event would prevent her staff at East End Disability Associates from serving their 100 residents, each living with an intellectual or developmental disability or both.

It hasn’t happened yet, the chief program officer reported with a restrained sigh of relief, hyper-aware of the COVID-19 crisis the Riverhead-based organization is now navigating.

Having emerged on the South and North forks as a significant and deadly presence, the novel coronavirus has forced the region’s disability agencies to shutter day programming, cancel all special events and, worse, impose a mandatory lockdown for residences — a difficult concept for many residents to grasp.

But as they acclimate to their new normal, the concern is not limited to the health threat that they face. It is also a threat assumed by the direct support professionals who care for them — essential employees who show up, day in and day out, despite the risks, earning just above minimum wage to do it.

Read the full story

— Michelle Trauring

LIVE: County Executive’s briefing

(Updated: Thursday, 2:20 p.m.)

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is holding his daily media briefing. Watch below:

Closure extended to May 15

(Updated: Thursday, 1 p.m.)

New York “PAUSE,” an executive order that shut schools and nonessential businesses, has been extended to May 15, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced during his daily briefing Thursday.

He said the decision was made in coordination with neighboring states.

“I don’t want to project beyond that period,” Mr. Cuomo said. “One month is a long time.”

The governor reiterated that the calibration for reopening society will be based on the COVID-19 infection rate, data and science.

“We’re talking about human lives here,” he said.

While he has said the pandemic will not truly end until a vaccine is developed — which could take 12 to 18 months — Mr. Cuomo said he couldn’t specify whether social distancing measures would last that long.

“I understand people want certainty and closure, but we don’t have it,” he said.

Read more here

—Tara Smith

LIVE: Governor’s Thursday briefing

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

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is holding his daily media briefing. Watch here:

April 16 front page

(Updated: Thursday, 11 a.m.)

The cover of the April 16 issue of The Suffolk Times features stories on Mattituck High School seniors dealing with uncertainty of their final year as well as how restaurants are coping.

Remembering George Mullen Jr.

(Updated: Thursday, 10:55 a.m.)

George Mullen Jr., 82, died April 8 in Stony Brook University Hospital from the devastating effects of COVID-19. There are, as of this writing, 653 COVID-19 deaths in Suffolk County. Each of the dead has a story to tell, a life lived, a biography that perhaps only family members know anything about and the world outside that small circle will never know.

Read Mr. Mullen’s obituary

—Steve Wick

Local restaurants, with much smaller staffs, adapt to find ways to stay afloat

(Updated: Thursday, 7:30 a.m.)

Jerry Dicecco never imagined a time where his downtown Riverhead restaurant would be selling cartons of eggs, toilet paper and wholesale produce to stay afloat. But during the coronavirus pandemic, his ingenuity is being put to the test.

Jerry and The Mermaid is one of several area eateries that have expanded their take-out and delivery options to include grocery items. “We’re doing what we can,” Mr. Dicecco said Monday, describing the $50 weekly produce box that the restaurant sold out of last week. 

When the outbreak began in early March, the uncertainty amid a state-mandated closure forced Mr. Dicecco to lay off the entire 12-person winter staff. “It affected me mentally,” he said. “We found out we had to close that night and had no idea what to do tomorrow.”

In an open letter sent to President Donald Trump last month, the National Restaurant Association estimated that 5 to 7 million service industry jobs would be disrupted across the country through June.

“We’re just trying to survive,” said Chris Richards, who owns CJ’s Grill in Mattituck with his wife Joanne. “We’re not built for takeout.”

Read the full story

— Tara Smith

Beating the odds

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

“We missed you. Welcome home!” “Go, gramps, go!”

Doctors, nurses, family and friends lined the entrance at Peconic Bay Medical Center, cheering and applauding as Rick Horton was discharged from the hospital Wednesday.

The Cutchogue man, who spent nearly four weeks in the ICU, is the second patient at PBMC to come off of a ventilator and be discharged.

“It was like being hit by a truck, and then the truck backed up and over me again,” Mr. Horton said, describing the ordeal. “These guys were great,” he added, thanking the team at PBMC for saving his life.

As he left the hospital, staff played “Here Comes the Sun” by the Beatles in what has become a tradition when discharging COVID-19 patients.

“There’s good days and bad days,” said Christine Kippley, chief nursing officer at PBMC. Days like Wednesday, she said, keep her going.

Read more here.

—Tara Smith and Grant Parpan

Governor directs people to wear masks in public

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

Gov. Andrew Cuomo will sign an executive order directing all New Yorkers to wear face masks while out in public, he announced Wednesday afternoon.

“If you are going to be in a situation, in public, where you come into contact with other people in a situation that is not socially distanced you must have a mask or a cloth covering nose and mouth,” Mr. Cuomo said during his daily press briefing. 

Social distancing guidance requires people who do not live in the same household to maintain at least six feet between each other.

The order will take effect Saturday and will apply to any public situation: grocery stores, public transit and even walks where you can’t maintain social distance.

“Go out for a walk because you need to get out of the house. The dog is getting on your nerves, fine. Don’t infect me. You don’t have a right to infect me,” Mr. Cuomo said.

Read more here.

—Tara Smith

LIVE: ‘Beyond the Expected’

(Updated: Wednesday, 12:35 p.m.)

In the latest episode of Stony Brook University’s “Beyond the Expected,” show, “interim President Michael Bernstein sits down with several health care professionals who are risking their lives every day to save others, two of which contracted COVID-19 but are on the road to recovery. The podcast will also feature a discussion with a Stony Brook Medicine epidemiologist, who has an expert’s view on what we can all do to best protect ourselves.”

Watch below:

LIVE: Governor holds daily media briefing

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

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is holding is daily media briefing on the latest coronavirus news. Watch here:

Fire departments from across East End pay tribute to health care workers at PBMC

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

Fire departments from Riverhead, Jamesport, Mattituck, Flanders, Eastport, East Quogue, Manorville, Cutchogue and Wading River paid tribute to health care workers at Peconic Bay Medical Center with a parade Tuesday evening.

Health care workers at the hospital waves to the passing fire trucks, ambulances and police vehicles

See photos and video from the event

— Joe Werkmeister

After returning home from rehab facility, disabled man soon ended up back in hospital with coronavirus

(Updated: Wednesday, 6 a.m.)

Diana Ruvolo of Calverton greeted her son, Liborio Alessi, in the lobby of Sayville Nursing & Rehabilitation Center. It had been a few weeks since she’d seen him — their longest time apart in years — due to current restrictions on visitors at nursing facilities.

Mr. Alessi, 52, who goes by Lee, had been admitted to the facility Feb. 12 for rehab after a hospital stay. Two massive strokes in 2016 had left him paralyzed on his right side and largely unable to speak. He had also undergone a craniotomy — a surgical procedure to remove part of the skull to expose the brain — which left him prone to seizures, the reason he’d been hospitalized.

When Ms. Ruvolo, 74, had last seen her son in Sayville, he was walking the halls with help from a therapist and a Hemi walker. “He was doing everything great,” she said. “He had made great progress and got his strength back.”

On March 28, she brought him back to her Calverton home, where, with assistance from home aides, she’d been caring for him ever since he suffered his first stroke. She always remained by his side, whether he was at a hospital, nursing home or rehab facility. Before that, Mr. Alessi, who was divorced and had been an assistant production editor for CBS, had been living with his daughter and grandson in Farmingville. 

Once he returned to Calverton, however, Mr. Alessi’s condition gradually worsened. His mother said he was “a changed person.”

He struggled to walk. He had trouble getting out of bed. She couldn’t wake him up in the morning. He had recently stopped eating solid foods.

Last Wednesday, Ms. Ruvolo finally decided to call 911. She’d been hesitant to make the call. She knew what it meant: Once admitted to the hospital, her son — who is non-verbal — would be unable to see any visitors. Having just gone through a few weeks without seeing him, she desperately hoped to avoid starting the process all over again.

“To see him go off in the ambulance, scared and alone … and he gets there and he can’t communicate,” she said.

What has followed has been a frustrating effort to obtain information and a new set of fears that sank in once Ms. Ruvolo learned that Mr. Alessi had tested positive for COVID-19, which preys upon those with underlying medical conditions. 

Read full story

— Joe Werkmeister

$1 million donation

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

An anonymous donor has given Peconic Bay Medical Center a $1 million gift to support the hospital’s staff in its efforts against the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a release, Andy Mitchell, the hospital’s president and CEO, said, “This is an incredibly inspiring and deeply appreciated gift. It expresses the gratitude so many of us feel toward these real-life heroes. It exemplifies the tremendous outpouring of support our frontline caregivers have been receiving from the entire community.”

He said the funds would be distributed “directly to full and part-time PBMC team members.”

PBMC is part of Northwell Health’s health care system and is the largest facility of its kind on eastern Long Island. The facility has a dedicated COVID-19 isolation unit in the recently opened Corey Critical Care Pavillion.

—Steve Wick

LIVE: Governor Andrew Cuomo hosts his daily COVID-19 media briefing

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

Riverside drive-thru COVID-19 testing site expected to reopen today

(Updated: Tuesday, 8:50 a.m.)

After strong winds forced the county to shut down a COVID-19 testing site in Riverside Monday, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said he expects the site to be up and running today.

Mr. Bellone said during his Monday afternoon media briefing that the tents used at the testing site had to be removed in advance of the storm. They were to be put back in place Tuesday.

The county executive also provided an update on the numbers, reporting a decline the overall number of COVID-19 hospitalizations for the second straight day. Here are the updated numbers from Monday afternoon:

• 50,130 COVID-19 tests have been administered with 21,947 confirmed cases. That’s a rate of 43.2 percent who tested positive for the coronavirus.

• 1,595 patients are hospitalized with 539 in intensive care units. A total of 125 COVID-19 patients were released from Suffolk hospitals Sunday into Monday. There are presently 3,423 hospital beds and 756 ICU beds in Suffolk County.

• 568 individuals have died from COVID-19 with 50 of those deaths being reported for the first time Monday.

— Grant Parpan

Marinas, golf courses forced to close under state mandate

(Updated: Tuesday, 6 a.m.)

Easter is ordinarily a busy time for Port of Egypt Marine in Southold. The first day after the holiday would see the yard staff dropping as many as eight boats in the water and watching them speed away into another season out on the bays.

That certainly wasn’t the case this week, after marinas were deemed nonessential businesses and, like others in many industries, forced to close under a mandate from Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

While the original order was filed in late March, the fate of marinas was made clear when the state added language on its website last Thursday, April 9, stating that marinas and golf courses could no longer operate to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Those orders are in effect until at least April 29.

“None of us know what’s next,” said Yvonne Lieblein, who serves as general manager at Port of Egypt along with her cousin Will. “What is it going to be like in our industry? In any industry?”

It’s a question Jeff Strong of Strong’s Marine in Mattituck, which operates marinas on both the North and South forks and in Nassau County, has also been asking himself during what would normally be an “extremely busy” time of year.

Both Strong’s and Port of Egypt made the decision to close their showrooms in the interest of public safety before the governor’s mandate. Mr. Strong said they did still leave it open for customers to meet by appointment only at first, making sure to practice proper social distancing. Now they’re left to wait for future guidance from the state.

Read the full story

— Grant Parpan

Joint press conference

(Updated: Monday, 2:05 p.m.)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is holding a second press briefing Monday to make an announcement alongside governors from neighboring states.

Watch below:

Governor says he believes ‘the worst is over’

(Updated: Monday, 12:50 p.m.)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Monday he believes “the worst is over” if the current precautions and measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus continue.

He said there is no “on/off” switch to when things will return to normal and there will be no headline one day saying “Hallelujah, it’s over.”

“I think you can say the worst is over because the worst here is people dying,” he said. “This worst is people die.”

Questioned later on whether that message could give a false sense of hope, Mr. Cuomo said his job is to present the facts, which in this case show the outbreak has seemingly plateaued, so the curve has begun to flatten.

He said the numbers in terms of hospitalizations and ICU admissions are declining for no other reason than the measures imposed to curb the virus’ spread.

“Destiny did not do that,” he said.

He said his message has consistently been to “stay the course.”

“I say that 100 times to an annoying, repetitive level,” he said. “But the facts are facts and I’m not going to lie to the public.”

He said “we are controlling the spread” and people can take solace in the fact that if they isolate at home, they can avoid contracting the virus.

In terms of the slow process of reopening the economy, Mr. Cuomo said the key is measuring the infection rate. If the infection rate begins to climb, then “you know you’ve opened the valve too fast. That is the delicate balance we have to work through.”

• Mr. Cuomo said total deaths connected to COVID-19 in New York have now surpassed 10,000 in just over a month. There were 671 fatalities reported on Sunday, bringing the total to 10,056. He said to see nearly 700 people die on Easter Sunday is “especially tragic.”

The number of daily fatalities had been above 700 the past week.

The number of total cases is approaching 200,000 in New York.

• Mr. Cuomo is holding a 2 p.m. briefing in conjunction with other neighboring governors.

—Joe Werkmeister

San Simeon nursing director: ‘Determined to keep this virus out of here’

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

Kelly Moteiro has been the director of nursing at San Simeon by the Sound in Greenport for four years.

The 120-bed facility is a rehabilitation and adult care center that, since the COVID-19 virus reared its ugly head four weeks ago, has escaped its ravages without a single confirmed case among its 95 residents, where the average age is deep into the 80s.

Ms. Moteiro, 46, lives in Lake Ronkonkoma with her husband and daughter, who is a student at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue.  She is a registered nurse and has a masters degree in nursing leadership.

But for the past month she has been staying near San Simeon so she can be just minutes from work. She was interviewed by the Times Review Media Group on Friday.

Her answers have been edited for space and clarity.

 Q: How has San Simeon managed to not have any COVID-19 cases? We see, for example, there have been nine confirmed COVID-19 deaths at nearby Peconic Landing and, as of this writing (Friday afternoon) there are 252 confirmed cases in Southold Town.

A: We started earlier than when the mandate came down to stop all visitation. I was away in Florida. We stopped all visitation into the facility on March 9. I came back to work March 10 and the no visitation policy was underway.

It was mandated later and we were ahead of that. We simply didn’t allow anyone other than employees to be in the building, no exceptions.

Read the full story

— Steve Wick

Recovered COVID-19 patients sought to donate plasma to help advance antibody tests, treatment

(Updated: Monday, 6 a.m.)

Stony Brook Medicine and Northwell Health are both seeking people who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate plasma to help treat hospitalized patients and toward investigating antibody tests.

Northwell Health announced it had joined the convalescent plasma network formed by Mayo Clinic to investigate antibody tests and therapy. Recovered patients wishing to participate will be directed to a New York Blood Center site for donation and a patients at Northwell Health hospitals will begin receiving treatments in a few short weeks. Patients who enroll will also be urged to enroll in future COVID-19 research to take place at the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research, the research arm of Northwell.

Recovered COVID-19 patients have antibodies to the virus within their blood. A one-hour process separates the plasma — where the anitbody resides — and the blood.

Plasma is then frozen and distributed to hospitals to match with patients.

In theory, the infused antibodies will help the patient fight off the virus and minimize its severity. Researchers will also study the plasma’s genetics and molecular makeup for future research.

Read full story

— Joe Werkmeister

Testing in Riverside to be suspended Monday

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

The new mobile hot spot testing site at the county center in Riverside will suspend operations Monday due to high winds in the forecast, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said Sunday.

Mr. Bellone said the severe weather expected will make it impossible to set up tents to do mobile testing.

The National Weather Service has issued a high wind watch for Monday morning through the evening as winds of 30-40 mph are predicted. Gusts could be as strong as 70 mph.

“Damaging winds could blow down trees and power lines,” the NWS said. “Even sturdy and well secured tent structures could be damaged. Widespread power outages are possible.”

Any appointments scheduled for tomorrow will be postponed.

Read more here.

—Joe Werkmeister

County Executive’s Sunday briefing

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

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is holding his daily media briefing on the latest coronavirus news.

Watch here:

Governor’s Sunday briefing

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

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is holding his daily media briefing on the latest coronavirus news.

Watch here:

Another chance to say thanks

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

A simple ‘thank you.’

That was the message conveyed during a small caravan of cars passing by the New York Cancer & Blood Specialists in Riverhead Friday.

The center, which opened in January, serves as an enclosed, one-stop treatment facility for cancer patients.

Cancer patients — many of whom are immunocompromised — are especially vulnerable to COVID-19.

According to the NYCB website, anyone entering their facilities is asked a series of screening questions and all patients have their temperature taken. If deemed appropriate, patients are also given a mask to wear inside as they receive treatment.

The health care provider also changed their visitor policy across all NYCBS locations in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“We are currently requesting that patients attend appointments alone whenever possible. If a companion is needed for the safety of the patient, please limit this to 1 person. Visitors will no longer be allowed in the treatment area. Whenever possible, companions/family members are asked to refrain from waiting in our patient waiting areas and instead should wait in their cars in an effort to reduce crowding and maintain appropriate social distancing,” read a statement on their website.

Elisabeth Devaney, a nurse at the Riverhead location, described being on the front lines as challenging, but said they need to be there for their patients. Though she wasn’t working a shift Friday afternoon, she was one of the first in line to drive by, waving to her colleagues to show support.

“I work with the most intelligent, compassionate, generous, selfless kind and loving people I have ever met. We just want to show them how much they are appreciated.”

See more photos

—Tara Smith

Holy Week during pandemic

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

Passover began Wednesday, April 8, with the first Seder, during which Jews tell the ancient story of the Exodus from slavery in Egypt. The second Seder was Thursday and the holiday ends April 16. Good Friday, the day of Jesus’ state-sponsored execution, was Friday and today is Easter, when his tomb was found empty. These are enormously important religious holidays for the Jewish and Christian communities, going back thousands of years. In 2020, however, they will be celebrated by worshippers practicing self-quarantine at home while temples and churches are empty.

This year, Holy Week arrived in a time of pandemic. It is a plague not recounted in ancient texts but rather documented by daily death tolls posted on newspaper websites and repeated all day long on cable news. We hear about body bags being ordered in bulk; of loved ones barred from an ICU where a family member is dying, for fear of contamination; of refrigerated trailers parked behind city hospitals to store the dead; and of nurses and doctors desperate to keep people alive — and themselves free of contagion — without sufficient protective equipment to do the job safely.

Read the editorial here.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone provides a COVID-19 update

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

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said he agrees with Governor Andrew Cuomo on taking a regional approach to reopening buildings.

He also noted that childcare would be a primary reason to coordinate the reopening of businesses and schools so they occur at the same time.

The county executive said it “remains to be seen” when schools should be reopened.

“The prudent approach is to take this one step at a time,” he said, adding that extending the closure two weeks at a time seems to be the right approach.

School buildings across New York State were closed first on March 16 in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Non-essential businesses were then ordered shutdown four days later. While no timetable has been given for a possible reopening of either, the most recent executive order from the governor assures both will remain closed until at least April 29.

Here’s some more takeaways from Mr. Bellone’s Saturday media briefing:

• The county executive reported positive numbers in terms of hospitalizations. Mr. Bellone said 1,658 patients are currently hospitalized out of a capacity of 3,404 beds. Of the 771 intensive care beds in the county, 541 are in use.

In the past 24 hours, 160 COVID-19 patients have been discharged from Suffolk hospitals.

“That is great news,” he said. “It’s the highest we have seen and I think a measure of where we are going.”

• The county executive said a computer glitch caused the number of COVID-19 cases to be over-reported the past few days. He said the actual total is now 20,321. The number on Friday should have been 19,246.

The total number of confirmed cases in Riverhead Town climbed to 200 Saturday and 237 in Southold. There are now five confirmed cases on Shelter Island.

Statewide there have now been 180,458 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 8,627 deaths. The total number of deaths in Suffolk County stands at 458, according to the county executive.

• Mr. Bellone said school districts across Suffolk have provided over 770,000 free meals to students who are home during the pandemic. About one third of those meals were distributed this past week.

— Grant Parpan

Fatality reports now include a breakdown by ethnicity

(Updated: Saturday, 3 p.m.)

New data provided by the New York State Department of Health gives a breakdown in the ethnicity of Suffolk County’s first 339 fatalities from the coronavirus.

The statistics show that 228 of the dead were white, 47 Hispanic, 35 black, 7 Asian and 22 were classified as “other.”

When those statistics are adjusted by population and other factors, such as age, black residents appear to be particularly vulnerable. About 30 in every 100,000 thousand black residents in Suffolk County has died from the virus, a significant increase from the county average of 22.9 residents per 100,000.

The age-adjusted death rate indicates a significantly higher rate of younger black and Hispanic residents are dying from COVID-19.

— Grant Parpan

Zeldin secures 10,000 additional KN95 masks for Suffolk County

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

Rep. Lee Zeldin, who has been on a run getting large amounts of personal protective equipment into hospitals in Suffolk County, said Saturday he has secured 10,000 more KN95 masks.

In a release, Mr. Zeldin (R-Shirley) said he got the masks from the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation. They will distributed to “front line workers during the ongoing outbreak of coronavirus,” he said.

“In reflecting the selflessness of its organization’s namesake – September 11 hero Stephen Siller – the Tunnel to Towers Foundation is stepping up to the plate when our community needs this generosity most.”

In a story of pure heroism and sacrifice, Mr. Siller was assigned to Brooklyn Squad 1 of the NYC fire department. When his truck could not get through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel the morning of Sept. 11, he strapped on 60 pounds of gear and ran to the Twin Towers, where he lost his life.

And thus is a story of a great man.

— Steve Wick

Cuomo: Schools and businesses should reopen together

(Updated: Saturday, 12:50 p.m.)

School buildings and businesses should reopen together across the entire New York City metropolitan area, Governor Andrew Cuomo said Saturday.

Whether that actually happens and when it may occur remains to be seen, he added.

Mr. Cuomo was responding to a series of questions at Saturday’s COVID-19 media briefing about an announcement from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio that the city’s public schools would remain closed through the end of the school year, but that businesses could reopen as early as May.

The governor said that while he respects the mayor’s position, he believes it’s not his call to make.

“It is my legal authority in this situation,” Mr. Cuomo said.

At a minimum, the governor said, schools and businesses should re-open at the same time across New York City, Long Island and Westchester. He said he’d like to see that extend across the entire state and possibly New Jersey and Connecticut.

“You can’t make a decision without coordinating,” Mr. Cuomo said, calling Mr. de Blasio’s announcement “his opinion.”

The governor said childcare would be a big reason to connect the reopening of businesses and schools.

“I don’t understand how you reopen businesses in May but keep schools closed in June,” he said, adding that workers would be forced to figure out what to do with their children. “I don’t get that.”

School buildings across New York State were closed first on March 16 in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Non-essential businesses were then ordered shutdown four days later. While no timetable has been given for a possible reopening of either, the most recent executive order from the governor assures both will remain closed until at least April 29.

WATCH: Governor Andrew Cuomo gives his Saturday COVID-19 media briefing

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

New testing facility opens at County Center complex in Riverside

(Updated: Saturday, 8 a.m.)

A free coronavirus testing facility opened Friday at the County Center complex in Riverside.

It’s one of three “hot spot” testing sites now open in Suffolk County communities with a higher cluster of infection rates. It’s part of an initiative by county officials to focus on communities with large Latino populations. A similar testing site opened at a community center in Brentwood Friday, which is among the most heavily impacted communities on Long Island with over 1,500 confirmed cases of COVID-19. The third site is located in Huntington Station, officials said.

Mr. Bellone said during a press briefing earlier this week that additional locations may be determined as needed.

Read the full story

— Tara Smith

Coronavirus threatens the ‘best three months’ for high school seniors

(Updated: Saturday, 6 a.m.)

On the last day of school, students at Mattituck High School usually gather to watch a video yearbook created by their classmates; a highlight reel of their most treasured memories.

It’s one thing on a laundry list of traditions meant to culminate 12 years of hard work: the senior trip, senior prank, senior skip day, final sports season and finally, turning a tassel, walking across the stage and receiving their diploma.

Amid a global pandemic, the likelihood that the class of 2020 will get to participate in these rites of passage wanes as stay-at-home measures persist and schools remain closed until at least April 29 under an order by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

As the health crisis worsens, many educators are preparing for an even longer closure than first anticipated. While Gov. Cuomo hasn’t announced anything about the fate of schools, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said earlier this week that a decision on whether to resume school this year would be forthcoming.

“We worked hard for 12 years, and it just feels like it’s gone,” said senior Jenna Lisowy, peeking her head out from the sunroof of her Subaru at Breakwater Beach in Mattituck Monday.

Read the full story

— Tara Smith

Cases surpass 20,000 in Suffolk

(Updated: Friday, 4:15 p.m.)

Confirmed COVID-19 cases in Suffolk County surpassed 20,000 on Friday, a higher figure than the majority of U.S. states.

“It’s remarkable to think about a little more than a month ago we didn’t have a confirmed case,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said.

An additional 52 fatalities were reported in the county, bringing the latest total to 414. Mr. Bellone called that an “unimaginable” figure.

While the number of hospitalized patients in the county increased by 49 compared to Thursday, the number of patients in intensive care unit has decreased by eight. Mr. Bellone also pointed to good news in the number of COVID-19 patients who have been discharged from hospitals in the last 24 hours: 132.

More than 43,000 people have been tested for COVID-19 and 43.3% have tested positive.

Read more here.

—Joe Werkmeister

ICU admissions declining in N.Y.

(Updated: Friday, 1:05 p.m.)

The change in daily ICU admissions across New York was a negative number for the first time during the coronavirus outbreak, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday.

“That means there are fewer people in the ICU statewide than there were,” he said.

The number of fatalities increased by an additional 777, a similar number to the prior three days. The governor said the fatalities are a byproduct of the large influx of people who required hospitalization a few weeks ago as cases grew toward an apex.

“Either you get treated and get better and get discharged or you stay in the hospital and probably wind up on a ventilator and the longer you’re on a ventilator, the less likely you’ll come off the ventilator,” he said. “That’s what’s happening now.”

Statewide fatalities have now climbed to 7,844.

The governor said they remain “cautiously optimistic” that the infection rate is slowing.

• As the curve begins to flatten, Mr. Cuomo defended the projections that showed the number of hospital beds needed would far outweigh the state’s capacity. He said the projections, which were done by statisticians at Columbia University, McKinsey and IHME, did not necessarily take into account the full measures put into place to curb the spread and whether citizens would comply.

“The actual curve is much lower than any of them projected,” he said. “In fairness to experts, nobody has been here before. There is no model to track against.”

The biggest variable he said was whether anyone would follow the policies the state enacted, in terms of businesses closing and social distancing.

He said it’s important to stay the course to continue flattening the curve.

• Mr. Cuomo is pushing for the federal government to create a COVID-19 heroes compensation fund, similar to what was done for victims of 9/11.

The fund would be for any essential workers during the pandemic.

“Saying thanks is nice, actually providing assistance is even better,” he said.

• Mr. Cuomo spoke about testing being key to reopening the economy. He said the state is working to bring an antibody test to scale.

He said the state lab is developing an antibody test. Right now 300 tests a day can be done. By next Friday it can be 1,000 and in two weeks it can be 2,000.

The test uses a small blood sample taken from a finger. Bringing it to larger scale is a more complicated issue, he said, and requires assistance of private sector companies and federal government.

Antibodies are specific proteins made in response to infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An antibodies test would detect if a person had an immune response to the virus, whether symptoms developed from infection or the infection was aysmptomatic.

Mr. Cuomo said New Jersey and Connecticut would join New York as a testing coalition to help bring testing to scale.

He said the federal government can use the Defense Production Act to help bring testing up to scale.

Watch the briefing here:

—Joe Werkmeister

Greenport IGA closed for cleanup this weekend

(Updated: Friday, 11:20 a.m.)

The IGA in Greenport is closed from Friday through Easter Sunday and will reopen Monday, according to a Facebook posting. The IGA in Southold is open Friday and Saturday and will be closed for Easter Sunday.

Village Trustee Mary Bess Phillips said IGA Greenport on Thursday evening posted on her Facebook page that they would be closed Friday through Sunday. No reason was given, and calls to the store were not immediately returned.

Ms. Phillips said it is assumed the story has closed for cleaning.

A man who identified himself as a manager at the IGA store in Southold said his store will only be closed Sunday, and he confirmed that the IGA in Greenport is closed and will reopen Monday.

— Steve Wick

Next two weeks ‘critical,’ town supervisor says

(Updated: Friday, 6:50 a.m.)

Times Review Media Group conducted a question-and-answer session Monday with Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell.

His remarks have been edited for space and clarity.

The Suffolk Times: What happens on a daily basis with regard to COVID-19?

Scott Russell: Conference calls are part of my daily routine. Sometimes one, sometimes three or more depending on the circumstances. I try to field all community questions and concerns as quickly as I can. I am in regular contact with Chief Flatley, [senior center director] Karen McLaughlin, [emergency preparedness coordinator] Lloyd Reisenberg, [public works] Jeff Standish and other key individuals. We coordinate daily with the Suffolk County Executive, Suffolk County Department of Health and representatives from other towns.

Read the full interview

— Tara Smith

30,000 N95 masks

(Updated: Thursday, 7:50 p.m.)

The federal government on Thursday delivered more than 30,000 additional N95 masks to Suffolk County to help nurses, doctors and other hospital staff protect themselves from the coronavirus, Rep. Lee Zeldin announced.

In a news release, Mr. Zeldin (R-Shirley) said the new shipment would not cost the county and comes in the wake of 250,000 surgical masks and 280,000 N95 masks delivered to hospitals in the county since last Saturday.

Mr. Zeldin is a member of the bipartisan Coronavirus Task Force.

“This latest delivery of urgently needed PPE to Suffolk County is continued good news for not only our local healthcare professionals, but also our first responders, law enforcement and others working on the front lines to protect our communities during this outbreak,” Mr. Zeldin said.

—Steve Wick

‘That is a good sign’

(Updated: Thursday, 5:30 p.m.)

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone reported the lowest increase in hospitalizations yet during the coronavirus crisis. Just 10 patients were admitted to local hospitals within the last day, he said during his daily briefing Thursday.

“That is a good sign,” he said. “We’ll see if that continues, but one day’s data does not tell us anything of great significance. We are looking for patterns and trends.”

As cases reached 18,803, the county executive also reported an additional 39 deaths overnight, bringing the total to 362 — a statistic he described as “horrific.”

“I never ever imagined we’d be in a position where we’d be reporting this number of fatalities and doing so on a daily basis,” he said.


—Tara Smith

County Executive’s Thursday’s briefing

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

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is holding his daily media briefing. Follow along here:

Inmate tests positive at jail

(Updated: Thursday, 1:15 p.m.)

An inmate at the Suffolk County Correctional Facility in Riverside has tested positive for COVID-19, the first there since the outbreak in Suffolk County last month.

In a release, Sgt. Paul Spinella said: “Late in the evening on April 8th, an inmate at the Suffolk County Correctional Facility in Riverhead was displaying signs of illness and was sent to an area hospital for an evaluation. At approximately 11 p.m., hospital staff notified the Sheriff’s Office that this individual tested positive for COVID 19. This is the first case of an inmate diagnosed with coronavirus at the Suffolk County Correctional Facility.”

“Suffolk County Health Department medical staff and correction officers will continue to follow all necessary health and safety protocols to further contain the spread of coronavirus. Any inmates that were in the same housing area with this individual have been transferred to another housing area where they will be evaluated 3-4 times a day by jail medical staff.”

The Sheriff’s Office had said on Wednesday evening that 12 correction officers have tested positive for COVID-19, along with one deputy sheriff. Those numbers are as of Tuesday.

—Steve Wick

New unemployment application

(Updated: Thursday, 1:05 p.m.)

The New York State Department of Labor’s online unemployment application will be shut down from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday so it can be rebooted with a new, streamlined application, state officials announced Thursday.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state has been working with Google to develop a better online system to limit the number of phone calls flooding in from people filing record numbers of unemployment claims during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Melissa DeRosa, secretary to Gov. Cuomo, has been working on the upgrade and said the new application will have fewer questions. She said when applicants complete the current application in full online, they are typically done. However, if someone leaves a part blank, they are then required to call and speak with a representative, which has crashed the system as people continually dial in over and over trying to get through.

Under the new system, if a part of the application is left blank, the person will no longer be directed to call. Instead, they will be told to wait for a call back. Ms. DeRosa said that call back will be within 72 hours.

Read more here

—Joe Werkmeister

Gov. Cuomo’s Thursday briefing

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

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is holding his daily media briefing on the latest coronavirus news in New York.

Watch here:

Latino outreach program purchases more than 1,000 Chromebooks for East End students

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

OLA of Eastern Long Island, a regional Latino outreach program, has donated more than 1,000 Chromebooks to four local school districts to help bridge an economic gap as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced schools into distance learning.

OLA said the idea, which will also benefit non-Latino students, came from reaching out to East End districts two weeks ago to see if there was a need for the support.

“While many districts had enough iPads or Chromebooks for all students in need, some districts were not in a position to provide a device for all students,” OLA executive director Minerva Perez said in a press release. “There was no way for schools to be prepared for such a situation. We were fortunate to have a funder who fully supports OLA’s mission that highlights education as well as advocacy and the arts.”

OLA has purchased and will donate over 1,000 Acer Chromebooks to four East End districts: Riverhead, Greenport, Mattituck and Springs.  

Read full story

— Grant Parpan

Today’s front page

(Updated: Thursday, 10:15 a.m.)

This week’s cover story looks back at the first month of the coronavirus in Suffolk County. Papers continue to be delivered to home subscribers and are available at select newsstands.

To subscribe, click here.

Guest Column: We must all hold onto our humanity

(Updated: Thursday, 7 a.m.)

A tweet from the Dalai Lama caught my attention: “A deep awareness of the goodness of human beings, that they are essentially kind, helpful and gentle, can give us courage and hope.” 

And hope and courage are what we need now, when we all have to adapt ourselves and daily routines as COVID-19 has drastically changed our world.

We all know about the power of hope. However, as we go through this time of withdrawal and social distancing, we need to go a step further. We need the courage to act, to reach out when we need help and to actively reach out to those who need our help. 

Understanding that there are some among us who are more vulnerable than others and that there are some of us who are on the front lines makes us fully aware of the indisputable fact that we are interconnected.

In the past few weeks, I have witnessed hope and courage in action. We are more sensitive to the needs of those around us and as a small community this is very important. We are finding ways to support our local small businesses. We are providing meals for medical personnel and help with shopping and delivery of goods to our elderly. 

We assist those who are afraid to go out as they may have compromised immune systems and we bring meals and groceries to those who have fallen sick with coronavirus or quarantined themselves out of concern they may have been exposed.

Thinking about all the members of our community requires the full intention to let our light shine over those who are in the shadows or are too afraid to ask for help. They help our community behind the scenes, working in housekeeping, kitchens, farms, vineyards and other service industries. They mow our lawns and build our houses. 

We need to understand that caring for our local immigrant community is fundamental for the well-being and rebuilding of our businesses post-COVID-19. All of us have played an important role in the development of our towns. 

Read the full column

Para leer en español, haga clic aquí

— Sonia Spar

Making a Difference: Area businesses collaborate to produce face shields for hospital workers

(Updated: Wednesday, 7 p.m.)

Jamie Mills recited by memory a sign that hangs in the shop at his William J. Mills & Co. sailmaking shop in Greenport. It reads something like this: “The difficult we can do, the impossible just takes a little bit longer.”

That sort of can-do spirit has been prevalent among a collaboration of several local businessmen who have joined forces to lend their particular skill sets in the battle against the novel coronavirus. Mr. Mills, president of William J. Mills & Co., and his brother, vice president Bob, are working with Richard Vandenburgh, co-founder of Greenport Harbor Brewing Company; Bob Gammon, co-owner of Woodside Orchards in Jamesport; and Mark Miller, former owner of Miller Environmental to produce face shields for hospitals, first responders and community outreach volunteers.

Read the full story

— Bob Liepa

12 Correction officers have tested positive

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

The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office said on Wednesday that 12 correction officers have tested positive for COVID-19, along with one deputy sheriff. Those numbers are as of Tuesday.

No Sheriff’s Office civilian staff have tested positive and no inmates have contracted the virus, the office said. Most of the 12 correction officers were working in areas with minimal contact with county inmates.

Sheriff Errol Toulon began implementing procedures in early March to create physical distance between incoming inmates and the general jail population. All inmates are housed in a reception area for 14 days upon entry into the jail and are monitored for signs of the illness. They are also given appropriate cleaning supplies.

All in-person visitation was canceled March 17. Correction officers are required to wear personal protective equipment and have their temperature taken before entering the facility. Deputy sheriff’s are also required to wear PPE.

—Joe Werkmeister

Another one-day high

(Updated: Wednesday, 4 p.m.)

Coronavirus related deaths in New York reached another one-day high, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced during his daily press briefing Wednesday afternoon.

Another 779 COVID-19 related deaths were reported Tuesday, which brings the total number of deaths statewide to 6,268. To put the number in context, Gov. Cuomo noted that the number has far surpassed the 2,753 New Yorkers killed during the 9/11 attack.

The governor directed all flags in the state to be flown at half-staff in honor of lives lost to the virus.

“Deaths will continue to rise,” a somber Gov. Cuomo said, noting that it’s a “difficult” reality to contend with. “Every number is a face,” he said while a slideshow flashed photos of some New Yorkers who have died from the coronavirus.

April 8 marks exactly one month since the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Suffolk County. There are now 17,008 confirmed cases in Suffolk — more than any state besides New York and New Jersey, according to Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.


—Tara Smith

WATCH: Gov. Cuomo gives daily update

(Updated: Wednesday, 1 p.m.)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is giving his daily press conference. He announced the highest one day death toll—779—in New York was reported yesterday.

— Tara Smith

One month later: The coronavirus has shut down Suffolk County, infected thousands of its residents and killed the most vulnerable

(Updated: Wednesday, 7 a.m.)

Standing side by side, nearly a dozen of Suffolk County’s top public safety officials appeared before the media March 9.

A press officer briefly inspected them from the other side of the podium, envisioning how they might be framed on the cameras behind him. Seeing a small space between the county’s health commissioner, who had been appointed to his new role just six days earlier, and the chief of police facing him, the spokesperson gestured for the two men to close the gap.

“Dr. [Gregson] Pigott, if you guys could just take one step closer,” he said.

“Don’t breathe on each other,” joked a photographer there to capture Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone’s remarks that transformative day.

Looking back now at a media briefing with county leaders prior to calls for social distancing serves as a reminder of just how much things have changed.

Now, exactly one month later, our county, state and country are unrecognizable in many ways as we continue to quarantine. Nonessential businesses — and our school buildings before them — have been closed for weeks. The number of confirmed cases has risen above 15,000. Suffolk’s death toll stands at 263. And in Southold Town, where county Patient No. 1 lives, nearly 10 in every 1,000 residents has tested positive for the virus. 

Read the full story

— Grant Parpan

‘Staggering’ death toll as county, state report largest number of COVID-19 fatalities to date

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

Both Governor Andrew Cuomo and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone reported the highest number of fatalities from the coronavirus in a single day Tuesday as the state death toll reached 5,489.

There were 64 new deaths reported in Suffolk, according to Mr. Bellone. A total of 263 county residents have died from COVID-19.

“That is a staggering number,” he said of Tuesday’s deaths. “It is a stark reminder to us about what is happening in our hospitals and what our healthcare workers are facing.”

Mr. Bellone said Tuesday that the county is exploring an expansion at the medical examiner’s office by adding a refrigerated truck in the event that capacity is surpassed at the morgue.

— Grant Parpan

Read the full story

WATCH: County Executive Steve Bellone gives his daily briefing

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

Riverhead BID fundraiser

(Updated: Tuesday, Noon)

It’s a fundraising effort with double the benefit.

The Riverhead Business Improvement District is sponsoring a double-impact fundraiser aimed to assist both hospital workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis and downtown restaurants who are “struggling to stay open amid the nationwide shelter-in-place order.”

It works by people buying gift cards from eateries in downtown Riverhead that are then distributed to employees at Peconic Bay Medical Center.

“The gift card donation will allow all essential staff working all shifts and departments at the hospital campus to obtain take-out meals for their families from participating Riverhead restaurants,” a press release from the BID said.


—Joe Werkmeister

WATCH: Governor Andrew Cuomo delivers Tuesday’s COVID-19 media briefing

(Updated: Tuesday, 11 a.m.)

Winery owner donates $100K

(Updated: Tuesday, 10:10 a.m.)

The generous donations continue to come in for Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital.

The Greenport hospital announced Monday night it had received a $100,000 donation from Randy Frankel, a local winery owner who is also a minority owner of the Tampa Bay Rays.

The donation is to Eastern Long Island Hospital’s COVID-19 Action Fund to aid the hospital in the fight against the coronavirus. The funds will be used toward increasing the hospital’s bed capacity by 50%, a mandate set in March by Gov. Andrew Cuomo for all New York hospitals. That includes capital, staffing and supplies, a hospital spokesperson said.


—Joe Werkmeister

Photos: A chance to say thank you to health care workers at Peconic Bay Medical Center

(Updated: Tuesday, 7 a.m.)

Dozens of cars honked their horns as people held signs out the windows toward the large gathering of health care workers outside Peconic Bay Medical Center Monday evening.

The long procession of cars, led by a Riverhead Town police escort, was a chance for residents to say thank you in person to the health care workers risking their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The cars met at the former Walmart parking lot before beginning the short trip down Route 58 to PBMC and they then proceeded to the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps headquarters to share the gratitude with the first responders

Read the full story

— Joe Werkmeister

Cuomo extends school, business closures; increases social distancing fines

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

Schools and non-essential businesses across New York State will remain closed through at least April 29, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced at his daily COVID-19 media briefing Monday.

The governor also said he has doubled the maximum fine for social distancing violations from $500 to $1,000.

“Now is not the time to slack off on what we’re doing,” Mr. Cuomo said.

The governor’s announcement comes on the same day he reinforced his belief that hospitalization data indicates New York may have hit a plateau in its fight against the coronavirus, a projection that suggests the state is near its apex. For the second consecutive day, new hospitalizations declined and the number of hospitalized individuals remained flat.

“While none of this is good news, the flattening or possible flattening of the curve is better than the increases we had seen,” Mr. Cuomo said.

— Grant Parpan

Read the full story

VIDEO: County Executive Steve Bellone gives his COVID-19 update

(Updated: Monday, 1:20 p.m.)

VIDEO: COVID-19 media briefing from Gov. Andrew Cuomo

(Updated: Monday, noon)

‘Vital piece of equipment’

(Updated: Monday, 11 a.m.)

A pair of Eastern Long Island Hospital Foundation board members have donated a GeneXpert diagnostic system — which has been adapted to rapidly test for COVID-19 — to the Greenport hospital.

Peter and Erica Harold donated the “vital piece of equipment to aid Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital in the fight against coronavirus,” the hospital announced Monday.

The diagnostic system typically delivers a rapid flu diagnosis in 30 minutes. Cepheid, the manufacturer of the equipment, has received FDA approval to test for COVID-19 on the same equipment with a 45-minute turnaround for results.


—Joe Werkmeister

When the pandemic put their dream wedding at RGNY on hold, couple tied the knot during impromptu ceremony

(Updated: Monday, 6 a.m.)

The onset of a global pandemic has put many North Fork weddings on hold — but that hasn’t stopped some couples from saying “I do.”

Alyssa and Evan Carpenter had planned to marry March 28 at the Baiting Hollow Boy Scout camp where they met. That afternoon, a reception for about 120 friends and family would follow at RGNY Winery in Riverhead.

The Virginia residents are both Nassau County natives, but the “natural, simple” style of their wedding made the North Fork the perfect fit, Ms. Carpenter said. 

As nationwide concerns about the COVID-19 coronavirus grew, she was in constant contact with her vendors. When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended gatherings of no more than 50 people, she knew the wedding had to be called off for the time being. 

“That was kind of the nail in the coffin for all of us. We decided it was best to postpone,” she said. 

Ms. Carpenter notified family, friends and followers of their wedding website of the cancellation and was able to reschedule their reception for September 2020.

But the Virginia teacher said the couple simply couldn’t wait.

— Tara Smith and Kate Nalepinski

Read the full story

Salute to heroes

(Updated: Sunday, 8:50 p.m.)

The Cutchogue Fire Department did its part Sunday evening during a countywide salute to the many heroes of the coronavirus pandemic — the doctors, nurses, law enforcement officers and many more.

Fire departments all across the county sounded its horns at 7 p.m.

“Everybody has a part to play in stopping this virus,” County Executive Steve Bellone said. “So please continue to help these health care workers by showing your support and staying at home as much as possible.”

Zeldin: 200K N95 masks coming to Suffolk

(Updated: Sunday, 8:20 p.m.)

Congressman Lee Zeldin said Sunday night that 200,000 N95 masks will be delivered to Suffolk County on Monday.

In a press release, he said President Trump, at Mr. Zeldin’s request, agreed to send the masks to the county, at no cost to Suffolk. He said 150,000 surgical masks were delivered to Suffolk earlier Sunday.

On Saturday, according to the press release, Mr. Zeldin (R-Shirley) was informed that Suffolk’s stockpile of personal protective equipment had nearly run out. Working with the White House, Mr. Zeldin said he secured the masks, which are expected to be delivered Monday.

“We are in this fight together,” he said in the release, “and I am encouraged by the Administration’s swift, effective and immediate response to Suffolk County’s urgent need of PPE.”

Mr. Bellone said earlier Sunday that the county would be purchasing the 150,000 surgical masks.

—Steve Wick

ICU capacity increasing

(Credit: Sunday, 4:15 p.m.)

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said during his Sunday media briefing that the number of fatalities at Suffolk hospitals had climbed to 175. It was unclear whether that number included fatalities outside of hospital settings. The New York State Department of Health listed 199 fatalities of Suffolk residents on Sunday.

Mr. Bellone said releasing additional details on fatalities — as the county had previously been providing ages and the hospitals where people died — will no longer be a priority. He said that’s to ease the burden on health care workers.

• Capacity for intensive care units across the county has increased. Mr. Bellone said there are 742 ICU beds, an increase of 162. There are now 82 ICU beds available, whereas on Friday the number got as low as 43.

He said hospitals, following Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s mandate to increase capacity by 50%, have identified “every nook and cranny that can be converted.”

There are 3,186 total beds in the county, an increase of 99 from the prior day.


—Joe Werkmeister

Ninth death at Peconic Landing

(Updated: Sunday, 2:20 p.m.)

A 98-year-old woman who lived at Peconic Landing died Saturday in connection to COVID-19, the lifecare and retirement community announced Sunday.

She is the ninth death at Peconic Landing. The woman tested positive March 19 and was a member of The Shores for Skilled Nursing. She had known pre-existing conditions.

“We extend our heartfelt condolences to those she leaves behind,” said Bob Syron, president and CEO of Peconic Landing, in a statement. “The Peconic Landing family is thinking of you during this time of sadness.”

As of noon Sunday, there are seven active confirmed cases among members located within the health center. The number of active confirmed cases among team members is also seven.

—Joe Werkmeister

County Executive’s daily briefing

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

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is holding his daily media briefing on the latest coronavirus news.

Watch here:

Gov: New York may be near apex

(Updated: Sunday, 12:50 p.m.)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said New York could be near an apex or on a plateau of the apex in terms of total number of COVID-19 cases.

“We won’t know until we see the next few days,” he said Sunday.

He said the different models the state looks at all show numbers going up until an eventual apex, at which point cases will start to decline. But what’s unclear is whether there is a plateau at the top of the apex, where the numbers remain steady for a certain time period before the drop-off starts, he said.

“We’re all feeling our way through this and we have the best minds in the country advising us because New York is the first,” he said.

He said the statisticians analyzing data on the coronavirus haven’t offered any specific predictions. He said they need more data in the next few days to determine whether there is a plateau right now.

“I hope we’re somewhere near the apex or we’re somewhere near the plateau,” he said when referring to the highest projections for number of hospital beds the state may need. He added that the number of beds are less relevant now compared to the need for ventilators and staff.

The number of positive cases surpassed 120,000 in New York on Sunday with 12,405 cases in Suffolk County. The first reported case in Suffolk was four weeks ago.

The number of new cases in Suffolk decreased for the second straight day after a single-day high of 1,408 on Friday. The latest number was 1,035 new cases. There have now been four consecutive days of new cases above 1,000 in Suffolk.

More than 300,000 people have been tested for COVID-19 in New York, including just under 29,000 in Suffolk.

The number of deaths linked to COVID-19 in New York climbed to 4,159.

“The number of deaths over the past few days has been dropping for the first time,” Mr. Cuomo said. “What is the significance of that? It’s too early to tell.”

• Mr. Cuomo was asked at the briefing about New Jersey’s stay-at-home order and Gov. Phil Murphy saying residents should not retreat to second homes, specifically at the Jersey Shore.

He was asked if he would issue a similar directive for people to refrain from traveling to second homes such as on the East End of Long Island.

“I have not,” Mr. Cuomo said of whether he has considered similar measures. “I’ll take a look at the New Jersey order. But I haven’t heard any local officials raise concerns about that here.”

However, three town supervisors, several mayors and the Shinnecock Nation have called on the governor to institute a temporary travel ban, Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said last week.

And in a press release March 25, Mr. Russell wrote: “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.”

• Mr. Cuomo said the number of people being discharged from hospitals is now reaching its highest levels.

He said 74% of those hospitalized have been discharged.

Watch the briefing here:

—Joe Werkmeister

Zeldin: 150K surgical masks to be delivered Sunday

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

Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) announced Sunday morning that 150,000 surgical masks would be delivered Sunday for Suffolk County, which saw its stockpile of personal protective equipment depleted this weekend.

Mr. Zeldin said he was informed Saturday by county officials that the stockpile had been exhausted. Mr. Zeldin tweeted out a plea for help Saturday and he said Jared Kushner, the senior advisor to the president, responded by saying he would help secure PPE needs for the next 30 days for the county.

Mr. Zeldin said he worked with Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone’s office to send details of all the needed PPE directly to Mr. Kushner and also communicated details directly to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

Mr. Zeldin said the first supplier’s offer to immediately deliver 150,000 surgical masks was locked in late Saturday night and he “has continued to connect county officials with additional offers for gowns and other needed PPE,” a statement from Mr. Zeldin said.

—Joe Werkmeister

Cloth face coverings

(Updated: Sunday, 9:20 a.m.)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a new recommendation for people to wear “cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.”

Recent studies have shown a significant portion of people with coronavirus lack symptoms and that those who eventually develop symptoms can transmit the virus before showing symptoms.

The CDC says it is critical to emphasize that maintaining six-feet of social distance remains important to slow the spread of the virus.

Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure, the CDC said.

Surgical masks and N-95 respirators are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for health care workers and other medical first responders, the CDC said.

President Trump discussed the CDC’s recommendation at a Friday briefing, and said he would not wear a mask.

—Joe Werkmeister

Looking back at 1918 Spanish Influenza

(Updated: Sunday, 7 a.m.)

The fetid stench of death hung in the air.

It was 1918, and one of the greatest killers mankind has known was busy doing its dirty work on the World War I battlefields of Europe. This effective killer was unseen, mysterious in its ways. It knew no boundaries, wore no uniform and held no allegiance. This merciless killer just attacked — quickly and brutally.

The 1918 Spanish influenza was a killer, the likes of which the modern world had not seen before. Estimates are that the flu infected 500 million people (about one-third of the world’s population at the time) and killed between 50 million and 100 million people from 1918-20. Among them were 675,000 Americans.

Staggering statistics.

—Bob Liepa


With 28 COVID-19 deaths, Suffolk has its highest one-day total yet

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

With 28 victims ranging in age from their mid-30s to mid-90s, Suffolk County reported its highest single day COVID-19 death toll yet Saturday.

The number of fatalities across Suffolk now stands at 124, County Executive Steve Bellone said in his daily media briefing.

“The toll is especially great,” Mr. Bellone said before delivering the news, “greater than we have seen throughout the course of this.”

The grim news came on the same day that the county also released some positive information regarding hospital capacity. As Suffolk’s hospitals look to expand their number of beds 50% or more under a mandate from Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mr. Bellone said there are now 3,087 beds in Suffolk and intensive care units have grown to about 500. Close to 100 patients were also discharged from county hospitals since Friday, he said.

“That’s great news,” Mr. Bellone said.

The new numbers mean there are now more than 1,500 available hospital beds across Suffolk and 72 ICU beds, according to numbers provided by the county.

Suffolk County’s total number of confirmed coronavirus cases climbed to 11,370 Saturday, according to the official state and county number. Southold Town is now at 202 cases and Riverhead is at 139.

Here are some more takeaways from Saturday’s call:

• The county executive also said Saturday that Suffolk’s stockpile of personal protective equipment is now empty, having given out more than one million ear loop masks. He said that shouldn’t impact hospitals, which have their own suppliers, but the county is aggressively pursuing obtaining more supplies. Mr. Bellone counted nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and emergency service providers among those who have requested PPE from the county.

“In a time of crisis you do what you have to do,” he said of the county’s efforts to bolster its PPE supplies.

• Mr. Bellone urged county residents who have been positively diagnosed with the coronavirus and made a full recovery to reach out to the American Red Cross to donate plasma. The antibodies could be used to speed up a current patient’s recovery, the county executive said.

““You may be able to save somebody’s life,” he said.

• Food banks have taken a hit as unemployment rises and social issues have become exacerbated during the health crisis, Mr. Bellone said.

People in a position to help should donate funds to Island Harvest, he added.

— Grant Parpan

Cuomo raises concerns for Long Island as the coronavirus is ‘moving east’

(Updated: Saturday, noon)

The coronavirus is not spreading to the north, Governor Andrew Cuomo warned at his daily Saturday, it’s ‘moving east.’

“You look at where it’s moving, you see that Long Island number growing, the governor said. “It’s been growing for the past 10 days. And it’s been growing steadily.”

The concern for Suffolk and Nassau counties comes on a day when the governor reported a significant five-day growth in hospitalization on Long Island, but nowhere else in the state. Long Islanders now account for 22% of the COVID-19 hospitalizations in all of New York, up from 18% on Tuesday and 15% two weeks ago. Data released by the state shows the percentage declining in New York City.

Asked if the influx on Long Island was related to New York City residents heading east to isolate, Mr. Cuomo said “I don’t think we know.”

Stony Brook University remains the only Suffolk County hospital campus designated a COVID-19 hotspot by the state.

Suffolk County is now home to 11,370 confirmed cases of the coronavirus. Across the state there are 15,905 individuals hospitalized with 4,126 being treated in intensive care units. The state’s death toll is now at 3,565, the governor said.

A total of 10,478 patients have been discharged from hospitals across New York since the virus first struck one month ago.

“Two thirds of the people who have been hospitalized have been discharged,” the governor said.

See the governor’s entire briefing below:

— Grant Parpan

Stony Brook Southampton Hospital: We’re doubling capacity

(Updated: Saturday, 10 a.m.)

As COVID-19 began to spread across New York State last month, Governor Andrew Cuomo mandated that all hospitals increase capacity by 50%. At the same time, he said some hospitals will voluntarily double their capacity.

Stony Brook Southampton Hospital said Saturday it’s one of those hospitals that will double its number of total beds and triple its intensive care units.

That’s good news for North Fork residents who use Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital, since it’s sending its coronavirus ICU patients to Southampton.

The release from Southampton says its total number of beds will soon be 188. It’s doing so by converting existing space for other uses. Several units, including a cardiac care unit, are being converted to intensive care with some new beds being available as soon as Monday, the hospital said.

— Grant Parpan

Tracking COVID-19: By the numbers

(Updated: Saturday, 8:30 a.m.)

We’ve updated a few of the graphs we’ve been publishing to track coronavirus on the North Fork and in Suffolk County.

Here they are in one place:

— Grant Parpan

North Fork food banks are straining to help the needy

(Updated: Saturday, 8 a.m.)

Record breaking unemployment claims, thousands of laid off employees and pleas to stay home amidst a global pandemic are burdening local food banks as they try to keep up with demand.

At the Church of the Harvest food pantry on Raynor Avenue in Riverhead, Gwen Mack typically supplies 20 families with food. In March, as the coronavirus spread, she said they’ve received pleas from at least 52 additional families for help. 

But Ms. Mack and other local food bank organizers say it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to find supplies to stock their pantries with things like cereal, canned goods and paper goods.

— Tara Smith

Read the full story and see how you can help

Four ways to support your favorite local winery

(Updated: Saturday, 7 a.m.)

As the sun starts to show its face more and more each day and the weather becomes nicer, the expected influx of people visiting North Fork wineries has been halted, with no end in sight. And many wineries have felt the pressure that has come with that.

“The New York wine industry is going to struggle to recoup wholesale business as food and hospitality businesses have shut down and will have difficulty reopening once we come out of this,” winemakers Alie Shaper and Robin Epperson-McCarthy of Chronicle Wines wrote in an email.

Lisa Sannino, co-owner of Sannino Vineyard, said she and her family have been trying to find ways to make up for revenue they would normally bring in at this time. 

“Since we are a family-run winery, my husband Anthony, myself and my oldest daughter Marisa have been endlessly brainstorming ideas to replace revenue that we would normally generate from tasting room sales,” she said. “Physically we are healthy and we thank God, but emotionally we can honestly say we are nervous.”

But even through this time, there are ways Long Island wine lovers and other community members can help out their favorite local winery until they are able to safely reopen their tasting rooms.

— Felicia LaLomia

Read the full story at northforker

Guest Column: Caring for yourself and each other in these stressful days

(Updated: Saturday, 6 a.m.)

As parents, we know we need to care for our children, but we also need to take care of ourselves. This is true under normal circumstances; it is even more important in stressful times. The COVID-19 pandemic has turned life upside down, creating feelings of isolation, stress and uncertainty. Caring for oneself allows a parent to provide much needed security, support and predictability for the entire family.  

Caring for oneself means taking time to do things for one’s mental, emotional and physical health. While there has been a focus on staying physically well, we can’t forget to nurture our mental and emotional health. Close relationships are a protective factor and allow us to better cope with stress. Even though we are practicing social distancing, we can still stay connected to family and friends by calling, video chatting, or even writing letters.  

Caring for oneself does not need to take a lot of time; it might be a 15-minute walk, a five-minute meditation, or a few deep breaths.

— Kerri Kreh Reda

Read for more advice

Number of ICU patients climbing

(Updated: Friday, 5:30 p.m.)

The number of COVID-19 patients being treated in intensive care units at Suffolk County hospitals has more than tripled in the last week, leaving just 43 ICU beds currently available, according to the latest numbers provided Friday by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.

An additional 87 patients are now being treated in ICU compared to the prior day, bringing the total to 401. One week earlier on March 27, there were 119 patients in ICU.

Mr. Bellone spoke about New York’s shift to one health care system where public, private and federal hospitals are working together.

“Patients are going to go where they need to go to be treated,” he said. “All the old policies of separation and siloing off of institutions, that needs to be out the window. This is about saving lives every day.”

—Joe Werkmeister


Heroes saluting heroes at Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital

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

Members of the Southold Town Police Department did a drive-through salute to the medical personnel on the front lines at Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital Friday afternoon.

The officers drove around the Manor Place hospital with their lights and sirens on, waving to the staff that stepped outside to watch the display of gratitude.

County Executive’s Friday briefing

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

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is holding a daily media briefing on the latest coronavirus updates.

Watch here:

Rec facilities now closed

(Updated: Friday, 2 p.m.)

As Southold Town continues to react to the COVID-19 epidemic, Supervisor Scott Russell on Friday ordered “all Town active recreation facilities will be closed until further notice. This includes all courts, ballfields and the hockey rink. Participants of any games or competitions will be dispersed. The parks will remain open for passive use only providing that social distancing and gathering prohibitions are honored.”

The order is effective immediately.

Providing food for those in need

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

It was a trinity, perhaps, made in heaven.

Three organizations joined together last week under the dark cloud of the growing COVID-19 pandemic to provide food to those most at risk in the Riverhead area.

The partnership, conceived by Michael White, 53, of Hampton Bays, the owner of Georgica Builders and the Montauk Iced Tea Company in Southampton, targeted those most at risk: seniors and people with underlying medical conditions that made it risky for them to go out to get their own supplies. It also helped those who were at risk but couldn’t afford to load up their pantries, as all their neighbors were doing.

Mr. White was joined in his endeavor by Tijuana “Tia” Fulford, who runs the Butterfly Effect Project, a community group of 437 young girls from Riverhead to Islip who work together to broaden each other’s horizons in order to grow into “strong, independent and knowledgeable” women, and the Rev. Cynthia Liggon, the assistant pastor at the First Baptist Church of Riverhead, which operates the Open Arms Food Pantry at the church.

—Bill Sutton


Suffolk COVID-19 cases surpasses 10,000

(Updated: Friday, 11:50 a.m.)

New York saw its largest single-day increase in deaths related to COVID-19 Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

The number of fatalities reached 2,935, an increase from 2,373 the prior day.

Total cases in New York has reached 102,863.

There were 1,408 new cases confirmed in Suffolk County, again the largest single-day increase after Thursday. That brings the county total past 10,000 total cases in just under one month.

Mr. Cuomo talked about “hotspot” facilities with the greatest total of COVID-19 related hospitalizations. Stony Brook University Hospital was included on that list as the only Suffolk hospital.

“You also see an increase on Long Island, which is something we’re concerned about,” he said. “Long Island does not have as elaborate a health care system as New York City.”

The governor said he signed an executive order to allow the state to take ventilators and personal protective equipment from institutions that don’t currently need them to redeploy to other parts of the state. The National Guard will be deployed to pick up the ventilators.

Watch Mr. Cuomo’s daily briefing on the latest updates for the coronavirus:

—Joe Werkmeister

The coronavirus forces North Fork families to mourn loved ones in different ways

(Updated: Friday, 6 a.m.)

For more than 100 years, Frank Zaneski lived what might be described as an archetypical North Fork life.

Born in Cutchogue and raised in Jamesport, the Mattituck man was married to his wife, Mary, for 65 years, had a child here and watched his three grandchildren grow up to make him a great-granddad five times over.

Mr. Zaneski’s son, Ray, described him as a “hard worker,” who kept a job until he was 88 years old. A look at his résumé confirms proves this to be true. He worked as a bayman, a potato farmer and a truck driver early in life, before beginning a his career as a custodian with the Suffolk County courts. Later in life, he was a caretaker for a private estate on New Suffolk Avenue.

Hard of hearing and a widower, Mr. Zaneski spent the end of his life at San Simeon by the Sound Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Greenport.

It was there that Ray Zaneski, a retired Mattituck schoolteacher, had hoped to visit his dad earlier this month. When his son showed up, Mr. Zaneski was in physical therapy, and so he was told to return in an hour. But when he arrived back at San Simeon, the younger Mr. Zaneski learned that because of the coronavirus, no more visitors would be allowed into the facility. Neither Ray nor Frank had been affected by COVID-19, but nursing homes and hospitals across the region have been were forced to take proactive measures against its spread.

The next time Ray would see his dad would be about two weeks later at DeFriest-Grattan Funeral Home in Mattituck, where he and his wife, Christine, were the only two people permitted to pay their respects, due to the lingering threat of the pandemic. Mr. Zaneski’s last surviving sibling, Isadore, 89, of Islip, had to stay home.

The Zaneskis are one of many families on the North Fork — and across the globe — in recent weeks to lose both a loved one and the chance to say a traditional goodbye.

— Grant Parpan

Read full story

County map back online

(Updated: Thursday, 4:30 p.m.)

To provide more information about how the novel coronavirus has swept across Long Island, Suffolk County officials have unveiled a heat map that breaks down confirmed cases, reported deaths and recoveries by town and hamlet.

The maps briefly appeared online late last week while still under development, County Executive Steve Bellone said during a media briefing Thursday afternoon.

“We know this is something the public has been looking for,” Mr. Bellone said.

While the first COVID-19 cases first appeared in Southold Town, the county’s highest number of cases are being reported in the larger, western towns of Islip, Huntington, Brookhaven and Babylon.

—Tara Smith


Rate of increase in Suffolk ‘troubling’

(Updated: Thursday, 1:20 p.m.)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday during his daily media briefing that the rate of new positive COVID-19 cases continues to increase across the state. There were 7,917 new cases on March 31, compared to 5,145 a week earlier.

The number of new cases reported in one day two weeks ago hovered around 1,000.

More than 21,000 people in Suffolk County have now been tested and there are 8,746 confirmed cases. The one day jump from 7,605 is the largest single-day increase for the county so far.

“That is troubling news,” the governor said of the increased cases in Suffolk, Nassau and Westchester, which are all averaging around 1,000 new cases per day.

Total cases in New York have climbed to 92,381, predominately in New York City, and every county in the state now has reported a coronavirus case.

He said it’s “a false comfort” to assume the virus will not spread in rural communities.

On some good news, he said the number of daily people discharged from hospitals continues to increase. There have been 7,434 patients discharged. There are 13,383 people currently being hospitalized in the state.

Fatalities linked to COVID-19 have climbed to 2,373, an increase of 432 from one day earlier.

“The challenge is still at the apex,” he said. “That’s what this has been all about for every system in this country now. Everyone is basically waging the same battle. Different timeframes, different numbers, different percentages, but it’s the same battle.”

The apex can be anywhere between seven to 30 days, based on different models that state has seen. The variable is the effect of social distancing, he said.

“It makes it difficult to plan frankly,” he said. “We are planning on a day-to-day basis. We believe it is closer to the shorter range of the end.”

Other notes from his briefing:

• Mr. Cuomo said hospital beds are the least concern when discussing beds, staffing and supplies. The hardest components are the staffing and supplies. He said 21,000 people have volunteered from other states to assist health care workers. Anyone wishing to donate supplies can contact the state directly at 212.803.3100 or [email protected].

• In terms of hospital supplies, Mr. Cuomo said hospitals are contributing to a central stockpile that the state can then distribute to where they are most needed. That allows more upstate hospitals to help supply the downstate hospitals facing a greater need.

A regional survey will be done each night where hospitals outline exactly what they have for the state to review.

• The enrollment period for the health exchange will be extended until May 15, the governor said.

• At the current rate, the state has enough ventilators for about six days, the governor said.

“The way we basically are acquiring ventilators is the state is buying them,” he said. “They are very expensive and the state is broke so I have no desire to buy more ventilators than we need. But, we need what we need.”

He said it’s too late for New York to begin a process of companies making new ventilators, although that could work for other parts of the country that are behind New York.

He said all ventilators in New York are accounted for, so they can be moved from one hospital to another as the need changes.

There are 2,200 ventilators in the stockpile and about 350 patients per day are coming into the system in need of a ventilator.

 BiPAP machines are also being converted to use for COVID-19 machines. They don’t have the same force as ventilator, but can still be effective for some patients. Northwell Health has led that initiative and the state Department of Health has approved the protocol for them to be converted.

• Mr. Cuomo has his brother Chris, who recently tested positive for COVID-19, join the media briefing on a video conference. That interview begins around the 24 minute mark below:

—Joe Werkmeister

Respiratory therapist purchases Hi-VNI system

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

A respiratory therapist at Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital purchased a $10,000 High Velocity Nasal Insufflation system, a mask-free treatment that can be used on some COVID-19 patients who are having difficulty breathing, the hospital announced Thursday.

The new technology from the company Vapotherm allows patients to be treated before resorting to endotracheal intubation, which is a medical procedure where a tube is placed into a person’s mouth or nose. Patients can still eat, talk and take medicine while receiving treatment through the device.

Shari Hymes, who has 35 years experience and lives on the North Fork, first heard about the technology at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital where she also works. Southampton Hospital had already begun treating some COVID-19 patients with the system.

—Joe Werkmeister


Thursday’s front page

(Updated: Thursday, 10:30 a.m.)

Here’s the front page of the April 2 Riverhead News-Review. Copies are being delivered to subscribers and are available on newsstands.

Local Little Leagues determined to play ball in 2020

(Updated: Thursday, 7 a.m.)

This is ordinarily a big time of the year for Little Leagues, but these are not ordinary times.

Little Leagues have been stopped by something much bigger: COVID-19.

Under normal circumstances, it would be around this time when Little League baseball and softball teams would awake from their winter hibernation and begin outdoor practices.

But these are not normal circumstances.

The sounds of cracks of the bat and the pop of balls being caught has been replaced by silence on empty fields thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.

Little League International, which operates more than 6,500 programs in over 84 countries, had initially implemented, with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a temporary suspension/delay of all league activities until April 1. That date has since been pushed back to May 11.

— Bob Liepa

Read the full story

Calls for social distancing increase as Suffolk’s coronavirus death toll spikes to 69

(Updated: Wednesday, 4 p.m.)

Sixteen more deaths related to COVID-19 were reported Wednesday during a press briefing held by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.

The county’s death toll now stands at 69, with 25 of those deaths reported in the past 48 hours.

“This is the start of a new month, this is normally a wonderful time of the year when we’re thinking about what is ahead,” Mr. Bellone said, including graduations, family traditions and the summer ahead. “That’s not what we’re thinking about this April 1. What we’re thinking about today is the battle that is ahead for us.”

There are now over 7,600 positive cases in Suffolk County out of 19,600 that have been tested, according to Mr. Bellone’s office. The total number of confirmed cases in Southold reached 152 Wednesday and there are now 93 in Riverhead.

As he spoke about preparing for the predicted surge ahead, the county executive took a stern tone with those who may not have been adhering to social distancing guidelines.

“The fight is about saving lives,” he said, adding that he’d tell those who have not been heeding the warnings to stay home that they are “dishonoring” those on the front lines: doctors, nurses and many other health care professionals working to save lives “under the worst of circumstances.”

“If you have not taken this as seriously as necessary I urge you to change course now,” he said.

— Tara Smith

Read the full story

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone gives his daily briefing

(Updated: Wednesday, 2:10 p.m.)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo gives his daily briefing

(Updated: Wednesday, 12:20 p.m.)

Peconic Landing couple dies from COVID-19 within four days of each other

(Updated: Wednesday, 7 a.m.)

It was hardly a promising beginning for a relationship when Edward and Joan (Powers) Porco met for the first time at a New Year’s Eve party in 1959. Edward, a Republican at the time, and Joan, a political activist Democrat with liberal leanings, argued about interracial housing.

It didn’t sound like it was love at first sight, but romance evolved many years later and love eventually found its way.

Eighteen years after that initial meeting, the couple was married.

“It was a big surprise to everybody,” said Julia Chachere, Joan’s daughter. “It is remarkable. Their relationship was just an unexpected relationship. It was a love story.”

Mutual respect helped keep that marriage healthy until earlier this month when the two residents of Peconic Landing in Greenport died within four days of each other, victims of COVID-19. They are among eight Peconic Landing deaths attributed to coronavirus. Edward died on March 24 and Joan died Saturday. He was 89 years old and she was 90.

— Bob Liepa

Read the full story

At Stony Brook ELIH, conditions can change minute to minute

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

On March 8, when Suffolk County’s first coronavirus case was confirmed, Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital chief administrator officer Paul Connor made sure his hospital’s emergency management plan was up and running and prepared for what would come next. 

But, as boxer Mike Tyson once said, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

And Stony Brook ELIH got punched in the mouth — just like every hospital across the region and particularly those in New York City, where, in Elmhurst, Queens, 13 COVID-19 patients died in a single night last week.

“We started our emergency plan just 30 days ago,” Mr. Connor said Tuesday. “That’s when we recognized that this could be a potential problem. Now, after all that’s happened, it seems like 30 months ago and not 30 days.”

As both a hospital administrator and a member of the Greenport community, Mr. Connor essentially resides in two vastly different worlds. In the hospital, conditions can change by the minute. 

— Steve Wick

Read the full story

These North Fork restaurants are doing takeout

(Updated: Wednesday, 6 a.m.)

You asked for it and here it is.

The northforker staff scoured Facebook pages, Instagram accounts and websites to find all the sit-down restaurants they could that are currently offering takeout.

— Felicia LaLomia

See the list

A first in Riverhead Justice Court: Arraignment via Skype

(Updated: Wednesday, 6 a.m.)

When Charles Roach of Flanders was arraigned Sunday afternoon on charges of criminal contempt of court and harassment, it was a historic event in Riverhead Town Justice Court.

Mr. Roach was the first person in the town to be arraigned digitally via Skype.

Town Justice Lori Hulse presided over the arraignment from her home, using a laptop computer.

And yes, she wore the judge’s robe.

— Tim Gannon

Read the full story

Riverhead PBA to donate meals to fellow first responders at Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps

(Updated: Wednesday, 6 a.m.)

t’s a case of first responders helping first responders.

The Riverhead Police Benevolent Association is donating meals from local restaurants to the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps starting this week.

“The ambulance is really doing a great job,” said PBA president Charles Mauceri.

He said when responding to calls with suspected COVID-19 patients, only one person goes inside the house, if possible, to limit exposure. He said the EMTs with RVAC are typically dealing directly with the patients.

“They are stepping up and they are going directly in, fully geared up, and keeping the police officer out unless it’s absolutely necessary,” Mr. Mauceri.

The food donations are a gesture to say thanks.

— Tim Gannon

Read the full story

Cases by town

(Updated: Tuesday, 5:10 p.m.)

Suffolk County released the following numbers of COVID-19 cases on Tuesday.

  • Islip — 1,242, up from 911 on March 30
  • Huntington — 1,086, up from 868 on March 30
  • Brookhaven — 907, up from 671 on March 30
  • Babylon —  884, up from 609 on March 30 
  • Smithtown — 302, up from 230 on March 30
  • Southold — 142,  up from 135 on  March 30
  • Southampton —  99, up from 78 on March 30
  • Riverhead — 82, up from 69 on March 30
  • East Hampton — 24, up from 19 on March 30
  • Shelter Island — 1,  no change from March 30
  • Township not known — 1,490

—Joe Werkmeister

See previous updates