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Laid off, and their calls go unanswered

Dialing 200 times a day

Sometimes it's just a busy signal. Sometimes a recorded voice says no one's available. And sometimes it's just a quick click, sending you back to square one.

The state Labor Department requires that many applicants for unemployment benefits speak to a representative to finalize their paperwork, but the system has been overwhelmed with callers like Nathen Christian, who estimates he's been dialing in 200 times a day for two weeks.

The 26-year-old from Coram was let go temporarily March 18 from his job, and his bank account is down to minus-$70, due to some overdrafts.

"New York State is spending so much money," Christian said about the expenses associated with virus. "Why don't they fix this?"

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the crisis has devastated New York’s economy far more than the 9/11 terrorist attacks, with a crushing 800,000 people filing for unemployment in the last three weeks alone. He confirmed he has deferred pay raises scheduled for April for some 80,000 state workers.

Across the country, more than one in 10 workers have lost their jobs.

But help might be coming. The state plans to roll out a streamlined application system for unemployment benefits Thursday night, officials said.

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They're high-risk, and 'the virus is everywhere'

Carlos Rosales lives in Brentwood — one of Long Island's COVID-19 hot spots — and his health makes him a target for the disease.

The 43-year-old has a surgical drain from a recent liver transplant operation and takes medicine that suppresses his immune system. He stays indoors, and when his wife leaves their home to shop, she wears three pairs of gloves and a mask — and rushes to get out of her clothes when she returns.

She lets no one visit and wishes she didn’t have to go out at all, “especially in Brentwood. It’s crazy out there, the virus is everywhere.”

While it can strike anyone, preliminary studies show people with underlying conditions face a higher risk of severe disease.

Hard-hit Hempstead ramps up enforcement

Another community hit hard by the outbreak, the Village of Hempstead, is ramping up efforts to disperse public gatherings as officials there grapple with a mushrooming number of cases.

The 55,000-person community now has the highest number of cases of any place in Nassau.

Village Mayor Don Ryan says Hempstead's density — with more than three times the population per square mile than Nassau as a whole — helps explain the high infection number. But a disregard for orders to keep at least 6 feet from others while in public may also be to blame, he said.

"We're not doing everything we need to do when it comes to social distancing."

A third straight day of record deaths

New York for the third straight day broke its record of total deaths from the virus, Cuomo said Thursday, even as he reported signs that the number of cases may be hitting a plateau.

Since Wednesday, 799 people died from the virus, which has now claimed the lives of 7,067 New Yorkers, new state figures showed.

But rates of hospitalization, intubations and ICU admissions stayed steady or dropped, a key indication that the virus may be hitting a peak — and hopefully soon start to come down “the other side of the mountain,” as the governor puts it.

He also warned that New Yorkers must continue to observe social distancing directives, otherwise the number of cases will “shoot through the roof” again.

The numbers as of 4 p.m.: 20,140 confirmed cases in Nassau, 17,403 in Suffolk, 87,028 in New York City and 159,937 statewide.

LI nurses thank Amy Schumer for masks

Nurses at Mount Sinai South Nassau Hospital in Oceanside gathered in an online video to thank Rockville Centre-raised comedy star Amy Schumer for her donation of much-needed protective masks.

"Mount Sinai South Nassau nurses from all departments took a few minutes to thank #AmySchumer for securing a donation of 2,500 surgical masks and 2,500 KN95 masks from #BethennyFrankel and her #bstrong Foundation," the hospital posted on YouTube. "Amy's friend, Jen, a nurse at the hospital shared this video."

"We are extremely grateful," says the otherwise unidentified Jen, who is mentioned in Schumer's 2016 memoir. Speaking to Schumer, who appears on a laptop, she says, "Everybody here has really, really been through a lot the last few weeks, and to know there's people looking out for us, doing whatever they can, makes a big difference."

More to know

The shortage of physicians needed to combat the virus led Stony Brook University’s medical school to graduate its class of 122 students early — from home — in an online ceremony on the app Zoom and telecast on Facebook.

Blacks made up 17% of coronavirus deaths in New York as of Wednesday, nearly twice the rate of blacks' representation in the state's population, according to preliminary data.

Supermarkets and other retailers including Stop & Shop, King Kullen and Walmart are restricting store aisles to one-way traffic and limiting the number of shoppers in stores.

A woman claiming to have COVID-19 spit at cops and kicked one officer in the face after they responded to a 911 call reporting an intoxicated woman "coughing and spitting on doors" in a neighbor's home, Nassau police said.

The Long Island Game Farm may be closed, but its animals still need to be fed and cared for, so locals are helping out — contributing funds and coming through with groceries.

New data on nursing homes shows a dramatic rise in cases and fatalities at state-licensed facilities, with nearly 4,000 infected with the virus and more than 1,000 deaths.

Overwhelmed with 911 calls, EMS crews across Long Island are relying on a state-issued pandemic flow chart to determine which patients need to be transported to hospitals.

News for you

Treat yourself. If you need a pick-me-up or want to send one to family or friends, these four local places will deliver outrageous cupcakes, pies, ice cream sundaes, doughnuts and more.

Free help for LI businesses. Join Newsday Friday at 10 a.m. for our latest free webinar in partnership with the Long Island Association to help the local business community survive during the crisis. Representatives from the U.S. Small Business Administration return to answer questions. (If you missed our last webinar, watch the replay.)

'Disney on Broadway.' Although the Great White Way remains closed until at least June, you can catch a cast of 79 performing hits from Disney musicals this Monday in a livestreamed concert to raise funds for COVID-19 relief.

Movies that bring us comfort. Not sure what to watch tonight? We asked Long Islanders about their current “comfort movie” and received a range of answers, from silly comedies to overlooked classics.

Replenish your Girl Scout cookies. If you've already polished off your stash of Thin Mints and Samoas, you're in luck. Local Girl Scouts still need to sell a combined 273,000 boxes to reach their goals, so they're extending the cookie season and pushing online sales.

Plus: Food critic Erica Marcus walks you through how to make matzo brei for Passover.

Help ease your withdrawal from professional sports by taking today's daily trivia quiz.

Head over to our live blog for the latest news about the virus' impact on the Island and watch our latest daily wrap-up video.


Don't let the music fade away. In times of trouble, people turn to music, Michael Dobie writes in his latest Newsday Opinion column. Which makes so cruel the loss of so many musicians during this coronavirus pandemic.

Some of them fell to the virus itself, a grim irony in that the disease attacks the lungs essential to the art of so many. And the loss of all this talent is compounded because so many of them had so much to say that is relevant right now.

Like the great lyricist John Prine, 73, who died of complications from COVID-19. Prine wrote about dashed dreams and folks on the margins of society, the kinds of people at heightened risk now to contract the virus. 

Listen to the lyrics from his haunting “Hello In There,” about the loneliness of older people:

So if you’re walking down the street sometime

And spot some hollow ancient eyes

Please don’t just pass 'em by and stare

As if you didn’t care,

Say, “Hello in there, hello”

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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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