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Coronavirus on Long Island: Updates for April 29

ProHealth healthcare workers conduct Coronavirus testing site in

ProHealth healthcare workers conduct Coronavirus testing site in Riverhead on Wednesday. Credit: James Carbone

Newsday is providing all readers with access to this breaking news blog on important developments about the coronavirus and our community.

What's happening today:

Wednesday afternoon updates

Watch Nassau County Executive Laura Curran's town hall:

Task force to be named for education

A state task force will be named in coming weeks to help New York with efforts to reopen schools, education leaders said Wednesday.

“Despite the challenges we are all facing every day, it is time we begin to look at how we can successfully and appropriately reopen our schools,” Betty A. Rosa, chancellor of the state Board of Regents, and Shannon Tahoe, interim education commissioner, said in a statement. They said the group would include superintendents, principals, teachers, parents and others.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has said he likely will decide this week whether to keep schools closed for the remainder of this school year. Whatever the decision, the state also faces major questions regarding summer classes and sessions next fall. The governor recently named his own 100-member group to advise on reopening of the economy statewide. — JOHN HILDEBRAND

Curran: Nassau plans antibody testing site for essential workers

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said Wednesday the county is partnering with Northwell Health to set up a central antibody testing site for essential employees, notably health department workers and first responders, in an effort to determine who in the workforce might be immune to the coronavirus.

The test will be by appointment only, and voluntary, she said, and the aim is to have testing up and running by early next week.

The hope is the data will do more than provide a snapshot of the workforce, Curran said. “We hope that it will give us all a larger understanding of community spread and herd immunity throughout the community,” she said. — NEWSDAY STAFF

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School bus companies go out of business

Four Long Island school bus companies that are part of a family owned conglomerate are shutting down due to economic pressures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and their contracts will be picked up by other firms, industry leaders said Wednesday.

The companies — ACME Bus Corp., Baumann & Sons Buses, Baumann Bus Co. and Brookset Bus Corp. — all operate out of the same headquarters in Ronkonkoma, and were part of a business that has provided student transportation across Long Island for more than 50 years.

On March 30, Newsday reported that the Baumann group was laying off about 900 drivers and other employees, in the wake of school closings across the region. This week, the company posted notice of its own permanent closure.

“The company had anticipated that all those layoffs would be temporary and that laid-off employees would be recalled to complete our transportation contracts,” Baumann stated. “However, recent developments require us to shut all operations and issue this notice of permanent closure of all company operations.” — JOHN HILDEBRAND

Bellone: County hospitalizations from virus continue declining

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said deaths from the coronavirus continue to rise, but hospitalizations are declining in a trend consistent with the possibility of reopening the economy.

“Our numbers are moving in a positive direction,” said Bellone of the hospitalizations, which decreased in the last 24 hours by 35 people down to 1,047.

Later this week, the county will hit the point where there have been 14 consecutive days of steady decline in those hospitalized with the virus, the benchmark the CDC says could set the stage for a possible reopening.

CDC guidelines also call for a 70% hospital capacity and Suffolk now has 74% in general beds and 69% in ICU beds, he said.

Testing must also be in place in case of a second wave, Bellone said. The county has six hot spot testing sites with a seventh opening soon and with testing done on close to 3,000 people, there is a 47% infection rate at the hot spots and 37% countywide.

“It is critical that we get our economy going again but we must do it in the right way,” he said. — NEWSDAY STAFF

Watch Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone's press briefing:

Curran: Nassau reaches milestones in COVID-19 hospitalizations, test results

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran reported the 14th consecutive day of declining COVID-19 hospitalizations, an important CDC milestone toward safely reopening some economic activity such as outdoor, nonessential construction.


And the county reached another milestone toward that goal, she said: It has seen a two-week decline in the percentage of residents testing positive. That number fell to 15%, from a high about three weeks ago of about 50%.


Curran, at her daily briefing Wednesday, reported that 91 fewer people were hospitalized due to the coronavirus, bringing the total to 1,368.


 The number of patients on ventilators fell again in the past day. There were 22 fewer, bringing the number to 316 overall.


 However, more COVID-19 deaths were reported Wednesday: 31, for a total of 1,678.


 Overall, the county has recorded 35,505 COVID-19 cases since early March. - NEWSDAY STAFF

Saltaire reports first coronavirus case


Saltaire officials said Wednesday they have the first confirmed coronavirus case associated with the Fire Island village.


The person tested positive is a contractor who works in some of the homes in Saltaire, but is not a resident of the village, Mayor John A. Zaccaro Jr. said. 


“We believe the individual was not in occupied houses. That helps,” he said. “I think he is past the contagious stage.”


Zaccaro said the unidentified worker, who had “minimal” contact with residents, is one of the many landscapers, electricians, plumbers and trash collectors who regularly work in the village, which has about 430 homes. He said about 70 people are in the village now, adding he expects that number to start swelling this weekend.


Homeowners who may have had contact with the worker have been notified by Saltaire officials, Zaccaro said, adding that the person was last in the village about 10 days ago. - CARL MACGOWAN

Watch Nassau County Executive Laura Curran’s press briefing:

Cuomo: MTA ordered to disinfect trains


Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said at his daily news briefing Wednesday that he has ordered the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to come up with a plan by Thursday on how to “disinfect every train, every night, period.”


Photos and video published by news organizations have shown homeless people sleeping on subway cars, resulting in concerns for the essential workers who work and travel on the subways.


“The trains have to be cleaned … and the homeless need the services they need,” Cuomo said.


The governor also said transit workers will begin to be tested Wednesday for coronavirus antibodies to further determine the spread "among our frontline workers.” An initial 1,000 workers will be tested this week, he said.


Cuomo reported that there were 330 new deaths from the new coronavirus on Tuesday, down from 335 on Monday.


“We are not out of the woods yet,” Cuomo said. -- NEWSDAY STAFF

Watch Gov. Andrew Cuomo's press briefing:

NYPD Commissioner: Large funeral gathering ‘better not happen again’


Police Commissioner Dermot Shea criticized a funeral gathering for a prominent rabbi in Williamsburg Tuesday night at which he said "several thousand" people gathered on the street.
The rabbi died of coronavirus.


The gathering was broken up by the NYPD, and 12 summonses were issued for infractions like violating social distancing rules and failing to disperse, Shea said Wednesday.
"There were thousands of people crammed onto one block," Shea said. He added: "It better not happen again."

Mayor Bill de Blasio had tweeted Tuesday night that such gatherings would not be tolerated while the city continues to fight the coronavirus pandemic.


“My message to the Jewish community, and all communities, is this simple: the time for warnings has passed,” the mayor tweeted.


Reacting to criticism that he singled out Jewish gatherings, de Blasio said: "This is by far the largest gathering in any community of New York City of any kind that I had heard of or seen directly or on video since the beginning of this crisis. It's just not allowable." – MATTHEW CHAYES

Northwell back performing surgeries
Northwell Health on Wednesday said the number of COVID-19 patients has fallen enough that it has resumed performing some surgeries that were delayed because of the pandemic.

The New Hyde Park-based health system said it had 1,862 COVID-19 patients at its 19 hospitals, which include 11 on Long Island. That’s down nearly 45% from the high point on April 10.
Northwell said it has cleared Syosset Hospital of coronavirus patients and on Wednesday began performing oncology procedures there, including breast and OB-GYN surgeries.

“We went through a meticulous disinfecting process over the weekend,” said Terry Lynam, a Northwell spokesman. “Now we can start a small number of surgeries there.”

He said Northwell is waiting for the governor to clear performing more elective surgeries. – DAVID REICH-HALE

NYC partnering with U.S. military to help stressed healthcare workers
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has appointed his wife, Chirlane McCray, to coordinate with the U.S. military in bringing in trauma specialists who can help medical workers cope with stress caused by fighting the coronavirus crisis.

The program, to begin in May and be in place by June, will include training 1,000 public and private hospital personnel in “combat stress management.”

De Blasio also said Wednesday that the city would offer COVID-19 antibody tests to over 150,000 health care workers and first responders. To be included are cops, firefighters and corrections officers.The mayor said he aims to begin the testing next week, with all health care workers and first responders tested within a month. The federal government is covering the cost, de Blasio said.

On the three indicators de Blasio has said would be watched to decide whether to reopen the city’s economy, the mayor said all but one – the number of new coronavirus hospital admissions – were down as of Monday. – MATTHEW CHAYES

A note to our community:

As a public service, this article is available for all. Newsday readers support our strong local journalism by subscribing.  Please show you value this important work by becoming a subscriber now.

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